An important step forward would be an agreement with the sides on an appointment of a United Nations envoy, who could explore ways to reach common ground towards resuming negotiations for a lasting settlement in Cyprus, the UN Secretary General says in his Report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus. Meanwhile, in his Report on the UNFICYP, he urges the leaders to send a clear signal that "this time things will be different".
In his Report on his good offices, which is focused on developments from 13 December 2022 to 12 June 2023, the UNSG notes that "any opportunities for building trust and good will between the sides that might arise in the coming period should be seized with meaningful initiatives. Such initiatives are crucial to creating a momentum towards dialogue that could ultimately chart a path back to settlement talks. An important step forward would be an agreement with the sides on an appointment of a United Nations envoy, who could explore ways to reach common ground towards resuming negotiations for a lasting settlement in Cyprus".
According to the advance copy of the Report for the information of the members of the Security Council, he also encourages the two leaders "to be proactive in seeking mutually acceptable modalities for dialogue at their level, as I believe this remains crucial for finding a mutually agreeable way forward. I also welcome the direct channel of communication established between the two leaders as a means to build confidence and to exchange views on day-to-day issues of mutual concern".
The UNSG welcomes the continuity of the work of the technical committees following the change in Greek Cypriot leadership and the commitment of both sides after the elections to pick up the pace of the committees’ activities. However, he notes, "considering the many pressing issues that would benefit from intra-island cooperation, the technical committees could do more".
Commending Greece and Turkey for a positive shift in their relations, he encourages 'the two leaders in Cyprus to re-engage in dialogue to seek a mutually acceptable way forward on the Cyprus issue'
The UNSG calls on the two sides to provide the technical committees with the necessary support and leeway in order to preserve their ability to function, deliver results and address matters with island-wide implications.
The technical committees, where both communities can discuss and address issues of common concern, should be protected and insulated from larger political discussions and problems in and adjacent to the buffer zone involving UNFICYP, he notes.
He urges 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", he adds.
Regarding illegal immigration, he says that the two sides should also work together adding that consideration of helpful unilateral steps or gestures should also be given serious attention as these may constitute important investments towards a mutually agreeable settlement.
The UNSG calls on the leaders to also aim for more inclusive cooperation and links between the two communities now, and ultimately in the peace process, and to effectively engage and involve women, minorities, youth, and persons with disabilities in discussions related to a shared future on the island and incorporate their views accordingly.
The UNSG points out that seizing the opportunity in the coming period to forge greater economic activity between the two sides makes good business sense and would have important positive impacts on the lives of Cypriots. More importantly still, he says, each incremental improvement can pave the way towards a mutually agreeable settlement.
He reiterates his concern over developments in the fenced-off area of Varosha and notes that the position of the United Nations on Varosha remains unchanged.
"I recall the decisions of the Security Council on the matter, notably resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992), and I underscore the importance of adhering fully to those resolutions".
Commending the governments of Greece and Türkiye for the positive shift made in their bilateral relations, he encourages "the two leaders in Cyprus to re-engage in dialogue to seek a mutually acceptable way forward on the Cyprus issue".
Regarding energy, 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", noting 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.
The UNSG says that "while underscoring the importance of the work of the technical committees and the positive impact of confidence-building measures for trust-building between the two communities, I believe that only genuine progress towards reaching a consensus starting point for meaningful, results oriented negotiations leading to a settlement will reassure Cypriots as well as the international community that a peaceful and shared future on the island truly remains possible".
"I have maintained contact and dialogue with the parties, as have my senior advisors at United Nations Headquarters and during visits to the island, and my Deputy Special Adviser and we will continue to do so in the coming period. In these efforts, I remain guided by relevant Security Council resolutions that have established United Nations parameters", he stresses.
Report on UNFICYP
Meanwhile, in his Report on the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), which covers developments from 13 December 2022 to 12 June 2023, he says that following the electoral cycles in the region, attention now must turn to addressing the Cyprus issue.
"As time is working against a mutually acceptable political settlement in Cyprus, I call on the leaders of the two communities to take urgent action to address the distrust between the sides and create space for meaningful dialogue, to send a clear signal that this time things will be different", he underlines.
