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24 July, 2024
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Cuellar's peacekeeping quest faces tough terrain

UN envoy takes on Cyprus crisis: Can fresh eyes break the stalemate?

Yiannis Ioannou

Yiannis Ioannou

Shortly after 9 am, the United Nations' fresh face, Maria-Angela Olguín Cuellar, descended upon the Presidential Palace, embarking on her inaugural rendezvous with President Christodoulides.

By 11 am, Cuellar ventured into the Occupied Territories via the Ledra Palace, where she engaged in discussions with the Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar.

The timing of Cuellar's debut encounters in Cyprus aligned with the UN Security Council's renewal of the resolution governing the terms of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). Notably, Cuellar's agenda extends her stay in Cyprus for at least a fortnight, during which she aims to convene with various segments of Civil Society.

As insiders divulged to "K," Cuellar's initial tête-à-têtes with the two leaders assume an exploratory hue. Acting as the UN Secretary-General's emissary, Cuellar conducts preliminary dialogues with the leadership of both communities and UN officials in Cyprus, aiming to discern realities and positions, thus charting a course forward amidst the intricate dynamics of Cyprus' diplomatic quagmire.

Accompanying Cuellar in her Cyprus odyssey are two seasoned diplomats. Kaisa Liljestrom, hailing from Finland, brings a wealth of experience from her tenure at the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while Francisco Diez, representing Argentina, boasts expertise as a senior mediation advisor within the UN Mediation Support Unit, tasked with leading Cuellar's team. Diez's impending permanent relocation to Cyprus underscores the gravity of Cuellar's mission and the UN's commitment to resolving Cyprus' complexities.

As anticipated, Cuellar encountered little deviation from the entrenched positions of both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot factions, notwithstanding seven years of dialogue dormancy. President Christodoulides reiterated the Greek Cypriot stance on resuming talks from the Crans Montana impasse, while Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar reiterated the prerequisite of accepting sovereign equality to reinitiate negotiations.


Tatar's categorical dismissal of a trilateral meeting with Cuellar and President Christodoulides, communicated as a refusal to endorse a federal basis, underscores the entrenched nature of the Cyprus conundrum.

Post-meeting, Cuellar sought to imprint her vision on Cyprus' diplomatic landscape. Referencing her role in Colombia's peace negotiations culminating in the FARC disarmament, Cuellar pledged to leverage her experience for optimal outcomes. Her succinct pledge, "the less she talks, the harder she works," encapsulates her commitment to action over rhetoric.

As Cyprus braces for the arduous journey ahead, Cuellar's diplomatic forays, particularly her engagements in the London-Athens-Ankara triangle, hold promise as pivotal junctures in the quest to unlock the island's longstanding deadlock.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  crisis  |  Cuellar  |  UN  |  envoy

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