NICOSIA – Canadian diplomat Elizabeth Spehar, the latest in a long line of United Nations Special Representatives unable to make any headway in dashed plans for Cyprus’ reunification, is being replaced by a fellow Canadian as her term ends.
Colin Stewart will take over her role that includes heading UNFICYP, the UN’s peacekeeping force that oversees the dividing line in the capital of Nicosia separating the legitimate Greek-Cypriot government, which belongs to the European Union, from the occupying Turkish northern third.
He is due to arrive in December, The Cyprus News Agency said, as a deadlock remains after hard line Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said he doesn’t want the island brought back together some 47 years after unlawful Turkish invasions.
Tatar instead is demanding the UN and world accept the occupied territory recognized only by Turkey, which keeps a 35,000-strong standing army there and wants the right of further military intervention.
That scuttled the last round of reunification negotiations in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when the conditions were rejected by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who said he’s willing to talk again but not any two-state idea.
Stewart will have separate meetings with Anastasiades and Tatar, sources not named told the news agency as well as with the heads of diplomatic missions on the island.
He’ll need all his skills because Cyprus has become known as the “graveyard of diplomats” who have all failed to make any real progress in getting the two sides together, the prospects worsening under Tatar and over Turkey’s drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters as the UN looks the other way.
According to the UN, the Canadian diplomat has more than 28 years of experience in peace and security issues as well as international affairs. He was a member of Canada’s diplomatic service from 1990 to 1997.
He recently served as Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara from 2017 to 2021.
He previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff of the United Nations Office at the African Union in Addis Ababa and as head of Political Affairs in the UN Mission in Timor-Leste between 2007 and 2009.