United Nations.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he continues to hold out hope that a durable settlement to the Cyprus problem can be achieved and urged all parties to take advantage of this period of consultations “to lay the groundwork for fresh and unambiguous commitments to achieve a peaceful settlement, which has eluded Cypriots for so long.”
Guterres said in his report about his good offices mission in Cyprus that he welcomes the constructive engagement of the sides, the guarantor powers and other interested parties with his special envoy Jane Hall Lute and credits this engagement with helping to maintain prospects for peace, which, ultimately, lies in the hands of the two sides.
“The people of Cyprus deserve to know that this time it is different. I again urge the leaders, the guarantor powers and other interested parties to make productive use of the coming period. In this context, I would reiterate my call on the parties to constructively consider the framework of six points that I offered on 30 June 2017,” Guterres said in his report an unofficial copy of which was handed over on Thursday evening to the UN Security Council members. Two ten-page written updates by Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci were requested by the Security Council in resolution 2483.
The report focuses on developments from 11 April 2019 to 30 October 2019, providing an update on the activities carried out by the UNSG`s mission of good offices under the leadership of his Deputy Special Adviser on Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar. It also includes an update on the consultations conducted senior United Nations official, Ms. Jane Holl Lute, on Guterres` behalf.
“While efforts continued during this reporting period towards reaching an agreement on the terms of reference, the backdrop to these efforts has been an increasingly complex situation, with rising tensions in and along the buffer zone, in particular along the northern ceasefire line, as well as over the possible opening of Varosha and over hydrocarbons exploration around Cyprus,” the UNSG noted.
He said that with the agreement on the terms of reference still pending, he engaged in separate discussions with the two leaders and other interested parties during their visit to New York at the end of September 2019. “In those discussions, I reconfirmed that my Good Offices remained available to support the parties in their efforts. The leaders agreed to hold a joint informal meeting with me as a potentially constructive step in trying to find a mutually acceptable way forward,” Guterres said.
With respect to Varosha, he said that the United Nations continues to be guided by relevant Security Council resolutions. The Security Council reiterated on 4 October 2019 that no actions should be taken in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with its resolutions, including resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992). I will continue to monitor developments closely, Guterres noted.
He said that tensions have also increased over developments related to the fenced-off part of Famagusta, Varosha. “The issue has recently attracted attention since the announcement on 18 June 2019 that the Turkish Cypriot authorities would conduct an inventory study as a first step towards its potential re-opening, followed by visits to the closed-off area by journalists and by four Ministers from Turkey, which were facilitated by the Turkish Cypriot authorities,” he added.
He noted tht the Republic of Cyprus expressed strong concern over these developments and brought the matter to the attention of the Security Council. “On 9 October 2019, the members of the Security Council discussed the issue of Varosha in closed consultations and subsequently issued a press statement, in which they recalled the importance of the status of Varosha as set out in previous Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992),” Guterres said.
He noted that the members of the Security Council reiterated that no actions should be taken in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with those resolutions and stressed the importance of implementing the Council’s resolutions.
“The statement further reaffirmed resolution 2483 (2019) and the importance of achieving an enduring, comprehensive and just settlement based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, as set out in relevant Security Council resolutions, and called on the parties to engage constructively and with a sense of urgency. The members of the Security Council also encouraged the leaders to agree on and implement new confidence-building measures. Finally, they urged the sides and all involved participants to refrain from any actions and rhetoric that might affect the chances of success for a settlement,” he said.
As regards the natural resources in and around Cyprus, he said that they constitute a strong incentive for a mutually acceptable and durable solution to the Cyprus problem and could serve to engender deeper regional cooperation. “I am monitoring recent developments related to hydrocarbons in and around Cyprus closely and with growing concern. I again urge all relevant parties to exercise restraint and reiterate my call for serious efforts to be made to avoid any further escalation and to defuse tensions,” Guterres stressed.
He said that at a time when the prospects for resumed negotiations remain uncertain, the technical committees can be an important vehicle for bringing the two communities closer together, implementing practical and impactful bi-communal initiatives and mobilizing support for increased dialogue. In this regard, I have noted further signs of revitalization of the technical committees, as demonstrated by increased activities and initiatives registered in the reporting period, and hope to see more progress in the period ahead, he added.
