Cyprus: Vote on UNFICYP Mandate Renewal Resolution*
Tomorrow morning (30 January), the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another year, until 31 January 2024.
The negotiations on the draft resolution appear to have been smooth, reflecting the Council’s united support for UNFICYP’s work. The UK, the penholder on Cyprus, circulated a first draft of the resolution on 17 January and convened one round of negotiations on 20 January. The penholder then placed a revised draft under silence on 25 January until 26 January. The silence procedure was extended until Friday morning (27 January). After passing silence on Friday, the draft resolution was put in blue.
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 2646 of 28 July 2022. Some language was modified in the draft resolution to reflect recent developments.
The draft text in blue extends UNFICYP’s mandate for 12 months, instead of the six months that has been the practice for the past several years. It affirms the Council’s readiness to review the implementation of the resolution after six months and “to consider any adjustments or other action as necessary, taking into account the advice of the Secretary-General”. The draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to submit two reports on two occasions: two on his good offices, on 4 July and 3 January 2024, and two on the implementation of the resolution extending UNFICYP’s mandate, on the same dates.
The penholder apparently proposed a 12-month extension since substantive progress on the political process is not anticipated in the near future, including because of elections in Cyprus in February, and in Turkey by mid-year. Other Council members supported the penholder’s proposal, also taking into account the greater operational convenience of a longer mandate.
The political process in Cyprus has traditionally been the central focus of UNFICYP’s 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 Secretary-General in his latest UNFICYP report, dated 3 January, which covers the period from 15 June to 12 December 2022, said that the “prospects for a mutually agreeable settlement continue to fade”. He further expressed concern about the lack of meaningful interaction between the two communities, adding that reconciliation remains difficult to achieve as long as the communities “rely on divisive narratives to formulate their understanding of the other”.
Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus and head of UNFICYP Colin Stewart hosted an end-of-year reception with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar in Nicosia on 7 December 2022. In his remarks at the reception, Stewart noted that “there is still plenty of potential to resolve the Cyprus issue, and regardless of the challenges, the UN in Cyprus will not relax our efforts to help the two sides arrive at common ground”. On 14 December 2022, Stewart held a meeting with Ergün Olgun, the special representative of the Turkish Cypriot leader, and Menelaos Menelaou, the Greek Cypriot negotiator, to “discuss ongoing matters and the work of the technical committees”. (The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders established 12 technical committees to build confidence and improve the daily lives of Cypriots. These address issues such as crime and criminal matters, education, and gender equality.)
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 both sides to reach an agreement regarding the Secretary-General’s proposal for the appointment of a UN envoy, “who could provide critical support in the search for common ground with the goal of returning to formal negotiations for a lasting settlement in Cyprus”.
Despite the stalled progress on the political front, the Secretary-General’s UNFICYP report highlighted positive developments on such issues as trade across the Green Line (the buffer zone that divides the two Cypriot communities, extending approximately 180 kilometres across the island). The report notes that although official data was not available, trade across the Green Line was expected to reach a record high in 2022. The draft resolution in blue welcomes the recent increase in trade across the Green Line and encourages further progress in this regard. It also stresses the importance of confidence-building measures and strongly encourages the sides to continue their engagement to that end. The draft resolution in blue also urgently calls on the two leaders to consider the Secretary-General’s advice on how to empower and improve the performance of the technical committees, as well as to protect and insulate their work from wider political discussions.
During the negotiations, some Council members called for strengthening language on the need to ensure the full, meaningful, and equal participation of women in peace talks. In January 2022, the two Cypriot leaders reached an agreement titled “Action Plan on ways to ensure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the settlement process/an eventual settlement process”. 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. The Secretary-General’s good offices report notes that despite discussions held at the technical committee level and between leadership representatives of both sides, no significant progress has been achieved in this regard. The draft resolution in blue underlines the importance of implementing the action plan and regrets the lack of full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in the settlement process.
Council members apparently discussed how to address the continuing activity in the coastal city of Varosha—a demilitarised area separating the two sides of the island. The Security Council adopted a presidential statement on 23 July 2021, in which it condemned the announcement by Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders on 20 July 2021 on the further reopening of part of the fenced-off area of Varosha. It called for the immediate reversal of all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020. The Council repeated this call in resolution 2646 on UNFICYP’s mandate. The Secretary-General’s latest UNFICYP report notes that “no steps were taken” towards such a reversal. The draft resolution in blue cautions against “any further actions in relation to Varosha” that are not in accordance with Council resolutions. It also contains stronger language than in resolution 2646, emphasising that “any further unilateral action may prompt a response from the Security Council”. Members apparently asked for this language to convey that the Council continues to closely follow this issue, especially in light of the longer 12-month mandate extension.
Another matter raised in the Secretary-General’s UNFICYP report is unauthorised construction in the buffer zone. The report notes that such activity “affects the status quo by de facto taking over the areas which were meant to remain a security buffer between opposing forces”. It also expresses concern about the unauthorised use of commercial off-the-shelf aerial drones above the buffer zone. The draft resolution in blue expresses serious concern at the continued violations of the military status quo along the ceasefire lines and the increase in unauthorised construction. It also expresses concern over unauthorised or criminal activities in the buffer zone and the risks they pose to peacekeepers’ safety and security.
*Post-script: On 30 January, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2674, renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another year, until 31 January 2024. The resolution affirms the Council’s readiness to review the implementation of the resolution after six months and “to consider any adjustments or other action as necessary, taking into account the advice of the Secretary-General”.