What's In Blue

Posted Wed 27 Jan 2016

UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow morning (28 January) the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for an additional six months. The draft was put into blue earlier today.

The UK, the penholder on Cyprus, initially circulated the UNFICYP draft resolution on 19 January and negotiations on the draft took place the following day. The draft draws heavily on the most recent UNFICYP resolution (S/RES/2234) from July 2015. However, there were some changes. Some new text was incorporated welcoming the progress made in negotiations by the Cypriot leaders. In keeping with the Secretary-General’s request in his recent UNFICYP report (S/2016/11), the draft resolution mandates an increase of 28 troops for the mission, apparently to facilitate ongoing confidence-building measures on the island. Furthermore, at the suggestion of some Council members, language was incorporated referring to the international community’s political and financial support for the peace process.

During the negotiations on the draft—as during the 15 January consultations on UNFICYP—Council members were unanimous in their support for the ongoing positive momentum in the Cypriot-led unification talks. Most members shared the view that the Council needs to send a unified message of support to the Cypriot leaders at this critical juncture in the talks.

However, the negotiations of the draft resolution were not without difficulty. The key sticking point related to how to calibrate the language in the text on missing persons.

UNFICYP resolutions have regularly endorsed the work of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP). In the July 2015 resolution, the Council agreed to use somewhat stronger language on this issue, highlighting the importance of intensifying the Committee’s activities. In the current draft, Council members agreed to use similarly strong language on the issue of missing persons, while also reflecting recent positive developments. Most notably, the draft welcomed the decision in November 2015 allowing the Committee to access 30 additional burial sites in military areas in north Cyprus, a development also highlighted in the UNFICYP report. However, it seems that Russia wanted to make explicit reference to accessing these burial sites in Turkish military areas. The UK did not accommodate this request, which led to Russia breaking silence on 25 and 26 January. Apparently the UK argued that making reference to Turkish military areas could be negatively interpreted by one of the sides on the island and thus could have negative consequences on the positive momentum in the unification negotiations. It also argued that in previous resolutions the Council avoided using specific references to either of the sides and that the Council should continue the same practice.

In an effort to reach a compromise, the UK proposed new language that does not include reference to Turkish areas, but notes the decision of the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, to allow access to the burial sites. This proposal was not satisfactory to Russia, which broke the silence procedure again this morning (27 January), arguing that the UK compromise proposal was biased towards one of the sides. In defending its argument, Russia, supported by Egypt, apparently referred to the press release of the CMP (a body composed of the representatives of both communities in Cyprus) which explicitly states that “…Turkey had formally agreed to provide access for CMP excavation teams”.

Finally, the UK reverted to its initial language for the paragraph on missing persons which only makes reference to military areas in north Cyprus, without stating that they are Turkish areas or referring to Akinci’s decision. Despite the fact that Russia’s proposed amendments were not incorporated in the text, it seems that the draft resolution may receive unanimous support from the Council members.

The general view among Council members is that it is important for the Council to maintain its unity on this issue, in order to show unified support for the progress made on the unification talks. Russia’s efforts to amend the draft to refer to “Turkish” areas may have been a consequence of the tension between Russia and Turkey that has been repeatedly demonstrated in the Council since Turkey downed a Russian jet near the Syrian border in late November 2015.