United Nations.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
In his UNFICYP report, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praises the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, for the genuine progress they have made in the negotiations, but at the same time he expresses concern for the lack of progress in the implementation of Confidence Building Measures agreed and announced by them.
The report – an advanced copy was distributed to the Security Council members last night – covers the period from December 19, 2015 until June 24, 2016 and the Secretary General asks the Council to extend UNFICYP’s mandate for an additional six month period, until January 31, 2017.
“The leaders have demonstrated courage and perseverance during this period, and have made genuine progress through their constant engagement. I urge them to redouble their efforts in the months to come if they are to meet their stated aim of reaching a comprehensive settlement within 2016”, Ban says.
Meanwhile, he expresses concern about the lack of progress in the implementation of some confidence building measures, previously agreed and announced by the leaders as a sign of their mutual commitment on 28 May 2015.
“Mobile phone interoperability, inter-connectivity of electricity grids and the opening of the two crossings at Lefka-Aplici/Lefke-Aplıç and Deryneia/Derynia – despite initial progress – have not materialised. I urge the leaders to implement all agreed measures in good faith and without delay. Such measures can be instrumental in building a conducive environment for the negotiations as they can have a positive and concrete impact on the everyday lives of Cypriots and indicate that an alternative future is possible and within reach,” he notes.
Despite the fact that the Troodos’ fires took place just a few days before the ending period of his report, the SG reports them, speaking about a missed opportunity for collaboration. Diplomatic sources point out that the UNSG failed to report in his previous report the May 2015 fires in Famagusta and the refusal by the Turkish Cypriot leader to accept assistance from the government of the Republic of Cyprus.
On 18 June, the report says, “fire broke out in the Troodos Mountains, resulting in the loss of two lives and devastating large tracts of land. Mr. Akıncı subsequently contacted Mr. Anastasiades directly to offer Turkish Cypriot assistance. Mr. Anastasiades thanked Mr. Akıncı for the offer, informing him that he did not foresee a need for further contributions to the effort. Likewise, a Turkish offer of assistance could not be realised.”
In the “observations” chapter of the report, Ban Ki-moon suggests “in light of the missed opportunity to collaboratively fight the fires in Troodos, the Technical Committee on Crisis Management could be used to establish and implement best practices in the event of future crises.”
The Secretary General repeats in his report last November’s incident in Nicosia, where Greek Cypriot youths assaulted two Turkish Cypriots. Noting the leaders’ joint affirmation in November 2015 against racism and hatred, he welcomes “the reports that legal proceedings are underway. A swift conclusion of the case will send the right signal that such acts will not be tolerated now or in a future united Cyprus.”
Given the acceleration of the talks, Secretary Ban calls on the two sides to engage and take concrete steps without further delay towards island-wide demining.
“Early clearance would also allow greater freedom of movement in the event of a settlement, and around and across the current buffer zone. Minefields on the island have little military value and serve only to pose a risk to life. The case for clearing all minefields on the island could not be more compelling. I urge everyone to work towards a mine-free Cyprus,” he notes.
He also calls upon both leaders to exert efforts to create a climate conducive to achieving greater economic and social parity between the two sides and to widen and deepen economic, social, cultural, sporting or similar ties and contacts, including with a view to encouraging trade.
Such contacts, he says, “promote trust between the communities and help to address the Turkish Cypriots’ concerns of isolation. I urge both leaders to persist in addressing these issues.”
Diplomatic sources have told CNA that the Secretary General is very “mild” in reporting the prohibition and restrictions announced by the self-styled Turkish Cypriot regime, in northern Turkish occupied Cyprus, to the religious services in the occupied areas.
“In May, the Turkish Cypriot authorities proposed policy changes that, if implemented, would lead to a reduction in approvals for religious services in the north of the island. In an effort to ensure continued access to religious sites, my Special Adviser and Special Representative intervened in support of access to all religious sites and a continued increase in the number of religious services being conducted by Greek Cypriots in the north. UNFICYP will continue to monitor this issue closely, and to advocate for freedom of worship for people of all faiths across the island”, the report said.
In his observations, while he commends the ongoing dialogue among the leaders of the religious communities, he urges both sides “to support that dialogue by ensuring that the trend continues towards full access for worship to the more than 500 churches and other places of worship in the north, and the some 100 mosques in the south.”
Diplomatic sources also characterize as “weak” his statements on the missing persons, in which he mentions the joint appeal by the two leaders during their visit to the laboratory and their call to every Cypriot who holds information about possible burial sites to submit it to the CMP.
“The United Nations remains committed to supporting the vital humanitarian work being done on behalf of the families of victims through the Committee on Missing Persons. In light of the advanced age of both relatives and witnesses, it is critical that the CMP be given the means and the information required to accelerate its work,” the report says.
The Secretary General repeats his call to the sides to accept the 1989 aide memoir for the delineation of the ceasefire lines. He also characterizes the use of close circuit cameras “a violation of the status quo if unaccompanied by a reduction in military personnel.”
On the restructuring and the change of the mandate of UNFICYP, in light of the positive developments on the ground and the request of the Security Council resolution 2263, the report points out that UNFICYP, in coordination with the Mission of Good Offices, continued transition planning in relation to a settlement.
“This process has highlighted a number of issues which will require timely consideration by the parties and the Security Council, in terms of the support that may be required in a post settlement phase. Indeed, among other issues, UNFICYP’s limited ability to deliver appropriate support to a settlement at current Force levels and configuration, and the lead time for force and police generation, need to be duly taken into account. Mindful of the foregoing, I urge both sides to engage more fully, and as future partners, with each other, as well as with UNFICYP and my Good Offices mission on issues related to the implementation of a settlement. Equally important will be the strong support of the international community. This planning will continue to be guided by developments in the negotiations and the views of the sides,” the report says.