UNSG: No common ground on Cyprus peace process

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Prospects for reaching common ground on the Cyprus peace process “remain uncertain” for the foreseeable future, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

According to an advance copy of the report on his Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus, he reiterated that demonstration of political will and flexibility “remains of paramount importance” for the future of the process.

He notes that a United Nations envoy to lead engagement with the parties could provide critical support, and the UN’s engagement with the sides and the guarantor powers continues in this regard.

In the report, focused on developments from 15 June to 12 December 2022, Guterres notes that the two sides’ positions “remain far apart” and maintain their opposing view about the way forward.

“In the absence of constructive or harmonised messages from the two leaders that could resonate with both communities, the climate between the two sides and vis-à-vis the United Nations has deteriorated”, Guterres said.

He notes, however, that, given the continuing absence of full-fledged negotiations, the leader’s presence at the 7 December reception in Nicosia “sent a positive signal to the broader public.”

“As we continue to support the sides in seeking common ground, the parties’ flexibility, political will, and forward-looking view in the best interests of Cypriots will be of paramount importance.”

There was a renewed commitment from the sides to move forward energetically with measures that would build trust to create conditions conducive to eventual settlement talks.

“Beginning in October, however, hardening demands related to the status of the north and political rhetoric in the south in the context of electoral campaigning increased perceived psychological barriers to cooperation”, the report said.

Guterres argued that the political landscape was further complicated by disputes and statements regarding areas in and adjacent to the buffer zone and Varosha, compounded by ongoing tensions in the eastern Mediterranean region.

“In the continued absence of substantive dialogue on the Cyprus issue between the two sides and given the prevailing socio-economic and political climate, prospects for reaching common ground on the Cyprus peace process remain uncertain”.

As the views on the role and mandate of an envoy continue to differ, no agreement has yet been found on appointing a United Nations envoy to help facilitate peace talks.

Guterres encouraged the two leaders “to engage in a constructive dialogue and urge them to agree and implement mutually acceptable confidence-building measures that can contribute to a more conducive environment for a settlement.”

He describes as “highly regrettable” the suspension by the Turkish Cypriots of their participation in the peace education project “Imagine” under the auspices of the Technical Committee on Education.

The fact that there has been only one meeting of the Technical Committee on Humanitarian Affairs since October 2021 and “no substantive meetings” of the Technical Committee on Education since 2 July 2021 “is disappointing”, Guterres notes.

The lack of progress on creating an agreed process to respond in a coordinated fashion to cross-island crisis situations such as wildfires “should be addressed urgently.”

“In view of the many pressing issues that would benefit from intra-island cooperation, the technical committees remain underutilised.”