What's In Blue

Posted Mon 27 Jul 2020

UNFICYP Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow morning (28 July), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another six months. The UK, the penholder on this issue, circulated the draft resolution to all Council members on 21 July, and members held one round of negotiations two days later. The draft passed silence this morning after which it was put in blue.

Given Council-wide support for the work of the mission, the negotiations on the draft appear to have taken place without any major disagreements. The mandate of the mission remains the same, and the draft itself draws heavily on the latest mandate renewal resolution. Some language was modified to reflect recent developments, however, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like the January mandate renewal, the draft resolution in blue urges all sides and involved participants to renew their commitment toward a political settlement under UN auspices.  The Secretary-General’s recent report on UNFICYP—which was the focus of Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar’s 21 July briefing to members in consultations— emphasised that the absence of a solution to the Cyprus issue is “increasingly unsustainable”. In this regard, there has been no political progress since the latest round of negotiations broke down three years ago. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming October elections in the north are likely to further delay the prospects for the resumption of negotiations.

With regard to COVID-19, the draft in blue calls on both leaders (that is, Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot) to ensure effective coordination and cooperation on health matters, including in response to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases with implications for the whole island. It calls for the effective use of relevant bi-communal technical committees to this end. It further calls for better coordination between the sides over any continuing restrictions of movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but emphasises that restrictions should not go beyond what is necessary to protect public health. The draft also indicates that all border crossing points should be reopened as soon as conditions permit.

The Secretary-General’s recent report on UNFICYP says that while there were some areas of cooperation in pandemic response, important opportunities for a more coordinated response were not seized. For example, it indicates that that closure of crossing points on the island by both sides was not done in a coordinated manner with prior consultation with the other community.

Over the past several years, there has been an increasing emphasis by the Council on the issue of direct intercommunal contacts between the Cypriot parties. In its last mandate renewal resolution, the Council called for the establishment of a mechanism for direct military contacts between the parties, with UNFICYP as a facilitator in its liaison role. It specifically urged UNFICYP to submit proposals to this end. UNFICYP presented its proposal to the relevant parties on 1 May, and Spehar is currently engaged in talks with the sides on the way forward. The current draft resolution in blue reiterates the Council’s call for the full engagement by all sides on the proposal to establish such a mechanism and its timely implementation.

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