What's In Blue

UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (30 July) the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) until 31 January 2014. The draft resolution, which has been in blue since 25 July, largely resembles the 24 January renewal resolution (S/RES/2089). As was the case with the 19 July 2012 renewal (S/RES/2058), Azerbaijan and Pakistan (who are often sympathetic to the Turkish Cypriot position) will likely abstain from this resolution.

The draft resolution was first circulated among the P5 on 12 July, before being circulated to the wider Council membership the following week (this has become the standard practice for UNFICYP). It appears that protracted negotiations took place during the last two weeks over the degree to which the resolution would be updated to reflect new developments on the island in recent months. Divisions emerged between various Council members as the original draft appeared to update certain paragraphs of the resolution but not others. While the original UK draft removed references to joint statements made by the two sides to the conflict in 2008 and added references to plans to restart settlement talks in October, several Council members (including China, France, Guatemala and Russia) raised questions about why preambular references to the now long-past Greentree talks of 2011 and 2012 and operative paragraphs on negotiations were not similarly updated. (It appears that the final draft maintains the original UK changes on these issues without incorporating the other suggestions).

Even more contentious were negotiations related to language in the draft resolution on the Committee on Missing Persons. Each renewal resolution since 14 December 2011 (S/RES/2026) has included a paragraph which “urges all parties to be more forthcoming in accommodating the Committee for Missing Persons exhumation requirements by providing unrestricted access throughout the island, including in military areas in the north.” The UK (joined by Azerbaijan, Pakistan and the US) felt that that language no longer accurately reflected the situation on the ground and proposed a new paragraph that would welcome efforts to accommodate the Committee on this matter and call on parties to continue providing access to the Committee (eliminating the word “unrestricted”). Other members (including France, Guatemala and Russia) had a different view on how positive the language of the paragraph should be and argued for the word “unrestricted” to remain. As a compromise, the final draft of the resolution calls on all parties to provide “full” access. That the US joined the UK on this issue suggests that the US position might be shifting slightly into alignment with those who tend to side with the Turkish Cypriots in the Council.

The Council has met twice previously in July on Cyprus, first with UNFICYP troop-contributing countries (TCCs) on 10 July, and then on 15 July to receive a briefing in consultations from Lisa Buttenheim, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Cyprus and head of UNFICYP. At the TCC meeting Argentina (which contributes the most troops to UNFICYP and is currently an elected member of the Council) raised the issue of confrontations between Turkish troops and UNFICYP in the vicinity of Avlona, which borders the northern side of the buffer zone. The Secretary-General’s report describes an incident in which efforts by UNFICYP to remove defenses that had been installed in the buffer zone by Turkish troops in November 2012 were immediately undone by Turkish troops who again moved into the buffer zone to rebuild the razed infrastructure. It seems that Buttenheim also highlighted the incident during her remarks on 15 July. While it appeared possible that Council members supportive of the Greek Cypriot position might have suggested including the issue of Avlona in the renewal resolution, it seems that no member pushed for the inclusion of this issue during the negotiations.

Speaking at the media stakeout following those consultations as current President of the Council, Acting Permanent Representative Rosemary DiCarlo (US) confirmed that Buttenheim had discussed UNFICYP’s efforts to maintain stability, to address humanitarian issues, and to encourage bi-communal contacts. According to DiCarlo, Buttenheim also emphasised the need for opposing sides to desist from challenging UNFICYP’s authority inside the buffer zone.

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