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12° Nicosia,
25 April, 2024
 
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UN's envoy to land in Cyprus for talks on Cyprus problem

Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar takes charge in Cyprus talks

Yiannis Ioannou

Yiannis Ioannou

In early January, the new Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General, Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar, will arrive in Cyprus. This marks the beginning of an intense period of activity concerning the Cyprus issue, especially considering that the last round of talks took place seven years ago in a completely different environment, both in terms of the Cyprus problem and the regional and international level.

Over time, many special envoys have arrived in Cyprus on behalf of the United Nations. The arrival of such a diplomat is typically followed by a period of adaptation, exploratory contacts, and public engagement related to the envoy's profile, abilities, and affiliations. There is also a significant amount of criticism, both well-intentioned and ill-intentioned, from those who are involved with the Cyprus problem. This criticism often comes from those who approach the issue not only with cool responsibility but also with political bias, perceiving the outcome (the agreement for the resolution of the Cyprus problem) through their ideological lens, rather than reality.

Well-intentioned criticism often begins with the assumption that UN officials are infallible. They are perceived as not making mistakes, having excellent intentions, and having "solved many issues before the Cyprus problem." However, both academia and civil society, as well as some of the press, often misunderstand this: the reality of the Cyprus problem remains unchanged, and these diplomats are primarily political figures who aim to deliver on their terms of reference while remaining professional. They are not infallible. On the other hand, there is also a misunderstanding that all special envoys on the Cyprus issue are, by definition, unilaterally pro-Turkish. In the past, of course, there have been special envoys who may not have been objective.

The nature of the negotiation and the role of the UN in the Cyprus problem, along with the individual realities in the absence of dialogue in Cyprus for so many years, will determine how Ms. Maria Angela will work. It will also determine who, how, and why will support her challenging effort in the first half of 2024 to bridge two diametrically opposed starting points and a negotiating deadlock that has lasted for seven years. At this level, everyone in Cyprus will be judged perhaps one last time: the leadership and the political system, civil society and academia, and the analysis and discussion of Cuellar's effort in the public sphere.

Under the weight of what has changed in the last seven years in the way and the means with which journalists cover events, Cuellar's arrival is also an important test for journalism in Cyprus. It's particularly a test for an approach that will neither glorify Maria Angela if she wears a headscarf and dances in the buffer zone, nor condemn her if the negotiated terms do not satisfy us (but are not biased) as being pro-Turkish and hostile to the Greek Cypriots. Of course, she must also be tested on whether she is a competent mediator in essence.

It will be interesting to see whether, in the "delays" of the Cyprus problem, we are "playing" with the match on fire and the atmosphere being polemical. Will the journalistic approach to the match be fact-based, or will Ms. Cuellar, in the role of referee, be the target of a fan attack by those who make the aftermath of a lost match even worse in the headlines?

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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Cyprus  |  EU  |  UN  |  politics  |  diplomacy  |  government

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