Furthermore, he says that despite the increase in trade over the reporting period, obstacles to greater economic interaction between the two communities continue to prevent the interdependence that would help pave the way towards a settlement.
It is also essential, he notes, that the sides demonstrate their capacity to jointly address island-wide issues, as an intermediary step toward an overall political solution. For example, in a region prone to earthquakes and forest fires, a dedicated crisis management mechanism between the two sides seems highly relevant and necessary, and I am pleased with the ongoing efforts toward setting up such a mechanism, he says.
Referring to the crossing points, he notes that the long queues should be addressed jointly, including through the opening of new crossings, adding "any progress on these issues would not only help address pressing current challenges, but it would also serve to increase trust and cooperation between the sides".
He urges the leaders to encourage more direct contact and cooperation between the two communities and to provide concrete support for people-to-people initiatives, as called for by the Security Council and as evidence of their genuine commitment to a solution.
The UNSG says that he especially regrets "the absence of substantial progress towards removing divisive and intolerant rhetoric from schoolbooks, especially the Greek Cypriot ones. I call on both leaders to reinvigorate the Technical Committee on Education and mandate it to jointly implement its own 2017 recommendations, as called for by the Security Council". In addition, he notes that "the suspension of the Turkish Cypriot authorities’ support for the “Imagine” project under the auspices of the Technical Committee on Education was extremely regrettable, and I call on them to reinstate this award-winning peace education project without further delay".
Expressing his concern "by the finding that the absence of access to asylum procedures at the crossing points has favoured irregular crossings through the buffer zone", he urges the relevant authorities to reinstate this right.
Furthermore, he notes that "in their efforts to promote closer cooperation between the communities, local and international actors continue to be confronted with challenges and obstacles linked to the status of the north and concerns relating to “recognition”. While the United Nations policy on Cyprus is maintained and decisions of the Security Council on the matter are upheld, I reiterate that concerns about recognition should not in themselves constitute an obstacle to increased cooperation".
Referring to the "unauthorized construction for private and commercial use in the buffer zone, in contravention of established procedures for the management of civilian activity" he says it undermines respect for the United Nations delineation of the buffer zone and for the mandated authority of UNFICYP.
"I urge both sides, once again, to respect and abide by the United Nations delineation of the buffer zone, which is the only delineation recognized by the Security Council. I recall the Council’s request that all unauthorized constructions inside the buffer zone be removed and that both sides prevent unauthorized military and civilian activities within and along the ceasefire lines".
He notes as an example "of the contravention of the mission’s aide-memoire" the enhancement of surveillance technology on both sides of the buffer zone, "which was done without consultation with UNFICYP".
"As proposed in my previous reports, I would urge the parties to work with my Special Representative to explore the idea of unstaffing the ceasefire lines, in return for the potential validation by the United Nations of surveillance technology that is neither deployed inside the buffer zone nor able to see beyond it. I believe that such a measure could significantly contribute to building confidence and stabilizing the buffer zone".
He reiterates his concern over any new developments in the fenced-off area of Varosha and the lack of response to the Security Council’s call for a reversal of the actions taken since the announcement of the partial reopening of the fenced-off town in October 2020 and recalls the Council’s decisions related to Varosha, notably its resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992), and the importance of adhering fully to those resolutions, underscoring that the position of the United Nations on this matter remains unchanged.
The UNSG deplores the restrictions on the freedom of movement of UNFICYP imposed in the area and elsewhere, as in Strovilia, and reiterates his expectation that the ability of the mission to patrol and implement its mandated activities be restored in full. "I recall that the mandate provided by the Council to UNFICYP is not limited to the buffer zone but extends to the entire island".
Saying that "direct interactions do not in any way affect the status of the parties and are important for addressing issues in a timely and effective manner", he adds that "the establishment of a direct military contact mechanism between the opposing forces would be a very positive step for stability and confidence-building on the island, especially in the context of the current increase in militarization".
Similarly, he adds, "on the Pyla/Pile Joint Contact Room, I hope the two sides will come together and address the mismatch of presence of the two sides in the new mechanism".
As at 12 June 2023, the strength of the military component stood at 801 (708 men and 93 women), while that of the police component stood at 64 (37 men and 27 women).