UNITED NATIONS — The Security Council voted unanimously Jan. 26 to keep the U.N. peacekeeping force in Cyprus for another six months and urged Greek and Turkish Cypriots “to grasp the current opportunity” to reunite the divided Mediterranean island.
The resolution adopted by the U.N.’s most powerful body welcomed progress in negotiations led by leaders from the rival communities and encouraged the two sides to intensify efforts to resolve key outstanding issues.
Cyprus was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by Cypriot supporters of union with Greece.
Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes it and keeps 35,000 troops there.
While the island joined the European Union in 2004, only the internationally recognized Greek-speaking south enjoys full membership benefits.
Earlier this month, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anasastaides and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met in Geneva and were then joined for the first time by officials from the three “guarantor” countries — Britain, Greece and Turkey — to discuss security issues.
Turkey insisted on keeping Turkish troops in a reunited Cyprus, a demand rejected by Greece and Greek Cypriots.
The U.N. envoy trying to help promote reunification, Espen Barth Edie, said earlier this week that key security issues including the continued presence of Turkish troops are being looked at “through new eyes” — and the political will is there to find solutions.
Stressing that “the status quo is unsustainable,” the Security Council called for stepped-up discussion and consideration of “military confidence-building measures.”
Council members called on both leaders and their supporters to “improve the public atmosphere for the negotiations” and clearly explain the important benefits of a settlement for all Cypriots, including to the economy.
They also urged the two sides to demonstrate “increased flexibility and compromise” in order to reach an agreement.
(EDITH M. LEDERER)