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    UNSG’s report on good offices mission in Cyprus circulates as official document

    United Nations operation in Cyprus
    Report of the Secretary-General
    I. Introduction
    1. The present report on the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus
    (UNFICYP) covers developments from 19 December 2020 to 18 June 2021. It brings
    up to date the record of activities carried out by UNFICYP pursuant to Security
    Council resolution 186 (1964) and subsequent Council resolutions, most recently
    resolution 2561 (2021), since the issuance of my report on UNFICYP dated 8 January
    2021 (S/2021/4) and on my mission of good offices dated 8 January 2021 (S/2021/5).
    2. As at 18 June 2021, the strength of the military component stood at 796 (714
    men and 82 women, or 10.3 per cent women for all ranks, compared with the global
    peace operations target of 7.5 per cent women), while that of the police component
    stood at 65 (37 men and 28 women, or 43 per cent women, compared with the overall
    global target of 23 per cent women) (see annex).

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    II. Significant developments

    1. The informal five-plus-one meeting1 was held in Geneva from 27 to 29 April
    2. I hosted the informal meeting that was attended by the Greek Cypriot leader,
      the Turkish Cypriot leader and the Foreign Ministers of Greece, Turkey and the
      United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Following a succession of
      bilateral and plenary discussions, I announced at the end of the informal meeting that
      we had not yet found “enough common grounds to allow for the resumption of formal
      negotiations in relation to the settlement of the Cyprus problem”. I indicated that we
      were able to agree that another informal five-plus-one meeting would be convened
      “in the near future”, again with the objective of moving in the direction of reaching
      common ground to allow for formal negotiations to start. The report on my good
      offices mission in Cyprus (S/2021/634) provides more detail on the informal meeting
      held in Geneva.

    3. In the lead-up to the informal five-plus-one meeting in April, the United Nations
      witnessed a surge of popular mobilization within both communities that appeared to
      indicate a willingness among a growing number of Cypriots to publi cly engage on a

    1 An informal meeting of the Greek Cypriot leader, the Turkish Cypriot leader, the guarantor
    Powers and the United Nations.S/2021/635
    2/16 21-08696
    number of issues of importance to the future of the island, including in relation to the
    Cyprus problem. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic-related restrictions
    notwithstanding, a significant number of Cypriots took their concerns and demands
    to the streets.

    1. With respect to the Cyprus issue, I received copies of several petitions and
      numerous letters addressed to the leaders and/or the guarantors and to me personally,
      from civil society organizations, including new large platforms such as “Cyprus Civic
      Assembly” and various ad hoc citizens’ groupings and movements, which deplored a
      perceived consolidation of the de facto Cypriot schism and expressed their deep
      concern that the window for a solution to the Cyprus problem was closing. However,
      notwithstanding those activities in favour of a solution, a majority of the Cypriots
      continued to not publicly engage on the matter.

    2. The informal five-plus-one meeting was held in the context of rising COVID-19
      cases in many parts of the world, including on both sides of the island. The reporting
      period saw varying degrees of restrictions on movement on both sides, according to
      the evolution of the epidemiological situation on the ground. Those restrictive
      measures, including lockdowns, deeply affected the socioeconomic situation of many
      Cypriots and triggered some of the demonstrations mentioned above.

    3. Estrangement deepened between the two communities, exacerbated by the
      restrictions at the crossing points and by an atmosphere of distrust fed by the continual
      and duelling rhetoric between the two sides (see sect. D below). In this context, my
      Special Representative/Deputy Special Adviser, Elizabeth Spehar, convened a series
      of meetings with representatives of both leaders to discuss ways to empower the
      technical committees, to foster confidence-building measures, especially linked to the
      COVID-19 pandemic such as the status of the crossings and the sharing of vaccines,
      and to address issues causing tension in and adjacent to the buffer zone. This regular
      engagement proved critical to fostering an agreement on 2 June on the reopening of
      the three remaining crossing points and on the harmonization of the pandemic-related
      procedures for all crossings, and produced other positive results (see para 12 below).2

    4. Tensions cited in the previous reporting period linked to hydrocarbons
      exploration and maritime zone claims, including the delimitation of maritime
      boundaries, and military and naval activity eased somewhat during the period.
      Ongoing Greece/Turkey and European Union/Turkey dialogue, as well as
      preparations for the informal five-plus-one meeting on Cyprus, may have contributed
      to the calmer atmosphere.
      III. Activities of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force
      in Cyprus

    5. Notwithstanding renewed engagement between the parties through the informal
      five-plus-one meeting in Geneva and discussions on enhancing practical, ad hoc
      cooperation on the island, the political tensions that had been steadily growing since
      the closing of the Crans-Montana conference on Cyprus in 2017 continued unabated
      in large part during the period under review. Developments in the buffer zone and in
      areas such as Varosha, as well as issues related to the impact of the COVID-19
      pandemic, contributed significantly to fuelling those tensions.

