UN Secretary-General recommends extending UNFICYP’s mandate until January 2020

UN Secretary-General recommends extending UNFICYP’s mandate until January 2020

What he says about hydrocarbons and about the situation on Cyprus’ open waters

By Michalis Michael

The UN Secretary-General considers the presence of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus crucial, and in recognition of its continued contribution to the maintenance of peace and stability, it recommends to the Security Council to extend the mandate of the mission by January 31, 2020. This is what Mr. Guterres states in his report on UNFICYP to the Security Council, an informal copy of which was given late last night to the Security Council members, as the CNA also broadcasts. Much of the report, even in the observations chapter, is devoted to the various incidents that took place over the last six months in the neutral zone and involve mostly citizens, crime issues, and tensions in Strovilia and Deneia.

“The ongoing violations and low tensions during the period under review show how UNFICYP, through its monitoring, involvement and contacts, continues to play a vital role in preventing the escalation of such issues. I am concerned that, pending the full relaunch of discussions in Cyprus, violations of the military status quo will continue, which could pose a threat to the security and stability in the dead zone and beyond”, he stated.

In this context, it is also noted that the continued presence of UNFICYP remains crucial in reporting and responding to violations in accordance with its mandate, in preventing tensions and in contributing to the meeting of conditions conducive to political settlement. “In recognition of UNFICYP’s continued contribution in maintaining peace and stability, I therefore urge the Security Council to extend the mandate of the mission until January 31, 2020,” the UN Secretary-General said.

Describing the developments in the political matter, he notes that two years after the conclusion of the Conference on Cyprus at Crans-Montana, the negotiations are still pending; and he recalls the relevant report of his latest Good Service Review of April 16th, which states that United Nations High Commissioner Jane Hall Lute has continued her deliberations on his behalf, “with the aim of facilitating an agreement on the terms of reference, which would constitute a consensual starting point for a possible conclusion on the Cyprus problem”.

The Secretary-General cites in detail what the two leaders have agreed and promoted regarding the Confidence Building Measures, such as permanent interconnection of electricity networks, interoperability of mobile phones and the cleaning of 18 hazardous areas. He also provides the Security Council with extensive updates on the outcome of the UNFICYP consultations with both sides as well as with other interested parties, in accordance to the mandate given by Resolution 2453 on the establishment of mechanisms and the reinforcement of existing initiatives, “with UNFICYP as a facilitator, so that tensions are effectively alleviated and problems affecting the whole island and all of its people are addressed”.

Regarding the Cyprus problem, the SG continues that “despite the remarkable progress made in the confidence-building measures and in the initial engagement on the issue of mechanisms, the atmosphere surrounding the peace process has not been improved, and the two sides still disagree on the substance while blaming each other for the persistent deadlock. In the absence of negotiations, skepticism remained widespread and interest and hope for the peace process remained low. Despite the Security Council’s call in Resolution 2453 (2019) for both leaders to “improve the public ambiance for negotiations (…) preparing the communities for settlement and (…) to deliver more constructive and harmonized messages,” little effort was made to in this direction,” he states.

In his conclusions, Antonio Guterres, also referring to the results of polls taken by the United Nations and the European Union funded by the World Bank, he mentions that these suggest that the public’s expectations concerning the relaunch of the discussion and the prospects for a settlement remain low.

“As I mentioned in my latest report on the mission of my good services, there is a consensus that the status quo, meaning the lack of a solution for the Cyprus problem, is not viable. There is also broad support of the view that the horizon of an endless process without results lies behind us instead of ahead of us. I repeat my call for the parties to engage in the ongoing consultation process constructively, creatively and with acknowledging its urgent nature. The parties need to redouble their efforts for the restoration of full-fledged negotiations, and their involvement should be inspired by a sense of purpose and determination to arrive at a successful end within a predictable horizon”, the UN SG concludes.

On the issue of hydrocarbons

At the same time, the SG is worried about the developments in the region, which – he mentions – did not contribute to a positive atmosphere for the relaunch of talks. “In a worrying development, the tensions concerning hydrocarbons continued to grow, with few prospects of catching up in the short or medium term. Meanwhile, a particularly dense gathering of various national and joint naval and military forces alongside search and rescue exercises and others in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus, continues” the UN Secretary-General said in his report.

In the chapter of his conclusions, the SG notes that he continues to monitor closely and with concern the developments related to hydrocarbons. “I repeatedly stressed that the natural resources in and around Cyprus must benefit both communities and provide a strong incentive for all parties to find a mutually acceptable and lasting solution to the Cypriot problem. Given that all parties have expressed their commitment to this goal, I repeat my appeal for serious efforts, to avoid further escalation and to neutralize tensions,” he says.

On the occasion of the situation in Strovilia and in Deneia, alongside other matters concerning farmers etc., the SG underlines once again the importance of both sides respecting the power of UNFICYP and, citing the reference of Resolution 2453 of the Security Council; he stresses that it is crucial for both sides to accept and assist UNFICYP in the implementation of the 2018 note (aide-memoire). “Without this, UNFICYP’s ability to preserve the integrity of the neutral zone and maintain a stable environment within it will become increasingly controversial, with potential negative consequences for security and politics,” he adds. He notes that when misunderstandings and tensions arise, unilateral actions must be avoided and existing mechanisms of contact with UNFICYP should be fully exploited.

“The UNFICYP restrictions on freedom of movement imposed on Strovilia and elsewhere must be lifted once and for all immediately, and the Mission’s ability to patrol and perform other activities on the basis of its mandate needs to be fully restored,” he added. Especially for Strovilia, which, as he writes, remained a cause of friction between the sides, the Secretary-General stressed that “The United Nations continue to regard Turkey as responsible for maintaining the status quo in Varosha”./ibna