He underscored the importance of the work of the technical committees and the positive impact of confidence-building measures for trust-building between the two communities, expressing the belief that only genuine progress made towards a return to the negotiation table, including through an agreement on the terms of reference, will mark a path to a comprehensive settlement and reassure Cypriots as well as the international community that prospects for the process truly remain alive.
Moreover he said that public perception surveys have again demonstrated that the desire for a solution amongst the two communities continues to prevail, but that trust remains low. People are skeptical about the prospects for successful talks. Despite repeated calls on the two leaders to better inform the two communities about the contours of a settlement and to improve the overall conditions and atmosphere for the process, the climate has deteriorated further due to increased tensions in and around Cyprus and due to the sides disagreeing over the terms of reference, prolonging the stalemate.
Neither side has made sufficient effort to avoid unhelpful rhetoric which has further reinforced skepticism amongst the public, Guterres said.
THE UPDATES BY
The report included in an annex two ten-page long updates by President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, with the actions they have taken in support of the relevant sections of Resolution 2483, with an aim to reach a viable and comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
President Anastasiades’ note is separated into three parts, namely efforts to resume the peace process, factors impeding the resumption of the peace process, and the way forward.
The President says that, “for substantial negotiations to resume, we need an environment that will allow constructive discussions to be held, in the same spirit and conditions that characterized all previous negotiating rounds, including the two Conferences on Cyprus.”
“We therefore call the UN Secretary-General, his Good Offices mission on Cyprus and the Permanent Members of the Secretary Council, as the guardian, of international law and of the values and principles of our UN family, to adopt an assertive stance so as for Turkey on the one hand to terminate its unlawful activities and refrain from any provocative acts and on the other hand to terminate its negative interventions as regards the bicommunal aspects of the negotiating process and concentrate its efforts and work constructively towards reaching a comprehensive settlement on the Cyprus problem,” he says.
President Anastasiades says he has “engaged constructively” with UN envoy Jane Holl Lute “since her appointment, in an effort to agree terms of reference based on which to resume the process.”
“To this end, on 14 June 2019, I addressed a letter to the UNSG, suggesting i) to hold a tripartite meeting between the leaders of the two communities and Ms. Lute, so as to discuss ways to overcome difficulties in agreeing the terms of reference, and ii) to hold a tripartite meeting between the leaders of the two communities and the UNSG, in order to assess the state of play and explore possible ways forward,” he points out.
He adds that “at a meeting I had with Mr. Akinci on 9 August 2019, which I initiated, an understanding was reached, in principle, that the terms of reference should consist of i) the Joint Statement of 11 Feb. 2014, ii) the six-point package framework elaborated by the UNSG at Crans Montana, and iii) the convergences achieved until the Crans Montana Conference.”
“I also agreed with the Turkish Cypriot leader that neither of us would insist on interpreting the elements of the Secretary General’s package in the terms of reference themselves. In this regard, I would stress the value of receiving written proposals by the Turkish Cypriot side on the UNSG six-point package, akin to those submitted by the Greek Cypriot side in Crans Montana,” he says.
The President notes that “Ms. Lute was informed of the understanding achieved on 9 August 2019 and was invited to Cyprus to assist us in formalizing it, thus paving the way for a meeting between the leaders and the UN Secretary General in late September in New York,” but “unfortunately, following consultations with other interested stakeholders, this understanding was not upheld and, during Ms. Lute’s visit to Cyprus in early September, the Turkish Cypriot side insisted on including unilateral interpretations of one element of the UNSG package, as well as other elements preempting both the way forward and the substance of the negotiations.”
He adds that he remains “convinced that the minimalist document encapsulating the spirit of what was agreed on 9 August 2019, is the only way forward.”
The President says that, “in anticipation of Ms. Lute’s visit to Cyprus in November 2019 and of a meeting between the leaders and the UNSG, I reiterate my strong commitment to reach agreement on the terms of reference as quickly as possible, as well as my readiness to hold an informal conference in Crans Montana format in order to agree the modalities of a possible substantive meeting for fully fledged negotiations.”
