United Nations.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
UN chief Antonio Guterres said he intends to invite all sides to a five-plus-one Conference aiming to explore whether common ground exists “to negotiate a sustainable, lasting solution to the Cyprus problem within a foreseeable horizon,” noting however that skepticism regarding the prospects for a return to the peace talks has risen in both communities in Cyprus.
“At the time of writing this report, skepticism regarding the prospects for a return to the peace talks has risen in both communities, with analysts regularly pointing out the divergent positions declared publicly by Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Tatar, including on the central issue of the model for a settlement to be pursued,” Guterres said in its report to the Security Council Good Offices Mission.
But Guterres made clear that “time is working against a mutually acceptable political settlement in Cyprus.”
“The status quo, continuing for so many decades, is not static. Changes are happening on the ground that may become irreversible, should the two communities not recommit themselves to resolving their differences peacefully, proactively and with determination,” he said, adding that “the primary responsibility for the future of the process remains with the parties, especially the two leaders, and I continue to stand ready to support them as they chart the way forward.”
On the consultations conducted by his special envoy, Jane Hall Lute with all involved, Guterres said both the sides and the guarantor powers have expressed a willingness to attend an informal five-plus-one meeting under his auspices. Lute will arrive to the island on Sunday with new talks with the two leaders scheduled for Monday.
“The purpose of this meeting will be to determine whether common ground exists for the parties to negotiate a sustainable, lasting solution to the Cyprus problem within a foreseeable horizon. I intend to invite the sides and the guarantor powers to this informal meeting as soon as practicable in 2021,” he said.
Guterres also reiterated that “this time must be different, and this informal five-plus-one meeting will help clarify the true extent of the commonality of vision and outline steps necessary to chart a way forward.”
Guterres welcomed the renewed expression of support from the European Union leadership to a resumption of negotiations under United Nations auspices, and its commitment to a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus within the United Nations framework and in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Furthermore, Guterres pointed out that the postponement of the Turkish Cypriot leadership elections from April to October 2020 and the drawn-out campaigning significantly extended a period of political uncertainty.
“It also highlighted the stark division between political stakeholders in the Turkish Cypriot community on the future of the peace process. These differences had grown steadily following the closure of the Conference on Cyprus in July 2017,” he said, pointing out that the political landscape has remained dynamic island-wide, with considerable unpredictability against the backdrop of regional tensions and continued steps being taken in Varosha, a part of Famagusta, fenced-off since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
However, the UN Chief said “the position of the United Nations on Varosha remains unchanged and is guided by relevant Security Council resolutions.”
“I reiterate my call and that of the Security Council for the avoidance of any unilateral actions that could raise tensions on the island and undermine the return to dialogue and the future success of talks. It is critically important that all parties engage in dialogue in order to resolve their differences and resume a viable and comprehensive negotiation process,” Guterres said noting he remains “committed to supporting the two leaders in revitalizing their dialogue and demonstrating their commitment to an enduring, comprehensive and just settlement.”
Furthermore, Guterres said he follows with deep concern the “rising tensions” in the Eastern Mediterranean, including tensions over hydrocarbons exploration and maritime boundary delimitation.
He called for “for serious efforts to be made by all parties to defuse tensions and urge them to avoid escalation and to continue to engage in dialogue to explore possibilities for resolving their disputes and investing in regional cooperation” and stressed “natural resources located in and around Cyprus should benefit both communities and constitute a strong incentive to reach a mutually acceptable settlement in Cyprus without any further delay.”
“A comprehensive settlement in Cyprus constitutes the best chance for resolving matters of contention between the two communities on the island. A settlement has the potential to unlock collaborative and mutually beneficial solutions for Cyprus as well as the broader region,” the UN chief added, stating that concrete steps towards peace on the island could also help alleviate tensions and improve relations “between Greece and Turkey, both guarantor powers in the Cyprus context.”
The parties, including the guarantor powers, he went on, “should re-engage in dialogue with a sense of urgency in order to bring the Cyprus peace process back on track, within a clear time horizon, and to re-orient regional dialogue more broadly.”
Moreover, stressing that confidence-building measures for Cyprus continue to be important, he encouraged the sides to put forward proposals and ideas, or to review past proposals, so that discussions and progress can be pursued.
“As the sides explore opportunities for building confidence and cooperation, I urge them to pursue meaningful progress in order to deliver tangible benefits to their communities and improve the daily lives of Cypriots island-wide,” he said, adding that the United Nations remain fully committed to facilitating and supporting work on mutually-agreeable confidence-building measures.
Reiterating his call “for a global ceasefire as the world faces a common enemy: COVID-19,” Guterres said that “as the pandemic has continued its devastating, global march, long-standing fractures both within and between the two communities have widened and opportunities to wage a united fight to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate its impact have not been seized.”
“As this report outlines, despite my calls, and the call of the Security Council for the sides to cooperate effectively, particularly in these challenging times, there continued to be limited coordination on the COVID-19 response via the technical committees and a lack of bicommunal or joint approaches to managing the impact overall,” he said, pointing out that “these bodies remained underutilized during a time when cooperation could have improved the daily lives of Cypriots on both sides of the divide, given the adverse public health and economic effects island-wide.”
Surprisingly the only time the Secretary General mentions in his report the word “federation” is in the submitted updates of the two leaders (when President Anastasiades says the solution of the Cyprus problem should be a bizonal bicommunal federation) and in paragraph 10 where he quotes a statement by the Greek Cypriot leader, following his meetin g with Ersin Tatar.
Paragraph 10 is as follows:
“At the conclusion of the Turkish Cypriot leadership elections, Mr. Anastasiades reached out to Mr. Tatar and they agreed to hold a first informal meeting under the auspices of my Deputy Special Adviser on 3 November 2020. The encounter was an opportunity for the two leaders to hold a preliminary informal discussion. After the meeting, the United Nations issued a statement informing that the two leaders hadexpressed their determination to positively respond to my stated commitment to explore the possibility to convene an informal five-plus-one meeting, in a conducive climate, at an appropriate stage. The two leaders also gave separate remarks to the press that day, with Mr. Anastasiades stating that he had conveyed his determination to participate in an informal five-plus-one meeting “on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions and a bizonal, bicommunal federation”. Mr. Tatar noted that he believed strongly that the time had come to explore new approachessuch as utilizing the concept of “sovereign equality” and that the informal five-plus-one meeting would be an important opportunity for the Turkish Cypriot side to “table new ideas”. “