Resolution Renewing the Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus
Tomorrow morning (29 January), the Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution that will extend the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another six months. Earlier this week, on 26 January, the Council held consultations on UNFICYP with a briefings by Lisa Buttenheim, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNFICYP, as well as Espen Barth Eide, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus. Buttenheim briefed the Council on the latest report of the Secretary-General (S/2015/17), while Eide updated the Council on the status of unification talks.
Last year started on a positive note when on 11 February 2014 Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots agreed on a joint communiqué which enabled them to resume unification talks. On 22 August, the Secretary-General appointed Eide as his new Special Adviser to succeed Alexander Downer, who stepped down following the adoption of the joint communiqué. Eide, in his first few months, facilitated numerous meetings between Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, and Turkish Cypriot leader, Dervis Eroglu, in the hope of a breakthrough. However, the negotiations came to a halt on 6 October, when Anastasiades decided to suspend the talks after Turkey announced its decision to conduct offshore seismic surveys in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). (The hydrocarbon resources off the coast of Cyprus have affected the unification talks since their discovery in 2011. The internationally recognised Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus has started issuing licenses to foreign companies to start oil exploration in Cyprus’s EEZ, which has led Turkey to react on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots, who claim that they also have rights to offshore natural resources and that all exploration must benefit both communities on the island. ) There seems to be a level of frustration on the part of Council members caused by the stalemate in unification talks, which coloured the negotiations on the draft resolution.
The draft resolution was put in blue today (28 January), following a second round of negotiations that were held at the level of deputy permanent representatives. It draws on the most recent UNFICYP resolution, adopted on 30 July 2014, while updating it to reflect recent developments and Eide’s efforts. In negotiating the draft, it seems that Council members had to grapple with how to address the suspension of the unification talks and how to reflect the need for a conducive environment for the negotiations. In his report (S/2015/17), the Secretary-General underscored the “need for a prompt resumption of negotiations” and called on both sides to find a way to achieve this. While the Secretary-General reiterated that any natural resources newly found off the coast of Cyprus must benefit both communities on the island, he also called on “all interested parties to create an environment conducive to resuming structured negotiations in a results-oriented manner, as agreed to by their leaders in their joint declaration of 11 February 2014.”
It seems that France and Russia were particularly keen to include a reference to the importance of a “conducive environment” in two specific sections of the draft resolution. However, while all members recognised the need to create such an environment for the conduct of the negotiations, there was also keen awareness that the Council should not imply setting some sort of preconditions and/or timeframe for the negotiations. It appears that following the negotiations earlier today a compromise was reached: the draft in blue notes “the importance of a conducive environment” and calls for resumption of structured negotiations without delay in the preambular part but does not refer to a “conducive environment” in any of the operative paragraphs.
Also in line with the Secretary-General’s report, the draft resolution is careful not to place the blame for the current stalemate in negotiations on any particular side. Rather, the draft calls for the urgent resumption of structured negotiations with an aim of achieving progress on the core issues.