    2 For more information on these meetings, the technical committees and confidence -building
    measures, details are provided in the recent report on my mission of good offices in Cyprus
    21-08696 3/16

    1. At the same time, most of the usual areas of friction in the buffer zone, while
      not resolved, were, in general, contained. The preventive efforts of the mission
      through liaison and engagement contributed to defusing various tensions that arose in
      and around the buffer zone between civilians, between opposing forces and civilians
      or directly between the opposing forces.

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    1. In addition to having a considerable impact on the interaction between the
      communities, the COVID-19 pandemic also affected the mission’s operations, owing
      mostly to movement restrictions at the crossing points. The challenges
      notwithstanding, UNFICYP continued to fulfil its mandate through monitoring,
      reporting, liaison and engagement with relevant interlocutors, support for online
      gatherings involving civil society actors, and bolstering the role of the technical
      committees that it facilitates. UNFICYP continued to record COVID-19 cases among
      its personnel, with 38 cases (34 military, 2 police and 2 civilian personnel) identified
      and managed during the reporting period, notwithstanding the introduction of
      additional internal measures with respect to the length of quarantine, testing
      requirements and guidelines limiting physical interaction. At the time of the present
      report, 80 per cent of the military personnel, 73 per cent of the individual police
      officers and 70 per cent of the international civilian personnel had received at least
      one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot personnel also
      received vaccines directly from local authorities.
      A. Prevention of tensions in and around the buffer zone

    2. Although military-to-military tensions remained low, political tensions at
      various levels flared repeatedly during the reporting period. The inability of the
      parties to agree on harmonizing procedures at the crossing points during most of the
      reporting period, including testing requirements for crossing, led to frequent disputes
      that required the intervention of UNFICYP. The area of Limnitis/Yeşilırmak was
      particularly prone to such disputes, with, on the one hand, Greek Cypriot residents of
      Kato Pyrgos seeing their access to the north being limited or blocked owing to
      COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions introduced on the northern side of the
      crossing points, and, on the other hand, the Turkish forces seeing their biweekly
      resupply convoys to Kokkina, enshrined in the 2011 Limnitis/Yeşilırmak agreement,
      being blocked. As part of a weekly facilitation meeting of my Special
      Representative/Deputy Special Adviser between the Greek Cypriot negotiator and the
      Turkish Cypriot special representative, the latter issues were eventually resolved early
      in May. Through this trilateral dialogue, the long-standing issue of the replacement
      of the electric poles in Kokkina, which had remained pending for several years, was
      resolved towards the end of May.

    3. Aside from a temporary reprieve in the days and weeks preceding the informal
      five-plus-one meeting, encroachment into the buffer zone and the undermining of the
      area’s integrity by both sides, in particular through civilian constructions, increased
      during the reporting period and resulted in growing friction between the sides. There
      was, overall, a deterioration in respect for the mandated authority of UNFICYP during
      the reporting period. The mission’s calls for a return to the status quo ante
      notwithstanding, Greek Cypriot workers began to deploy on 1 March what would
      become, by 29 April, a 12,009 m concertina wire fence, built roughly in parallel to
      the southern ceasefire line and located for the most part (85 per cent) inside the buffer
      zone. The fence, deployed by the authorities to ostensibly prevent irregular migration,
      triggered political criticism on both sides, caused tensions within the Greek Cypriot
      farming community and generated protests in the south because it restricted access to
      farmers in at least eight places. Furthermore, the fencing in the buffer zone, which
      was unauthorized by UNFICYP, blocked the mission’s patrol tracks in 12 areas. S/2021/635
      4/16 21-08696

    4. On 8 May in Pyla, Turkish Cypriot workers from the village of Pergamos
      deployed a waterpipe from the village to an area north of the town where
      approximately 10 Turkish Cypriot families are living, and subsequently between that
      area and the Turkish forces position, TK15. This position is considered by UNFICYP
      to be a permanent violation because it is inside the buffer zone. The mission had
      determined that the project was unauthorized and requested a return to the status quo
      ante. The incident triggered protestations to the United Nations from both sides.

