UN: Mistrust deepens in Cyprus talks void

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says there is deepening mistrust among Greek and Turkish Cypriots while encouraging leaders to maintain dialogue and engage.

His report recommended the Security Council extend the mandate of UNFICYP, the peacekeeping force in Cyprus, for another six months until 31 July 2022.

Guterres said the last six months; he has seen a further deepening of mistrust between the sides and among the two communities.

He encouraged the leaders and their representatives to maintain dialogue and engage with each other, something that hasn’t happened since 2017.

According to Guterres, it is also critical that the leaders and their representatives provide the technical committees with the political support they require to sustain a constructive dialogue and deliver tangible results.

“In the light of the continued contribution of UNFICYP to peace and stability and 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 July 2022,” Guterres notes in his report.

He said public confidence in the possibility of securing a settlement “continued to fall, and debate was focused on the divergent positions of the sides overall.”

“An unsettled, internal political landscape created additional challenges, with Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots seeming increasingly sceptical as to the prospects of common ground being found and a future resumption of peace talks occurring.”

Guterres stressed that “education is key to sustainable peace on the island.”

“Despite the request by the Security Council in its resolution 2587 (2021) for the two leaders to address impediments to peace by conduction of a joint review of school materials, including textbooks, no steps were taken in this direction by either side.

“The absence of progress toward the resumption of formal negotiations continued to create space for new facts on the ground and spawned unilateral actions deemed provocative by the other side.

“I note with concern that this trend may result in systematic brinkmanship that could contribute to the already difficult climate between the parties.

“Another example of the contravention of the Aide Memoire was the recent enhancement of surveillance technology on both sides of the buffer zone, which was done without consultation with UNFICYP.”

“I would encourage a dialogue between the parties and my Special Representative to explore the idea of unmanning the ceasefire lines, in return for the potential validation by the UN of surveillance technology that is neither deployed inside the buffer zone nor able to see beyond it.”

The UNSG was also concerned that the lifting of restrictions at the crossing points “did not translate into a significant increase in meaningful interaction between the two communities, who remained largely estranged from each other”.

“With the passage of time and the risk that the communities drift ever-further apart, supporting people-to-people trust-building and fostering cooperation more broadly on issues that affect the daily life of Cypriots is fundamental.”

He urges the leaders to “encourage more direct contact and cooperation between the two communities and to provide concrete support to people-to-people initiatives, as called for by the Security Council and as evidence of their genuine commitment to a solution.”

“Most of those pillars of reconciliation, unfortunately, remain to be built.”