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Expected Council Action

In October, the Council expects to receive a report on the Secretary-General’s good offices in Cyprus and the outcome of UN consultant Jane Holl Lute’s consultations on the negotiation process.  

Key Recent Developments

In July, the Council adopted resolution 2430, which extended the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another six months. Notwithstanding the lack of progress in unification talks for over a year, the Council did not initiate any changes in the mission’s mandate or size. The resolution welcomed the appointment of Lute as UN consultant and called on all sides to use this opportunity to engage in constructive consultations.

The Secretary-General appointed Lute earlier in July as a UN consultant charged with consulting the parties and seeking their reflections on the negotiation process. So far, Lute has held meetings with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders separately and with the representatives of the guarantor powers—Greece, Turkey and the UK. At press time there was no substantial information on the outcome of her talks with the parties. Neither Lute nor the Secretary-General addressed the media on the ongoing process of consultations. As requested by resolution 2430, the Secretary-General will submit a report to the Council on the outcome of Lute’s consultations by 15 October. This report will form the basis for the Council’s deliberation on the Cyprus issue in October.    

Speaking to the media on 16 September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey would increase rather than decrease the number of troops stationed in northern Cyprus. Addressing the issue of Cyprus’s unification, he said that the matter would have been solved if the Greek Cypriots had supported the plan of then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In separate referendums on the Annan plan in April 2004, Turkish Cypriots voted for it while Greek Cypriots rejected it.     

During the high-level week of the UN General Assembly, the Secretary-General met separately with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci. Secretary-General used this opportunity to discuss with both leaders the prospects for resumption of unification talks.

Key Issues and Options

At the moment, the Council’s main concern about Cyprus is the lack of progress in the unification talks and what role, if any, the Council should play to stimulate the process. In the absence of a political solution or tangible progress in talks, an issue for the Council is whether to consider significant changes to the mission’s mandate and examine downsizing options.   

Council members are interested in receiving more information on the prospects for a political settlement of the Cyprus issue. The outcome of Lute’s consultations will play an important role in guiding discussion during the next mandate renewal.  

So far, the Council has been wary of initiating discussions about the specifics of mandate changes or prospects for downsizing the mission, fearing a negative impact on the situation on the ground and on the political process. Council members could, however, be more open to these discussions during the next mandate renewal in January 2019, especially if the current stalemate in unification talks persists.     

Council Dynamics

As is the case with other issues of low intensity on the Council’s agenda, only a few members with particular interest in the conflict follow the situation in Cyprus closely. Among these are France, Russia, and the UK. The UK is also one of the guarantor powers under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee on the independence, territorial integrity and security of Cyprus. Over the past several years, the US has become more engaged in efforts to find a political solution as the island started to gain importance because of its offshore hydrocarbon resources and its strategic location in relation to the fight against terrorism in the Middle East. The current US administration has been particularly focused on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of peacekeeping operations while emphasising that such missions need to support political solutions.

The Council has been unified in its support for the political process, which could lead towards final settlement of the Cyprus question. There are some differences, however, over the acceptable timeline for the reunification talks. Some members seem to be frustrated by the duration of the political process and share the view that it cannot be open-ended, and that the Council could stimulate the negotiations by putting pressure on both sides. However, Russia has strongly opposed any attempt to exert pressure on both sides and seek to affect negotiations, as it maintains that the process must be Cypriot-led and Cypriot-owned for the outcome to be effective.

During the negotiations of the last mandate renewal resolution, the US seemed to have proposed adding to the draft specific references to timed benchmarks for an exit strategy tied to the political process as well as a request for a comprehensive strategic review of the mission that would have evaluated every aspect of UNFICYP. These suggestions, however, were not included in the final text of the resolution. In the absence of progress on the political front, it is likely that the US position will gain more support from other members who have so far been cautious on this issue. Russia is likely to continue to oppose any drastic changes to the mission’s mandate and troop numbers.

The UK is the penholder on Cyprus.

UN Documents on Cyprus

Security Council Resolutions
26 July 2018 S/RES/2430 This was a resolution, adopted unanimously, extending the mandate of UNFICYP for another six months until 31 January 2019.
Secretary-General's Reports
14 June 2018 S/2018/610 This was the Secretary-General’s report on the progress towards a settlement in Cyprus.
28 November 2017 S/2017/1008 This was the Secretary-General’s strategic review of the UN mission in Cyprus.
Security Council Meeting Records
26 July 2018 S/PV.8317 This was a meeting at which the Council adopted resolution 2430, extending the mandate of UNFICYP for six months until 31 January 2019.

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