    5. In Varosha, high-level civilian and military visits to the area continued, although
      public visits in the accessible zones had decreased significantly in the early months
      of the period owing to COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions on movement. In the
      area of the fenced-off town observable by UNFICYP, activities and changes within
      the fenced area of the town continued. Those changes consisted primarily of smallscale infrastructure development (e.g., electrical work, road paving, installation of
      closed-circuit television cameras, streetlights, water containers and renovation of a
      mosque), the installation of a bicycle-renting stand, presumably for tourists,
      significant clearance of vegetation and unmanned aerial commercial off-the-shelf
      vehicle overflights, linked most likely to the monitoring of civilian visits. In relation
      to Varosha, UNFICYP continues to be guided by the relevant Security Council
      resolutions. Accordingly, the mission and the Secretariat repeatedly expressed
      concern over the developments in the fenced-off part of the town. The United Nations
      continues to hold the Government of Turkey responsible for the situation in Varosha.
      B. Prevention of a recurrence of fighting and maintenance of the
      military status quo

    6. Tensions at the level of the opposing forces remained low during the reporting
      period. While quantitatively, overall, there was a slight decrease in the number of
      military violations, the mission nevertheless observed actions that could be construed
      as a further hardening of the ceasefire lines. Along the northern ceasefire line, t he
      mission protested against violations consisting primarily of the enhancement of
      existing positions, the installation of new closed-circuit television cameras on
      watchtowers and the deployment of one additional prefabricated concrete firing
      position, bringing the total to three along the northern ceasefire line. Ten new
      watchtowers were also placed by the Turkish forces in the sector 1 area, and the
      mission observed that electro-optical surveillance equipment had been deployed
      along sections of the northern ceasefire line. On the southern ceasefire line, there was
      1 new prefabricated concrete firing position installation during the period, and the
      232 deployed previously remained in place.

    7. An emerging trend that further challenges the military status quo is the increased
      surveillance capability along both ceasefire lines, in the form of closed -circuit
      television cameras, the presence of commercial off-the-shelf drones and, in the case
      of the northern ceasefire line, the deployment of electro-optical surveillance
      equipment, as mentioned above. The latter provides greater visibility to one side over
      the buffer zone. Such enhancements further highlight the technological divide
      between the mission and the sides. Of note, this period saw a reduction in milit ary
      moves forward in the buffer zone, along both ceasefire lines.

    8. In sector 4, the mission’s freedom of movement both in Varosha and Strovilia
      remains substantially hampered, the mission’s repeated engagement with the relevant
      interlocutors notwithstanding. In Strovilia, the Turkish Cypriot security forces
      position remained overmanned. In mid-March, several new temporary defensive
      armoured vehicles and ditches were detected within the Turkish Cypriot security
      forces military exercise area south of Varosha.S/2021/635
      21-08696 5/16

    9. During the reporting period, active engagement with the National Guard
      leadership was sustained, notwithstanding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic-related
      restrictions. There was also notable progress in ensuring more regular dialogue with
      the Turkish Cypriot security forces, both at the leadership and sector levels. Turkish
      Forces preannouncement procedures and the relationship with the mission also
      improved across the three sectors.

    10. At the same time, no progress was achieved on the establishment of a direct
      military contact mechanism. Positions on the composition of the mechanism remained
      far apart and hardly bridgeable, as confirmed by both sides when consulted by my
      Special Representative and by the Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central
      Asia and Americas, Miroslav Jenča, during his visit in March. In the south, the
      position remains that such interaction should involve the Turkish army alone, while,
      in the north, the response remains that only Turkish Cypriot security forces should be
      present from their side. UNFICYP had put forward the proposal that the commanders
      of those opposing forces that maintain military positions along the ceasefire lines
      should enter into dialogue, with the facilitation of the mission’s Force Commander.

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    1. The mission engaged with military representatives on both sides to assess the
      latter’s willingness to implement the request of the Security Council, in its resolution
      2561 (2021), to agree on “a plan of work to achieve a mine-free Cyprus”. While the
      Turkish Cypriot security forces expressed potential interest in the discussion,
      provided that it would involve reciprocity from the other side, the National Guard did
      not wish to discuss the matter. Therefore, no progress was made during the reporting
      period regarding the clearing of the 29 remaining suspected hazardous areas on the
      island. The Mine Action Service continued to research options for the next phase of
      clearance activities to be presented to the two sides, with a special focus on the buffer
      zone and its four remaining mined areas.
      C. Management of civilian activity and maintenance of law and order

    2. As mentioned above, encroachment into the buffer zone and the undermining of
      the area’s integrity by both sides increased as respect for the principles and rules that
      UNFICYP had established and seeks to enforce dwindled. In addition to generating
      operational challenges for the mission, this fuelled mistrust between the sides ahead
      of and after the informal five-plus-one meeting.

    3. During the period, steps also continued to be taken by Greek Cypriots to pursue
      residential, industrial and commercial development in several areas of the buffer
      zone, without the mission’s authorization. On the Turkish Cypriot side, direct
      challenges to the mission’s mandated authority in the buffer zone also increased, in
      particular in contested areas such as the Pyla plateau (see sect. A above).

    4. Similarly, the reporting period saw an overall rise in unauthorized entry into the
      buffer zone. Although tensions on the ground linked to civilian activity, either
      between civilians or involving the opposing forces, remained low and within the norm
      of previous reporting periods, there was a significant escalation of buffer zone issues
      to the political level, in particular regarding construction.

