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16 June, 2024
 
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UN Chief expresses concern over deepening divide in Cyprus

Secretary-General Guterres highlights growing challenges in achieving a mutually acceptable political settlement

Newsroom / CNA

"It becomes clearer with every passing year that the divide between the sides is growing, gradually eroding the prospects of finding a mutually acceptable political settlement," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says in the draft Report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus for the information of the members of the Security Council.

However, Guterres stresses that he will continue to encourage the two leaders to be open to dialogue, as he believes this is vital to finding a way forward. He also points out that the incidents near the bi-communal village of Pyla/Pile within the UN buffer zone in August provided an example of how developments in the buffer zone can negatively affect the situation on the island.

The report on the UNSG mission of good offices and the United Nations Operation in Cyprus are focused on developments from 13 June 2023 to 12 December 2023. An update on the activities carried out by the Secretary-General’s mission of good offices and UNFICYP under the leadership of the Deputy Special Adviser on Cyprus, Colin Stewart is provided. The Reports also include an update on the Secretary-General’s ongoing engagement with the sides.

It is noted that the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders, Nikos Christodoulides and Ersin Tatar respectively, came together twice during the reporting period. Still, they did not engage in substantive discussions and remained far apart in their positions regarding the peace process.

Pyla

The incident near the bi-communal village of Pyla led to a suspension of regular trilateral meetings between the representatives of the two leaders and the Deputy Special Adviser on Cyprus for almost two months, the report for the Good Offices says. It is noted that the events in Pyla provided an example of how developments in the buffer zone can negatively affect the situation on the island.

“I once again strongly condemn the assaults against peacekeepers on the Pyla/Pile plateau on 18 August. The safety and security of peacekeepers remains the utmost priority for the United Nations and cannot be compromised”, the Secretary-General stresses.

UNFICYP’s authority in and around the buffer zone, as mandated by the Security Council, including its delineation of the ceasefire lines that define the buffer zone, continued to be challenged by both sides, resulting in a worsening trend of both military and other violations it is further pointed out.

The encroachment into the buffer zone by military and civilian projects prompted actions between the sides that continued reinforcing mistrust and counter-trust-building efforts. In the polarized political context, the mission continued to facilitate inter-communal people-to-people contacts and several bicommunal events, which is underlined in the report.

The report also refers to March 4th, 2024, when the United Nations in Cyprus will mark 60 years of continuous and concerted efforts to maintain peace and stability on the island and to help Cypriots find a mutually acceptable resolution to their differences.

This milestone is a sobering reminder of just how long the people of Cyprus have been waiting for a resolution. For almost 50 of those years, in the absence of a formal ceasefire agreement, UNFICYP peacekeepers have successfully de-escalated tensions in the buffer zone and prevented conflict, it is added.

Technical Committees

A special reference to the work of the technical committees is made in the report. The majority of the technical committees maintained the same regularity of meetings as in the previous reporting period, while the Technical Committee on Humanitarian Affairs resumed meeting after a year’s gap and the Technical Committee on Education remained dormant for the most part, with one plenary meeting being planned in the days just after the end of the reporting period, the report says.

Technical Committee on Broadcasting agreed on a project called “Transition to Green Energy: The Future of Electronic Telecommunications”. The project aims to inform the electronic telecommunications sector of relevant developments, technological advances and best practices in this field, including scientific and factual information on the benefit of green energy which would contribute to the sustainability of the sector as well as to the environment.

The Technical Committee on Crime and Criminal Matters held regular meetings, with ongoing interactions taking place on criminal matters related to irregular migration, fraud, domestic violence and incidents related to the Pyla plateau.

Discussions continued in the Technical Committee on Crossings on proposals for improving the flow at existing crossing points, especially the Agios Dometios/Metehan crossing, the busiest on the island.

The Technical Committee on Economic and Commercial Matters continued to meet regularly to advance business-driven initiatives to bring Cypriots from across the island closer and improve their livelihoods. Consultations on launching a young professionals internship pilot program across the island, with the support of both Chambers of Commerce, have concluded and the first cohort will start their internships in the first quarter of 2024.

The focus on intra-island trade as a means to address some of the most pressing economic concerns of Cypriots across the island and to contribute to improving the overall political climate, remained at the forefront of the mission’s outreach and advocacy efforts.

Observations

This coming reporting period will mark several sobering anniversaries related to Cyprus, including the 60th anniversary of the United Nations peacekeeping and good office activities in Cyprus. The United Nations remains steadfast in its commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Cyprus issue. However, it becomes clearer with every passing year that the divide between the sides is growing, gradually eroding the prospects of finding a mutually acceptable political settlement.

“While the underlying positions of the parties on the peace process remain far apart, I will continue to encourage the two leaders to be open to mutually acceptable modalities for dialogue at their level, as I believe this remains crucial for finding a way forward. Meaningful initiatives or gestures are also critical for creating momentum towards dialogue and building trust”, the SE adds in his report.

The Secretary General also says that he encourages the two leaders and their representatives to discuss, agree and implement mutually acceptable confidence-building measures that can contribute to an environment more conducive to a settlement.

“I urge the two leaders to engage in discussions on their respective proposals that have been put forward in the spirit of building trust and finding common ground for the benefit of all. To this end, both leaders should actively promote people-to-people contact, cooperation and trade, including through improving existing crossing points and the opening of new ones. The two sides should also work together on issues related to irregular migration, as they have with respect to crisis management and response,” he says.

It is added that expanding trade and business links and ensuring the infrastructure to support them would not only have important positive impacts on the lives of Cypriots but are also the best ways to restore confidence in a settlement. “Each incremental improvement can contribute to paving the way towards a greater public acceptance of a mutually agreeable settlement in the future”.

Varosha

In the report, the Secretary-General, notes that he has repeatedly stressed the importance of the parties refraining from taking unilateral actions both in and adjacent to the buffer zone that could raise tensions, while also calling upon all parties to engage in dialogue to resolve their differences. He reiterated his concern over developments in the fenced-off area of Varosha and noted that the position of the United Nations on Varosha remains unchanged, recalling the decisions of the Security Council on the matter, notably resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992), and underscored the importance of adhering fully to those resolutions.

He also commends the Governments of Greece and Türkiye for their stated commitment to enhancing the positive climate that has been created in their bilateral relations.

“I encourage them to continue deepening their political dialogue and cooperation to build trust and promote stability in the region. I encourage all guarantor powers to urge the two leaders in Cyprus to engage in dialogue to seek a mutually acceptable way forward on the Cyprus issue”.

He urges the parties to put sincere efforts towards exploring options for sustainable energy cooperation in and around the island that may benefit all parties, and refrain from taking actions that could increase tensions. He also wishes to reiterate that natural resources in and around Cyprus should benefit both communities and constitute a strong incentive for the parties to pursue mutually acceptable and durable solutions to disagreements related to natural resources.

Missing people

A special reference to the issue of missing persons is made in the report. To date, of 2,002 missing persons, 1,036 have been formally identified and their remains returned to their families for dignified burials, including six during the reporting period, the report says. On 28 July, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders jointly visited the CMP anthropological laboratory and reaffirmed their strong support for the Committee’s humanitarian work.

The resolution to renew the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus is expected to be adopted by the Security Council on January 30.

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