United Nations.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis/CNA
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recommended the renewal of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) mandate for six more months, in his report on UNFICYP, while he also expresses concern over the Turkish actions in the Turkish occupied area of Varosha.
An advanced copy of the UNSG`s UNFICYP report was handed out to the members of the UNSC, while his report on his Good Offices Mission on the Cyprus issue is expected to be handed over later on.
In his UNFICYP report, the UNSG says that in the light of the continued contribution of UNFICYP to peace and stability and to the creation of conditions conducive to a political settlement, I recommend that the Security Council extend the mandate of the mission for six months, until 31 January 2022. Looking ahead, UNFICYP will continue to monitor the evolving situation and adapt its operations to implement its mandate effectively.
He stresses that “I have repeatedly stressed the importance of no unilateral actions being taken by the parties that could raise tensions on the island and compromise a return to talks, while also calling upon all parties to engage in dialogue in order to resolve their differences. Developments in Varosha are perhaps the most illustrative of such challenges in the absence of a political settlement. I reiterate my concern over developments in the fenced-off area of the town and recall that the position of the United Nations remains unchanged”.
In addition, the UNSG further recalls the Council’s Presidential Statement of 9 October 2020 and the relevant Security Council resolutions related to Varosha, notably Resolutions 550 and 789, and the importance of adhering fully to those resolutions.
“I also deplore the restrictions on the freedom of movement of UNFICYP imposed in the area and elsewhere, as in Strovilia, and request that the ability of the mission to patrol and implement its mandated activities be fully restored. I recall that the mandate provided by the Security Council to UNFICYP is not limited to the buffer zone but extends to the entire island”.
In addition to the above, the UNSG says “I support the call of my Special Representative for a return to the status quo ante concerning all military installations along the ceasefire lines that constitute a violation of the military status quo. I highlight in particular the unprecedented deployment of new surveillance technology along the ceasefire lines, which is contributing to changing the military status quo and poses a supervision challenge for UNFICYP”.
Therefore, he adds, “I reiterate the call of the Security Council to the sides to abide by the 2018 aide-memoire that underpins UNFICYP’s supervision of the ceasefire and its efforts to contribute to the maintenance of law and order and a return to normal conditions”.
He notes that “regardless of the status of the peace process, confidence-building measures can provide hope and help to narrow the growing divide between the two communities. I encourage the two sides to put forward in good faith proposals and ideas for possible new measures, or to review past proposals, so that discussions and progress may be further pursued. In that vein, I encourage the continuation of the weekly trilateral dialogue initiated with the sides by my Special Representative/Deputy Special Adviser since March, as one of the platforms to achieve progress on confidence- building measures and to resolve outstanding problems on the ground that tend to raise tensions between the sides”.
Guterres adds that “given the complex regional environment and its impact on Cyprus, I also call upon relevant actors in the region to exercise restraint, explore confidence-building measures and take constructive approaches to resolving their disputes. It is important that the parties demonstrate their goodwill and make greater efforts to create conditions conducive to a political settlement”.
Furthermore, he says that in their efforts to promote closer cooperation between the communities, local and international actors continue to be confronted with challenges and obstacles linked to the status of the north and concerns relating to “recognition”.
“While the United Nations policy on Cyprus is maintained and decisions of the Security Council on the matter are upheld, concerns about recognition should not in themselves constitute an obstacle to increased cooperation. As the two sides explore further opportunities for confidence-building and cooperation, I urge them to devise creative ways of overcoming obstacles with a view to achieving meaningful progress and delivering tangible benefits to their communities. The United Nations remains fully committed to providing them with the necessary facilitation and support,” he continues.
Regarding the request of the Security Council to see the establishment of a mechanism for direct military contacts, “I regret that no agreement could be found following the tabling by my Special Representative of a proposal on 1 May 2020 and her recurrent engagement”.
“I remain convinced that such a mechanism would allow the parties to effectively alleviate day-to-day tensions in and around the buffer zone and would constitute an important military confidence-building measure. In the absence of genuine will to arrive at a mutually acceptable but effective military contact mechanism, UNFICYP will continue to pursue other military confidence-building measures with the sides. One such measure could involve the mutually agreed use of technology to further unman positions along the ceasefire lines,” he notes.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Varosha, the fenced off section of the Turkish occupied town of Famagusta, is often described as a ‘ghost town’.
UN Security Council resolution 550 (1984) considers any attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the UN. UN Security Council resolution 789 (1992) also urges that with a view to the implementation of resolution 550 (1984), the area at present under the control of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus be extended to include Varosha. On October 8, 2020, the Turkish side opened part of the fenced area of Varosha, following an announcement made in Ankara on October 6. Both the UN Secretary-General and the EU expressed concern, while the UN Security Council called for the reversal of this course of action.