    5. Although the period saw an increase in the reporting of low-level criminal
      incidents in the buffer zone, this trend can be attributable in part to more proactive,
      targeted patrolling by UNFICYP. Several incidents of aggression and vandalism
      targeting the mission’s personnel and property occurred in sector 4, illustrating the
      current negative climate at the level of the local community and to which the disregard
      for the mission’s mandated authority by both sides has likely contributed. On a
      positive note, the “Joint Contact Room” (also known as the “Joint Communication
      Room”), linked to the Technical Committee on Crime and Criminal Matters, S/2021/635
      6/16 21-08696
      continued to share information and to facilitate the exchange of suspects (two)
      between the sides. As of May, the two sides had also begun to exchange information
      for the prevention of human smuggling though the buffer zone. The economic impact
      of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the ongoing division of the island and the
      porous nature of the buffer zone, have created conditions that are, in general,
      conducive to criminal activity in and around the buffer zone, in particular smuggling.

    6. In Pyla, police services on both sides continued to collaborate effectively with
      UNFICYP to respond to law and order incidents and provide policing services in the
      village. However, illegal establishments (e.g., gambling) continued to exploit the law
      and order challenges associated with the bicommunal village to operate with
      impunity. With respect to intercommunal activities, while they continued to be
      hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, local institutions and residents, in particular
      schools and teachers, showed encouraging signs of a willingness to cooperate in the
      village. Meanwhile, the university in Pyla continued to operate without authorization
      from UNFICYP, and no progress was registered to resolve the matter of the large
      unauthorized construction project associated with the university, the continued
      engagement efforts of the mission notwithstanding.
      D. Intercommunal relations, cooperation and trust-building

    7. The various declarations made by political actors on both sides in anticipation
      of the informal five-plus-one meeting tended to increase polarization between and
      within the two communities, a situation that continued in large part after the meeting.

    8. Notwithstanding the persisting, vast divergences between the parties regarding
      their approach to returning to the negotiating table, some encouraging progress was
      registered in the context of confidence-building and problem-solving, with United
      Nations facilitation.

    9. During the reporting period, occurrences of politically or ethnically motivated
      attacks (e.g., desecration of the Episkopi mosque on Greek Independence Day and the
      theft and destruction of a Greek flag in Pyla), although serious and potentially harmful
      to intercommunal rapprochement, were counterbalanced by the swift and conciliatory
      response by community and religious leaders and political figures on both sides.

    10. The two sides continued to take an uncoordinated approach to the crossings
      issue under COVID-19 pandemic-related conditions until an agreement was reached
      on 2 June by the two leaders, including the reopening of the three remaining closed
      crossing points. Further joint progress is expected in the coming period towards the
      easing of the crossing procedure for people who are fully vaccinated.

    11. While the provision of vaccines to European Union member States encountered
      some delays, the European Commission reported that European Union-approved
      vaccines would be provided to cover the needs of all Cypriots. The Technical
      Committee on Health was tasked with overseeing the transfer of vaccines between
      the two communities. As of 18 June, according to the European Centre for Disease
      Prevention and Control, 831,205 doses had been received by the authorities of the
      Republic of Cyprus, of which, according to the Technical Committee on Health,
      61,050 had been transferred to the north. Looking ahead, work is ongoing between
      the sides with respect to the recognition of vaccines for the purposes of travel in the
      future, both through the crossings and off the island.

    12. UNFICYP continued to support intercommunal contacts and engagement during
      the reporting period, primarily through virtual platforms. Sustaining intercommunal
      engagement over time only through technological means presented real challenges,
      in particular for those not familiar with or interested in virtual exchanges. At the same S/2021/635
      21-08696 7/16
      time, the mission was able to leverage the exceptional circumstances and the
      technological tools available to increasingly focus its intercommunal activities on
      youth activists across the divide, as well as on audiences outside Nicosia that are
      typically harder to reach, registering some important successes. One notable activity
      during the period was the first-ever intercommunal event in sector 1, in the western
      part of the island, which attracted more than 100 virtual participants from four
      non-governmental youth organizations. Building on the successes of the Youth
      Champions – Environment and Peace initiative and the social impact generator
      project, new areas of intercommunal engagement were developed, in areas such as
      environmental peacebuilding, water management and entrepreneurship.

