Consultations on Cyprus
Tomorrow (22 January ), weather conditions permitting, Council members will be briefed in consultations by Lisa Buttenheim, the Secretary General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). In addition, Alexander Downer, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, is expected to brief on the status of negotiations.
Buttenheim will present the latest report of the Secretary-General on UNFICYP (S/2013/781) and will also brief members on recent developments. Considering that the security situation in Cyprus has been stable and there have been no major incidents, Buttenheim will likely focus on issues such as the situation in the buffer zone; development of social, cultural and economic ties between the communities; and the committee on missing persons.
These consultations are being held as Council members have become increasingly frustrated due to the stalemate in the negotiation process between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders. As a result, Council members will be eager to hear Downer’s briefing and his thoughts on the efforts to restart unification talks.
Over the past couple of months Downer has made several trips to Cyprus, most recently in mid-January, to meet with Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders. However, it has not been possible to begin formal negotiations due to difficulty agreeing on a joint communiqué. This is the main precondition set by the Greek Cypriot side for starting negotiations while the Turkish Cypriot side has expressed willingness to enter negotiations without a joint communiqué and without any preconditions. The issue of sovereignty stands at the core of the disagreement over the joint communiqué. The Greek Cypriot side is insisting on the principle of single sovereignty, while the Turkish Cypriot side wants to be considered a founding state in a reunited Cyprus, giving them sovereignty and residual powers.
There has been increasing criticism of Downer, especially from Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, who has publicly stated that he does not believe Downer has anything more to contribute to the process. He has also accused Downer of lacking objectivity. Council members may be interested in getting a better understanding of the reasons for some of these statements. Council members are also likely to use this opportunity to send a message to both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to increase their efforts in finding a solution for the current impasse in negotiations.
This first meeting on Cyprus in 2014 will be an opportunity for the incoming members of the Council to showcase their positions on the issue. During the last adoption of the UNFICYP resolution, Azerbaijan and Pakistan, which have both left the Council, abstained. With the current mix of Council members, it is less likely that there will be any dissenting voices. The Cyprus issue does not occupy a high priority on the Council’s agenda and generally the Council is in broad agreement that both sides should continue working on a mutually agreeable solution. Among P5 members, the UK, the penholder on the issue, is mostly interested accelerating the negotiation process and consequently initiating a review of UNFICYP which would eventually lead towards the mission closing down. France and Russia are more sympathetic to the Greek Cypriot position, while other members of the Council are less likely to have strong views.
Council members are expecting the draft text to be circulated by the UK in the next few days, with adoption scheduled for 28 January. Although it has been the practice for some years, for the P5 to hold initial negotiations on the draft resolution renewing UNFICYP’s mandate ahead of negotiations with the wider membership, it is unclear if this has done yet. It is also unclear if Council members will choose to put additional pressure on the two parties through this resolution. Resolution 2114, which extended the UNFICYP mandate on 30 January 2012, welcomed the intention to resume negotiations in October 2013. Considering that there has been no agreement on the joint communiqué, and therefore, no negotiations, it remains to be seen if the resolution to be adopted on 28 January will include any additional language regarding the negotiation process.