United Nations.- by Apostolis Zoupaniotis
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has recommended that the mandate of UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) be extended for six more months to June 15, 2012. In his report on the United Nations Operation in Cyprus, which was given unofficially to the members of the Security Council, and covers developments from July to November 2011, Ban presents his conclusions on the progress achieved so far as regards his Good Offices Mission and the ongoing negotiations for the resolution of the Cyprus problem.
“Since July 2011, some progress has been made in reaching convergence on core issues”, he notes, adding that “when I met with Mr. Christofias, Greek Cypriot leader, and Mr. Eroglu, Turkish Cypriot leader, on 7 July in Geneva, they agreed to an intensified phase and an enhanced United Nations role”.
Since July, the UN SG says, “the leaders have intensified their exchanges, meeting a total of 19 times, and focused on core issues”, adding that “during that period, considerable advances were made in the areas of economy, EU matters and internal aspects of security, while much less progress was made on property, territory and citizenship matters”.
Ban further describes the outcome of the Greentree meeting he had with the two leaders on October 30 and 31.
“During this meeting, the sides concentrated their discussions on outstanding core issues in the negotiations, in particular in the areas of governance and power-sharing, property, territory and citizenship”, he says, adding that “some encouraging progress was made, but much remains to be done to reach full convergence on them”.
He notes that “both leaders affirmed to me their belief that a settlement is possible and within reach”, adding that “their stated conviction has led me to ask the leaders to meet again in a similar format in Greentree in January 2012”.
Ban further says that “it is my expectation that all internal aspects of a settlement will have been resolved by then so that we can move to a multilateral conference shortly thereafter”.
He also expresses his intention to submit a separate report to the Security Council on his good offices mission after his next meeting with the two leaders in January 2012.
Regarding the work accomplished by UNFICYP the UN SG states that it “continues to play an important role on the island in maintaining the calm and fostering bi-communal cooperation and trust”.
“I therefore recommend that the mandate of UNFICYP be extended for a period of six months, until 15 June 2012”, the UNSG states.
However, he notes that he will keep UNFICYP operations under close review and will revert to the Council with recommendations regarding adjustment to the mandate, force levels and concept of operations.
“As I informed the Council in my report dated 8 August 2011 (S/2011/498) regarding the broader assessment of the United nations presence in Cyprus, internal discussions continue as to the potential scope and timing of such an exercise”, he adds.
During the reporting period, says Ban ”there has been a decrease in the total number of military violations committed in the buffer zone”. Co-operation from both opposing forces, as well as the working relationship with the respective chains of command, have been positive”.
In his report, Ban notes that there has been no progress on military confidence building measures, such as the unmanning and/or closing of observation posts where opposing forces are in close proximity to each other.
“While the National Guard has, in the past, worked with UNFICYP on assessing the proposals, concrete steps from the Turkish Forces/Turkish Cypriot Security Forces are still expected”, he states.
He also notes that civilian activities in the buffer zone, including unauthorized farming and hunting activities, including discharge of weapons, close to opposing forces and United Nations patrols are a growing preoccupation for the Mission.
“On 11 July, an explosion occurred at the Evangelos Florakis naval base in Zygi in southern Cyprus, which resulted in 13 deaths, including the commander of the naval base, and many injured”, Ban says, adding that the explosion “caused extensive damage to the largest power plant on the island, causing widespread power shortages”.
He further notes that “in the aftermath of the tragedy, the Turkish Cypriot authorities offered to supply electricity across the buffer zone to help cover the shortfall which resulted from the damage to the power plant”. This offer was accepted, Ban adds, “leading to an agreement between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Chambers of Commerce and transmission of electricity to the south from mid July”.
Ban also refers to “an increase in tension in connections with developments around the island”, explaining that “In September the Greek Cypriot side started exploratory drilling for hydrocarbons off the southern coast of the island in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone”.
This, he notes, “was strongly opposed by the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey, who considered that such actions prejudged the rights of the Turkish Cypriot community in the exploitation of natural resources on and around the island”.
During the reporting period, SG notes that the Committee on Missing Persons continued to carry forward its bi-communal project on the exhumation, identification and return of remains of missing persons.
“As of November 2011, the Committee’s bi-communal teams of archaeologists have exhumed the remains of over 800 individuals on both sides of the island, including some 20 during the reporting period”, he reports, adding that “the remains of nearly 500 persons have undergone examination at the Committee’s anthropological laboratory in the United Nations Protected Area in Nicosia”.
“Following genetic analysis of 1,450 samples by a bi-communal team of scientists at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, the remains of over 300 individuals have been returned to their respective families, including 28 during the reporting period”.
However, Ban notes that “the Committee’s access to military areas in the north has remained circumscribed”.
The UN SG also refers to the crossings that have occurred during the reported period.
“During the period from 7 May 2011 to 22 October 2011, UNFICYP recorded almost 795,000 official crossings through the buffer zone”, he states.
According to Ban “during the period between May to November 2011, goods worth approximately 871,579 euro crossed from the south to the north”, adding that “goods moving in the opposite direction rose sharply to approximately 20,874,875.44 euro due to the provision of electricity to help cover short falls in the south”.
“I also encourage the parties to continue efforts to achieve further progress in regard to crossings”, he notes, adding that “the seven crossings established to date have greatly facilitated the movement of people between the two sides, making a tangible difference to the everyday lives of many Cypriots across the island”.
Referring to UNFICYP’s role in the island, Ban says that it “has been instrumental in facilitating cooperation between the sides on criminal matters,” adding that “I welcome the continued cooperation between the sides in this area.
“I remain convinced”, he stresses, “that the establishment of economic, social, cultural, sporting or similar ties and contacts will have a positive impact on the ongoing negotiations”.