    13. With the exception of the Technical Committee on Crossings, all technic al
      committees resumed their activity with varying levels of engagement, done for the
      most part virtually. Nevertheless, the overall impact of the technical committees on
      addressing island-wide concerns and improving the daily lives of Cypriots remained
      limited and tied heavily to political factors. 3

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    1. During the reporting period, representatives of Greek Cypriot and Turkish
      Cypriot political parties maintained their regular monthly meetings under the auspices
      of the Embassy of Slovakia. In joint statements, the political parties repeatedly urged
      the two leaders to demonstrate the political will to resume substantive negotiations
      towards a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem. They also emphasized the
      need for cooperation and for new confidence-building measures to address the
      COVID-19 pandemic and its socioeconomic fallout. On 30 March, the Assistant
      Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas and my Special
      Representative participated in a meeting with the political parties to discuss their
      expectations for a renewed peace process and concerns about the growing division
      between the communities.

    2. The religious leaders of Cyprus sustained their commitment to peacebuilding
      and reconciliation within the framework of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace
      Process, under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden. During the reporting period,
      they issued public statements in which they promoted forgiveness, counteracting
      further polarization and standing up for religious freedom, including as a reaction to
      cases of desecration and vandalism of places of worship. 4
      E. Facilitation of access and humanitarian functions

    3. As was the case during the previous reporting period, until early in June, the
      Léfka-Apliki/Lefke-Aplıç and Deryneia/Derinya crossing points were kept closed
      from the northern side of the crossings, as was the Ledra Street crossing point from
      its southern side. UNFICYP was able to use the Lefka-Apliki/Lefke-Aplıç and
      Deryneia/Derinya crossing points for its supplies and emergencies, but not for its
      regular operations.

    4. Owing to complications arising from movement restrictions at crossing points
      overall, there was an increase in requests for UNFICYP to resolve humanitarian
      concerns and thus facilitate, among others, post-mortem transfers, burial attendance,
      crossings of people for hospital visits and facilitation of the movement of medicine
      across the Green Line. The ban by the Republic of Cyprus on the crossing either way
      of third-country nationals also resulted in the mission needing to work closely with

    3 More details on the work of the technical committees are set out in the recent report on my
    mission of good offices in Cyprus (S/2021/634).
    4 Further information is provided in the recent report on my mission of good offices in Cyprus
    8/16 21-08696
    diplomatic representatives to facilitate the crossing of their citizens from one side of
    the island to the other.

    1. In compliance with its mandate, the mission continued to engage with the
      Maronite and Greek Cypriot communities living in the north, albeit in an altered
      rhythm and modality, and with Turkish Cypriots living in the south. The COVID-19
      pandemic also prevented religious pilgrimages across the Green Line, which had been
      hitherto an important confidence-building measure. On 30 May, UNFICYP facilitated
      the movement of Greek Cypriots and Maronites who live in the north and wished to
      vote in the south for the parliamentary elections.

    2. The crossing of persons and goods between the two sides continued to be
      facilitated through European Council regulation (EC) No. 866/2004 of 29 April 2004
      (the Green Line Regulation). Although the 2021 data on the number of crossings are
      not yet available, there is no doubt that the restrictions linked to the COVID-19
      pandemic continued to reduce crossings to a minimum. Trade across the Green Line
      remained at its usual level, involving mostly contactless exchanges, a level
      nevertheless assessed as very low by the European Commission on numerou s
      In April, the European Commission adopted two important new measures:
      (a) to allow producers based anywhere on the island to benefit from the protected
      designation of origin status for Halloumi/Hellim; and (b) to allow the protected
      designation of origin product in the north to cross the Green Line, provided that the
      cheese and milk from which it was made met all European Union animal and public
      health standards.
      F. Refugees and asylum seekers

    3. The challenges in gaining access to the territory and asylum procedures owing
      to measures adopted in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant
      reduction in the number of asylum applications in 2020 (7,094, compared with 13,520
      in 2019). However, increased admissions at the reception centre in the months of
      March and April 2021 indicated a sharp increase in the number of asylum applicants
      arriving irregularly. A total of 988 persons were reportedly admitted to the first
      reception centre in March, tripling the number of persons admitted at the centre in
      February, followed by 1,061 in April and 993 in May, indicating overall an increasing
      trend in the number of asylum applications.

    4. Incidents of pushback were noted, both from the buffer zone and at sea,
      rendering asylum seekers at risk of refoulement. On 5 February, five Syrian nationals,
      including two women, were intercepted in Pyla and directed back to the north by the
      Cyprus Police. In addition, witnesses reported that asylum seekers who had presented
      themselves to the police at the established crossing points in order to seek asylum
      were denied access to asylum procedures, with the explanation that this was due to
      COVID-19 restrictions. Some asylum seekers attempted to cross through the vario us
      sections of the buffer zone and became stranded there for several days.