He adds that “such a phased approach would allow for a well-prepared negotiation, the importance of which was highlighted also by the UNSG in his Report S/2019/322 of 16 April 2019.”
“It should be clear that the aim of reaching an agreement on the terms is to pave the way forward for resuming the negotiating process and therefore we should avoid: (i) Inserting provisions of not ruling out possible solutions of the Cyprus Problem that run contrary to the UN Security Council Resolutions. In this regard, it is recalled that in the Report of the Secretary General on Progress towards a settlement in Cyprus, dated 14 June 2018 (S/2018/610), the Secretary General stated that, ‘With respect to the guarantor Powers, in its public statements since July 2017, Turkey has expressed doubts as to the possibility of reaching a settlement based on the established parameters, given the outcome of the conference in Crans-Montana and past failures. Turkey has nonetheless reiterated its support for a ‘sustainable settlement’ of the Cyprus issue’,” he says.
He adds that “we have faced a specific obstacle in agreeing the terms of reference in the form of an insistence to interpret political equality as a veto of the Turkish Cypriot community in all decisions of all federal institutions.”
“Beyond the fact that such interpretation is not and could not be extracted from the agreed definition of political equality, I must recall that it is the existence of a much more restricted such right of veto that created the constitutional crisis in Cyprus in the first place. I must also stress that such a provision in the settlement would not only render the state dysfunctional, but it would defeat the purpose of reunification altogether,” he notes.
The President says he is “absolutely convinced that the suggestion by the UNSG in his six-point package, i.e. to grant a positive vote in specific bodies where the vital interests of each community or constituent state might be affected provided that there exists an effective deadlock-resolving mechanism, is the only formula that can lead us to a breakthrough on this issue.”
“I am also convinced that embedding separatist and deadlock-inducing decision-making mechanisms in the settlement will make it non-viable. The convergences already achieved on effective participation amount to the most far-reaching power sharing arrangements in existence, anywhere,” he adds.
MUSTAFA AKINCI’S NOTE
The update submitted by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci also includes three parts.
I. Actions Taken in Support of Reaching a Sustainable and Comprehensive Settlement:
II. Actions Taken in Support of Building Confidence as well as Promoting Intercommunal Contacts and Reconciliation:
Establishment of Mechanisms for Direct Contacts:
Work of the Committee on Missing Persons:
III. Actions Taken in Support of Defusing Tensions over Hydrocarbons:
Akinci notes that due to the setbacks encountered during the past two years, bringing clarity to the process, both in terms of substance and methodology, has gained utmost importance for the Turkish Cypriot side.
“Therefore, the terms of reference should be tackled in a way leaving no ambiguity for the sides and no room for different interpretations and backtracking. To that end, the Turkish Cypriot side proposed the following main elements to be included in terms of reference in consistence with the views of the Secretary-General and the recent Security Council resolutions:
(i) On substance: commitment to the Joint Declaration of 11 February 2014; the past convergences including the footnotes; and the six-point framework submitted by the Secretary-General on 30 June 2017. A renewed commitment to the established parameter of political equality in its entirety is also of utmost importance in showing the sincerity of the sides to their commitment to past convergences, in particular the principle of effective participation, which is enshrined in the UN definition of political equality endorsed by the Security Council. Hence, in its latest resolution, the Security Council has urged the sides “to renew their efforts to achieve an enduring, comprehensive and just settlement based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, as set out in relevant Security Council resolutions, including OP4 of its resolution 716 (1991)””.
Without mentioning the word “timetable”, Akinci points out the need the talks to have “a sense of urgency”.
“In line with this assessment, and also drawing from the lessons learnt during the last process that ended with no result, the Turkish Cypriot side has consistently emphasized the need for designing a proper results-oriented process. Undoubtedly, this necessity derives from the fact that the continuation of the negotiations for the sake of negotiations has only been serving to the continuation of the unsustainable status quo, which hurts most the Turkish Cypriot people and leaves them in limbo.
In this respect, the Turkish Cypriot side also stands ready, as continuously expressed, for the realization of informal tripartite and five-party meetings to be called by the Secretary-General in the near future.”