UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed the conviction that Cyprus has remained calm and stable throughout the years in large measure because of the unwavering presence of the UN peace keeping force (UNFICYP), its preventive and deterrent capabilities and its role in defusing tensions
In his report on UNFICYP, an unofficial copy of which was handed over by the UN Secretariat to the UN Security Council members on Friday, Guterres proposes to the UNSC the renewal of UNFICYP`s mandate for six more months, until January 31, 2019.
Among others, Gutteres says in his report that “in order to help create conditions conducive for peace, I appeal to the leaders to provide visible and direct support to civil society organisations in their efforts to increase inter-communal engagement and participation and to bolster trust and reconciliation between the communities”.
Furthermore, he stresses that “I also encourage the leaders to implement the remaining confidence building measures they agreed to in 2015, in particular the interoperability of mobile phones, and to consider other confidence building measures. In addition, I urge the sides to agree on a plan of work to demine and achieve a mine-free Cyprus”.
“UNFICYP has served the interests of peace in Cyprus for over fifty years, preventing a recurrence of fighting, contributing to the maintenance of law and order and a return to normal conditions. I am convinced that Cyprus has remained calm and stable throughout the years in large measure because of the unwavering presence of UNFICYP, its preventive and deterrent capabilities and its role in defusing tensions,” Guterres notes in the report.
He adds that “during this long period, UNFICYP has preserved the trust of the opposing forces, ensuring that incidents do not escalate, cause tensions or disrupt ongoing negotiations. In this respect, it has acted as the sole channel of communication between the opposing forces, avoiding misunderstandings or miscalculations, and ensuring a continued climate of calm and security.”
Guterres also says that his report on the good offices mission in Cyprus issued on 14 June, as requested in Security Council resolution 2398 (2018), sets out in detail the most significant political developments during the period under review and that while acknowledging the continued hiatus in the talks since July 2017, the report encourages greater efforts towards creating more propitious conditions for a possible resumption, and outlines the United Nations’ next steps. He noted that the role of UNFICYP in contributing to conditions conducive to negotiations will be covered in the present report.
According to the report, as at June 20 2018, the strength of the military component stood at 802 (749 men and 53 women) for all ranks, while the strength of the police component stood at 65 (43 men and 22 women – see annex).
Guterres says that the impact of the 94 per cent completion rate for the implementation of the November 2017 strategic review recommendations, particularly the increased focus by the mission on liaison and engagement, is starting to manifest itself in the sectors, with strengthened component coordination and more effective outreach. “Through its deterrence and prevention roles, enhanced as a result of the strategic review, UNFICYP was able to resolve low-level incidents by patrolling the length of the buffer zone and liaising and engaging more systematically with its military, police and civilian interlocutors,” he notes.
“I look forward to seeing the further dividends of the Mission’s enhanced liaison and engagement capacity resulting from the recent strategic review recommendations, which recognised the on-going critical role of UNFICYP in preventing serious incidents and keeping tensions low. At the same time, the Secretariat remains ready, as with all missions, to keep UNFICYP continuously under review,” he added.
He stresses that support and respect for the authority of UNFICYP in the buffer zone is required from both sides if the Mission is to resolve security concerns, including those linked to civilian activity, and ensure the maintenance of peace.
Guterres also says that as he noted in his report on the good offices mission in Cyprus (S/2018/610), “it is encouraging that, despite the current hiatus in the talks, some segments of society on both sides, including trade unions, some political parties, women’s groups and other organised civic groups, continue to promote a solution based on the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality.”
He notes that “divergent school curricula and rhetoric in the media have reinforced parallel narratives across generations, making it particularly difficult for some Cypriots to envisage a common and mutually beneficial future. It is time for the leaders and both communities to address this most critical of issues, and while the Imagine programme is to be applauded, efforts must go beyond this initiative if the dividends of peace education and pedagogy across all levels of education are to take hold”.
The Secretary General also says that “the opening of the crossings since 2003 has allowed Cypriots freedom of movement across the island, contributing to a return to normal conditions and facilitating contact and interaction for those who wished to avail themselves of the opportunity. In this regard, I call on the leaders to support the opening of the crossings at Lefka-Aplici/Lefke-Aplıç and at Deryneia/Derinya as soon as possible and for the Technical Committee on Crossings to focus on additional, impactful crossings thereafter”.
He says that he continues to urge greater efforts to create a climate conducive to achieving more economic and social parity between the two sides and to broaden and deepen economic, social, cultural, sporting and similar ties and contacts, including with a view to encouraging trade. “Such contacts promote trust between the communities and help to address the concerns of Turkish Cypriots with regard to isolation. With regard to intra-island trade, I would underscore the importance of and the opportunities presented by full implementation of the European Council regulation no. 866/2004, the “Green Line regulation”, for the benefit of both communities,” he notes.
Additionally, Guterres notes that “normal conditions in and along the buffer zone will always remain limited as long as this stretch of territory remains locked between two belligerent forces”, and that the resolution of this situation clearly lies with a political solution to the Cyprus problem, which I appeal to the sides to address with the requisite political will.
“As noted in my report on the strategic review of UNFICYP (S/2017/1008), and notwithstanding the Mission’s on-going liaison role, it is my hope that the two sides will work with UNFICYP on coming together to address some of their differences directly to alleviate tensions and resolve day-to-day issues that affect all Cypriots,” he adds.
Regarding “the sensitive and tragic issue of the missing” Guterres says the United Nations “remains committed to supporting the important humanitarian work carried out on behalf of the families of victims by the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus. In light of the advanced age of both relatives and witnesses, it is critical that the Committee continue to receive sufficient financial support and the information, including from relevant archives, required to accelerate its work. In particular, I encourage the parties to intensify their efforts to share relevant archival information with the CMP,” he adds.
He notes that “thus far, 11 of the 12 countries contacted have answered the Committee’s request for cooperation. While extensive efforts have been undertaken by the United Nations to provide the Committee with access to all relevant archival holdings both in Nicosia and in New York, none of the parties have thus far shared archival information on possible burial sites with the Committee.”
The UNSG says that “further to recommendations of the strategic review and the military capability study of UNFICYP, the Mission enhanced its patrolling, which inter alia led to the detection of unauthorized heavy weapons at Greek Cypriot National Guard observation posts in Nicosia and on the southern ceasefire line to the west of the island. These included mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and M-60 machine guns.”
Moreover he notes that “military positions established by both forces inside the buffer zone that violate the status quo, including at Strovilia, remain in place and are classified as permanent violations. The United Nations continues to hold the Government of Turkey responsible for the status quo in Varosha”.