    5. Several incidents of pushback of boats were noted between December 2020 and
      May 2021. In particular, a boat carrying 38 Syrians, assumed to have departed from
      Lebanon, had reportedly been initially pushed back in December 2020. The boat was
      subsequently allowed to dock after the passengers claimed to have sailed from the
      Syrian Arab Republic. On 8 January 2021, a boat carrying 26 Syrians was reportedly
      pushed back by Cyprus coast guards. The boat was presumed to have sailed from

    5 See, for example, the sixteenth report on the implementation of Council Regulation (EC)
    No 866/2004 and the situation resulting from its application covering the period 1 January until 31 December 2019, available at
    21-08696 9/16
    Turkey. On 17 May, a boat carrying 63 Syrian nationals, including 23 children and 16
    women, was pushed back to Lebanon without allowing the passengers gain access to
    asylum procedures, even though they had expressed clearly their wish to seek asylum.
    According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
    (UNHCR), some of those asylum seekers continue to remain detained in Lebanon and
    are subject to deportation to the Syrian Arab Republic, which would be a violation of
    the principle of non-refoulement.

    1. Lack of predictable access to the asylum procedure at the crossing points is
      likely to have contributed to an increase in irregular crossings through the buffer zone,
      putting asylum seekers at risk of exploitation and making them vulnerable to security

    2. As has been noted in my previous reports, the issue of asylum seekers and
      irregular migration has also been a source of tension between the sides on various
      occasions. On a positive note, in May 2021 and with United Nations facilitation,
      experts from both sides, including representatives of several technical committees,
      held a first meeting on irregular migration. Attended by the UNHCR representative
      on the island, the meeting was convened to discuss various aspects of the issue, with
      plans to continue holding such discussions on a regular basis.
      G. Gender, and women and peace and security

    3. UNFICYP maintained its support for the implementation of the women and
      peace and security agenda throughout the period, using virtual forums owing to the
      COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges of employing virtual means notwithstanding,
      women activists continued to coalesce under a shared goal of women’s participation
      in the peace process and in favour of an urgent resumption of the talks. Several
      women’s organizations issued supportive statements and submitted their demands to
      their leaders, in anticipation of the informal five-plus-one meeting, a positive step in
      promoting women’s perspectives on peace and security for Cyprus. One
      intercommunal women’s group, “Hands across the Divide”, undertook a series of
      outreach meetings with decision makers on both sides of the island and with the
      diplomatic community, so as to further share women’s perspectives in relation to the
      peace process.

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    1. UNFICYP expanded its outreach to youth groups across the island on issues
      related to gender equality, gender-based discrimination and the women and peace and
      security agenda. On International Women’s Day, UNFICYP facilitated an
      intercommunal dialogue with young people on the gendered impact of the COVID-19
      pandemic. Furthermore, as part of a global campaign on women’s participation in
      peace and political processes, UNFICYP developed a month-long social media
      campaign with diverse content, including featuring several women serving in the
      mission across the components. The campaign also included videos profiling two
      women activists from Cyprus who are working to build trust and dialogue among
      women from the two communities and to promote a joint approach between them in
      favour of sustainable peace. In addition, in March 2021, the mission’s monthly
      podcast featured a conversation with the outgoing United Nations police Senior Police
      Adviser, who spoke about the role of women in peacekeeping, including at the
      leadership level.

    2. In line with its objective to bolster gender parity, UNFICYP continued to foster
      an enabling environment through which women’s participation in peacekeeping is
      increased and enhanced. The mission continued to provide capacity-building and
      awareness-raising tools to personnel from its police, military and civilian components
      and to systematically solicit the perspectives of female peacekeepers from all S/2021/635
      10/16 21-08696
      components to ensure gender-responsive operations. In May, UNFICYP again led by
      example by welcoming a new female Force Commander and Senior Police Adviser,
      thus upholding its tradition of ensuring senior female leadership mission-wide.
      IV. Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus

    3. Since its establishment, the bicommunal teams of scientists of the Committee
      on Missing Persons in Cyprus, supported by the United Nations and mandated to
      recover, identify and return the remains of persons who went missing during the
      events of 1963/64 and 1974, has exhumed or received the remains of 1,219 persons
      on both sides of the island. Seven persons were exhumed during the reporting period.
      The overall exhumation figure may include persons who are not on the official list of
      missing persons and is finalized only after the completion of anthropological analysis
      and DNA identification, a process commonly completed within one to two years.
      When the identified remains are not related to the mandate of the Committee, they
      are then subtracted from the official figures. Owing to COVID-19-related movement
      restrictions, operations of the Committee were suspended for 49 working days in
      2021, and activities resumed in full on 2 March, with seven bicommunal teams
      carrying out excavations across the island. Pandemic-related access restrictions were
      lifted for the Committee teams in Turkish military areas by the end of April. To date,
      of 2,002 missing persons, 1,006 have been identified and their remains returned to
      their families, including 12 during the reporting period.

