Despite repeated failures and four decades of fumbling for a solution, the United Nations Security Council approved another resolution urging reunification of Cyprus after talks fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkey said it would never remove an army in the occupied territory.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tried to broker a deal at the negotiations but couldn’t and wrote a report blaming neither side for anything and said only that an opportunity was missed yet again.
The Security Council, using delicate diplomatic language designed not to offend either side, said that Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots should know it’s time “to seize the important opportunity” to engage with a temporary UN envoy trying to sound them out to see if they’re even willing to talk.
Guterres has dispatched American Jane Holl Lute, a former U.S. Homeland Security deputy secretary, to try to persuade Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to sit down again although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan essentially has the last word for the occupied northern third of the divided island.
UN. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that Lute has held one round of talks in Cyprus and would consult with Guterres.
The Council focused on efforts to revive negotiations in the resolution which extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus until Jan. 31, 2019 although there’s reluctance on the Turkish side.
Cyprus was divided into a Turkish-speaking north and a Greek-speaking south in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by Cypriots who supported uniting the island with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes it and still maintains around 35,000 troops there.
The UN peacekeeping force was established in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. After an unlawful Turkish invasion in 1974, with the implicit backing of the United States, the Security Council mandated the force to perform other duties including supervising cease-fire lines and maintaining a buffer zone.
Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, the former Colonial ruler which still has a military base on the island are the guarantors of security. Turkish-Cypriots don’t want their army to leave and Akinci and Erdogan said Turkey should have the right to militarily intervene in a European Union country – which Turkey wants to join.
The Security Council resolution noted the lack of progress toward a settlement and “urges the sides and all involved participants” to engage “constructively” with Lute and renew “their political will and commitment to a settlement under United Nations auspices,” repeating the same platitudes it has used for decades.
It also called on the two leaders to intensify efforts to agree on key outstanding issues, improve contacts between the rival communities and “the daily lives of the Cypriots” and increase civil participation to mobilize support for a settlement.
Council members urged the implementation and further development of confidence-building measures, including for the military although Erdogan keeps warships off the coast in a bid to keep foreign energy companies for drilling from oil and gas in waters where they are licensed.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)