Cyprus: Vote on UNFICYP Mandate Renewal Resolution*
Tomorrow (28 July), the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another six months, until 31 January 2023. The UK, the penholder on Cyprus, circulated a first draft of the resolution on 18 July and members held one round of negotiations on 20 July. After passing silence yesterday afternoon (26 July), the draft text was put in blue.
The negotiations on the draft resolution appear to have been smooth, reflecting the Council’s united support for UNFICYP’s work. The draft text in blue renews the mission’s mandate without making any changes to the mission’s core mandate and tasks, which were most recently outlined in resolution 2618 of 27 January. Some language was modified to reflect recent developments.
The political process in Cyprus has traditionally been the central focus of UNFICYP mandate renewal negotiations. Over the past six months, there has been no meaningful progress on the political front and no direct formal engagement between the Cypriot leaders in the context of unification talks. The last informal meeting of the “five-plus-one” format—which convened Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, and representatives of the three guarantor powers (Greece, Turkey and the UK) under UN auspices—was held in late April 2021. The meeting failed to establish agreement between the two delegations to proceed with formal negotiations.
Discussions regarding the appointment of a UN envoy on Cyprus to succeed Jane Holl Lute, who resigned in September 2021, also remain deadlocked due to disagreements among the Cypriot parties over the title, role and mandate of Lute’s successor. The draft resolution in blue urges the sides to renew their efforts to secure a settlement based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation (BBF) with political equality and reiterates the Council’s support for the Secretary-General’s proposal for a UN envoy to lead further engagement in the search for common ground for the resumption of formal negotiations.
Despite stalled progress on the political front, effective cooperation between the sides through the Technical Committee on Gender Equality resulted in agreement on an action plan to ensure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace talks. To this end, the action plan proposes that all delegations in meetings leading up to and taking part in the settlement process include no more than two-thirds of any gender. This principle also applies to the appointment of co-chairs and members of working groups and technical committees supporting the peace talks. The plan also envisions strong engagement with civil society, including women and youth organisations, to solicit their views on the peace talks. The draft text in blue welcomes the adoption and launch of the action plan and urges the leaders of both sides to support the Technical Committee on Gender Equality to ensure that the action plan is effectively implemented.
The reports of the Secretary-General on UNFICYP (S/2022/533) and his mission of good offices in Cyprus (S/2022/534), issued on 5 July, emphasise the growing socioeconomic disparity between the two Cypriot communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. It appears that during negotiations, Russia objected to the inclusion of previously agreed language welcoming the Secretary-General’s reports because of their reference to the war in Ukraine. As a result, the draft resolution uses “taking note” rather than “welcoming” in reference to the two reports.
Another matter raised in the Secretary-General’s UNFICYP report is the deployment of additional military surveillance equipment on both sides of the buffer zone. In recent months, UNFICYP engaged with both sides on the Secretary-General’s proposal to unman the military positions along the ceasefire lines in return for UN validation that each side’s surveillance technology is not deployed inside the buffer zone or capable of seeing beyond it. However, according to the UNFICYP report, the “sides’ response has so far not allowed for tangible progress”. The draft resolution in blue regrets this lack of progress and reiterates the Council’s support for the Secretary-General’s proposal.
Council members also apparently discussed how to address the continuing activity in the coastal city of Varosha—a demilitarised area separating the two sides on the island. On 6 October 2020, Ankara announced that it would open the coastline of Varosha, prompting the Security Council to adopt a presidential statement (S/PRST/2020/9) reaffirming the status of Varosha and calling for the reversal of this course of action. On 20 July 2020, Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders announced the further reopening of a section of Varosha, prompting the Council to adopt yet another presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/13) condemning the announcement and calling for the reversal of all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020. The Secretary-General’s latest report on UNFICYP notes that “no steps were taken” toward such a reversal. The draft resolution in blue apparently regrets that recent actions have not been in line with calls for immediate reversal and reiterates the need to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to further tensions on the island and undermine the prospects for a peaceful settlement.
On 21 May, an UNFICYP vehicle was reportedly attacked by unidentified assailants while patrolling the buffer zone. No peacekeepers were harmed in the incident. UNFICYP issued a statement on 23 May condemning the attack and stressing that attacks against peacekeepers constitute a serious crime under international law. It appears that this incident, and the broader issue of ensuring the safety of UN peacekeepers, was raised by Special Representative and head of UNFICYP Colin Stewart during his briefing to the Council on 18 July. The draft text in blue condemns the 21 May attack and expresses concern over criminal activities reported in the buffer zone and the risks they pose to peacekeeper safety and security.
During the negotiations, it appears that Council members also discussed the tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. The Secretary-General’s report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus reiterates that the island’s natural resources should benefit both communities and “constitute a strong incentive for the parties to urgently seek mutually acceptable and durable solutions to disagreements related to natural resources and ongoing or planned energy cooperation projects in the region”.
*Post-script: On 28 July, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2646, renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another six months, until 31 January 2023.