    4. In an effort to locate additional burial sites of missing persons, the Committee
      continued its efforts to gain access to the archives of countries and organizations that
      had maintained a military, police or humanitarian presence in Cyprus in 1 963/64 and

    5. During the reporting period, little archival information on possible burial sites
      from the parties directly involved was received. The Committee continued its
      extensive research in the archives of the United Nations in Nicosia.
      V. Conduct and discipline and sexual exploitation and abuse

    6. During the reporting period, UNFICYP pursued its efforts to encourage strict
      adherence to the United Nations policy of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and
      abuse. In coordination with the Regional Conduct and Discipline Section based at the
      United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, the mission implemented activities related
      to prevention, enforcement and remedial action regarding misconduct, including
      sexual exploitation and abuse, fraud, and prohibited conduct in the workplace.

    7. Given the COVID-19 context, all misconduct-related training for all categories
      of personnel in the mission, including on the prevention of sexual exploitation and
      abuse, fraud and corruption, was delivered online.

    8. During the period, UNFICYP did not receive any allegations of sexual
      exploitation and/or abuse.
      VI. Financial and administrative aspects

    9. The General Assembly, by its resolution 74/285 and decision 74/571,
      appropriated the amount of $51.7 million for the maintenance of the Force for the
      period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, inclusive of the voluntary contribution of
      one third of the net appropriation of the Force, equivalent to $17.4 million from the
      Government of Cyprus and the voluntary contribution of $6.5 million from the
      Government of Greece. S/2021/635
      21-08696 11/16

    10. As at 3 June 2021, unpaid assessed contributions to the Special Account for
      UNFICYP amounted to $18.6 million. The total outstanding assessed contributions
      for all peacekeeping operations as at that date amounted to $2,499.0 million.

    11. Reimbursement of troop costs and contingent-owned equipment have been
      made for the period up to 31 December 2020 in accordance with the quarterly
      payment schedule.
      VII. Observations

    12. The COVID-19 pandemic continued to significantly affect public health and to
      seriously affect Cypriots socioeconomically, as well as keep the two communities
      apart. I am concerned by the growing estrangement during a pe riod when efforts to
      return to formal talks have still not achieved a breakthrough. Growing disparities and
      mistrust between the sides may add a further, significant hurdle to the efforts towards
      reaching a settlement in Cyprus. In its resolution 2532 (2020), the Security Council
      warned that “the peacebuilding and development gains made by countries in transition
      and post-conflict countries could be reversed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
      outbreak” and that combating the pandemic “requires greater national, regional and
      international cooperation and solidarity, and a coordinated … response with the
      United Nations playing a key coordinating role”. I am therefore supportive of the
      attempts by my Special Representative/Deputy Special Adviser to foster
      harmonization and greater cooperation in relation to certain critical aspects of the
      sides’ response to the pandemic, especially concerning the crossing points and the
      sharing of the vaccines, which echoes my call for pandemic cooperation in the context
      of my “appeal for a global ceasefire”. I welcome the agreement between the sides
      announced on 2 June regarding the reopening of the crossing points and the
      harmonization of the crossing procedure. I believe, however, that more can be
      achieved on vaccine-sharing. As I have highlighted in the past, “vaccine equity is
      currently the biggest moral test before the global community”.

    13. Given the passage of time and the risk that the communities drift ever-further
      apart, fostering cooperation on issues that affect the daily life of Cypriots is
      fundamental. I have previously encouraged the leaders to empower the technical
      committees and to give them the political support required to achieve results, in
      particular those that can play a role in addressing key aspects of the COVID-19
      pandemic’s impact, such as health, economic and commercial matters, crisis
      management, gender equality and humanitarian affairs. A stated political commitment
      to meaningfully empower these committees notwithstanding, progress achieved
      during the period remained limited, especially given the potential role that these
      committees could play vis-à-vis the pandemic and its socioeconomic and related
      consequences. A notable exception was the Technical Committee on Health, which,
      as indicated above, played a critical role in supporting the sides in advancing in terms
      of public health-related cooperation on COVID-19 and in reopening crossings.

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    1. As outlined in the principles of my Action for Peacekeeping initiative, there is
      a clear complementarity between peacekeeping and peacemaking, and the actions of
      both missions on the ground should therefore continue to be mutually reinforcing.
      While there is a continued absence of meaningful political progress and of a common
      vision for the way forward, the situation on the ground is not static. Changes to the
      status quo observed by the mission, subtle in some areas, overt in others, continue to
      heighten tensions between the two sides, moving the parties further apart and possibly
      affecting the efforts towards a sustainable, mutually acceptable solution.

