The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus and Head of UNFICYP, Elizabeth Spehar, was not in a position to determine what would happen following the letters of the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and when Guterres’ Special Envoy Jane Holl Lute would visit the island.
Replying to a question, shortly after she informed the members of the Security Council, on Friday, in New York, Spehar said that it was early to say anything on that.
“I think it is still early days, but we do know that the two leaders have decided that they would like to meet and I’m hoping that will happen very soon, and I’m sure that Ms. Lute would also look at returning to the island in the very near future but there has nothing been said yet to my knowledge”, she said.
Spehar informed the members of the Security Council on recent developments and on the activities of the two peace missions on the ground that is UNFICYP as well as the Secretary-General’s Good Offices.
“I can confirm to you that the Council remains interested and engaged in the Cyprus issue”, she told the press after the meeting.
She said that she informed them about “the conclusion for the advancement of a number of the confidence-building measures that the leaders have been working on in the past number of months and even years, including the achievement of the full interconnectivity of the electricity grids, the recent achievement of the interoperability of mobile phones across the island”.
She also highlighted to the Security Council, that “not only do such developments, these confidence-building measures, have a practical and a positive impact on the daily lives of Cypriots but they are also emblematic of what is still possible when the leaders demonstrate prerequisite political will”.
She added that in spite of such developments the Council also shared her overall concern regarding the lack of settlement talks. “I did underscore to them that we are now past the two-year marks since the closing of the Conference on Cyprus and that is definitely a matter of concern and also, they shared my concern about tensions in the region including off the shores of Cyprus. And I want to remind everyone that the Secretary-General has called once again for serious efforts to avoid any further escalation and to defuse tensions”.
Spehar said that she also showed in very concrete ways, how the role of UNFICYP remains critical on the island in maintaining common stability particularly in and around the buffer zone.
“No one assumes that resuming negotiations will be an easy task. There is a great desire on the part of the Council to see the leaders and the parties, in general, get back to the negotiation table as soon as possible and I personally firmly believe that returning to the talks still offers the best chance for lasting peace in Cyprus”, the Special Representative noted.
She stressed that the Secretary-General for his part has made clear in the report that he has just released that he wants both sides to engage in the ongoing consultations constructively, creatively, and with the necessary urgency.
Replying to questions, she said that the efforts have not failed, the efforts continue and that the Secretary-General’s last report was quite clear that he wanted Ms. Lute to continue her consultations and both sides have continued to engage with her.
Spehar said that the members of the Security Council “did want to know when things will get moving and that I think by at large is in the hands of the parties”.
Speaking to the press ahead of Security Council consultations on UNFICYP, UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Jonathan Allen, said that “the United Kingdom continues to believe that it is vital that there is a settlement to the Cyprus problem with a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation”.
“We are pleased to see that the two leaders are apparently meeting later this month and we hope that will lead to a resumption of settlement talks and therefore to a settlement”, he added.