Elizabeth Spehar, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Cyprus expressed on Monday content about the continued strong and unanimous support on the part of the Security Council for the Cyprus peace process, the work of the Good Offices and UNFICYP.
She was talking to journalists after a closed Security Council briefing on Cyprus, at UN headquarters, in New York, which lasted for more than one and a half hours. As Spehar said, she reminded Council members during the briefing that the peace process remains in hiatus, with no talks being conducted for two and a half years since the closing of the Conference on Cyprus, in July 2017, in Crans Montana.
“Spehar reminded Council members during the briefing that the peace process remains in hiatus.”
She recalled, however, the “encouraging meeting” that took place recently in Berlin, in November 2019, between the UN Secretary-General, President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci. “It was the first time that the two leaders met with the Secretary-General together, since the closing of the Conference on Cyprus in July 2017 and in that respect, it was indeed significant” she added.
The UN official also said that during the Berlin meeting, the leaders reconfirmed in the presence of Secretary-General Guterres, their commitment to a comprehensive settlement within a foreseeable horizon, based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with political equality as set out in the relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 716 (1991).
“The role of the guarantor countries is of course also key to arriving at a solution.”
She said, moreover, that she highlighted to the Security Council that according to recent polls in Cyprus, a strong desire for a comprehensive settlement remains in both communities, but at the same time, there is growing scepticism as to whether this is still possible. “The leaders’ role remains critical and the role of the guarantor countries is of course also key to arriving at a solution. And this is something I again underscored to the Security Council” she said.
According to Spehar, the Secretary-General has urged the leaders, the guarantor powers and other interested parties to make productive use of the coming period in order to concretely and convincingly demonstrate that upon returning to the negotiating table, this time it would indeed be different.
“I emphasized to the Council at the same time, that the backdrop to the recent developments in Berlin, is a regional situation where tensions have continued to grow over the last weeks and months. As the Secretary-General outlined in his report, he continues to monitor these developments, including those related to hydrocarbons, closely and with concern” the Special Representative said.
She also noted that the Secretary-General reiterated his call for serious efforts to avoid any further escalation and to defuse tensions. In this overall context, UNFICYP has continued to maintain calm and stability in the buffer zone, and it has also supported greater cooperation between the two communities, Spehar said.
“UNFICYP has continued to maintain calm and stability in the buffer zone, and it has also supported greater cooperation between the two communities.”
The UN official noted that these are critical requirements in order to ensure that sustainable peace is achieved on the island. She also said that she underscored to the Security Council the importance of the sides respecting UNFICYP’s mandate and authority, in and around the buffer zone, to ensure that the Mission can successfully fulfill its mandate.
Asked about the impartiality and objectivity of UNFICYP towards Turkish Cypriots, with Cyprus and Greece paying the bill, Spehar confirmed that a significant portion of the funding comes from Greece and the Republic of Cyprus “but I can assure you that this does not affect the objectivity and impartiality of the Mission.”
Replying to another question, Spehar pointed to the announcement issued after the Berlin meeting, showing UN commitment to support the holding of a 5+UN meeting at an appropriate stage. “So at this moment there is no specific time table for that, but what I can tell you is that all parties are quite interested in this meeting taking place as soon as it is appropriate and we would wait to see when that might actually happen in the coming period” she added.
“The National Security Council and some individuals in Congress continue to be very supportive of the Cyprus peace process.”
Spehar also said that she spent two days in Washington before coming to New York, and was able to speak with senior representatives from the US State Department, as well as the National Security Council and some individuals in Congress, noting that “they continue to be very supportive of the Cyprus peace process and on both Missions, Good Offices and UNFICYP on the ground.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.