    2. I have repeatedly stressed the importance of the parties not taking unilateral
      action that could raise tensions on the island and compromise a return to talks, while S/2021/635
      12/16 21-08696
      also calling upon all parties to engage in dialogue in order to resolve their differences.
      Developments in Varosha are perhaps the most illustrative of such challenges in the
      absence of a political settlement. I reiterate my concern over developments in the
      fenced-off area of the town and recall that the position of the United Nations remains
      unchanged. I further recall the Security Council’s presidential statement of 9 October
      2020 and the relevant Council resolutions related to Varosha, notably 550 (1984) and
      789 (1992), and the importance of adhering fully to those resolutions. I also deplore
      the restrictions on the freedom of movement of UNFICYP imposed in the area and
      elsewhere, as in Strovilia, and request that the ability of the mission to patrol and
      implement its mandated activities be restored in full. I recall that the mandate
      provided by the Council to UNFICYP is not limited to the buffer zone but extends to
      the entire island.

    3. Encroachment by both sides into the buffer zone, mostly in the form of
      unauthorized construction, has increased significantly. In addition to creating
      operational challenges for UNFICYP, these actions generate tensions on the ground
      and between the sides, carry security risks and do not contribute to a positive climate.
      Unauthorized construction for personal and commercial use in the buffer zone, in
      contravention of established procedures for the management of civilian activity,
      highlights a disregard for the United Nations delineation of the buffer zone and for
      the mandated authority of UNFICYP. It could further compromise the mission’s
      ability to fulfil its mandated objective of maintaining calm and creating conditions
      conducive for a settlement. I urge both sides, once again, to respect and abide by the
      United Nations delineation of the buffer zone and established mechanisms for
      managing civilian activity therein. I recall the Security Council’s request that all
      unauthorized constructions inside the buffer zone be removed and that both sides
      prevent unauthorized military and civilian activities within and along the ceasefire

    4. In addition to the above, I support the call of my Special Representative for a
      return to the status quo ante concerning all military installations along the ceasefire
      lines that constitute a violation of the military status quo. I highlight in particular the
      unprecedented deployment of new surveillance technology along the ceasefire lines,
      which is contributing to changing the military status quo and poses a supervision
      challenge for UNFICYP. Therefore, I reiterate the call of the Security Council to the
      sides to abide by the 2018 aide-memoire that underpins UNFICYP supervision of the
      ceasefire and its efforts to contribute to the maintenance of law and order and a return
      to normal conditions.

    5. UNFICYP records all observed violations and engages with the two sides to
      resolve issues that arise in and around the buffer zone, with a view to maintaining
      calm and preventing escalation. However, some incidents are used politically and
      amplified through the media, further increasing tensions and mistrust. I dep lore any
      attempts to instrumentalize the situation in the buffer zone and call upon the two sides
      to work constructively with UNFICYP to address violations and incidents and to
      refrain from increasing tensions further.

    6. Regardless of the status of the peace process, confidence-building measures can
      provide hope and help to narrow the growing divide between the two communities. I
      encourage the two sides to put forward in good faith proposals and ideas for possible
      new measures, or to review past proposals, so that discussions and progress may be
      further pursued. In that vein, I encourage the continuation of the weekly trilateral
      dialogue initiated with the sides by my Special Representative/Deputy Special
      Adviser since March, as one of the platforms to achieve progress on confidencebuilding measures and to resolve outstanding problems on the ground that tend to
      raise tensions between the sides. Given the complex regional environment and its
      impact on Cyprus, I also call upon relevant actors in the region to exercise restraint, S/2021/635
      21-08696 13/16
      explore confidence-building measures and take constructive approaches to resolving
      their disputes. It is important that the parties demonstrate their goodwill and make
      greater efforts to create conditions conducive to a political settlement.

    7. I have heard the calls from numerous civil society actors to have a greater say
      in the future of the island and, in particular, on the course of the peace process. In
      previous reports, I called upon political leaders on the island to contribute to bringing
      the communities closer together as an element necessary for building a constituency
      for peace and laying the foundation for a sustainable solution to the Cyprus problem.
      I recognize and support the role of civil society, especially women and youth, and
      view the active participation and inclusion of civil actors in the broader Cyprus peace
      process to be key to a lasting settlement and peace. I further emphasize the important
      facilitation role of the two United Nations missions on the ground in that regard. Both
      missions will further this engagement. I urge the leaders to encourage more direct
      contact and cooperation between the two communities and to provide concrete
      support to people-to-people initiatives, as evidence of their genuine commitment to a

    8. The Security Council has repeatedly called upon the leaders to refrain from
      using rhetoric that might deepen the mistrust between the communities, insisting on
      the importance of improving the public atmosphere and preparing the communities
      for a settlement, while also highlighting the importance of peace education. Forty –
      five years after the ceasefire and de facto division of Cyprus, most of those pillars of
      reconciliation, unfortunately, remain to be built.

    9. Even in these difficult times, and notwithstanding repeated calls on my part and
      on the part of the Security Council, efforts in Cyprus to achieve greater economic and
      social parity between the two sides and to broaden and deepen economic, cultural and
      other forms of cooperation remain limited. The full implementation of European
      Council regulation (EC) No. 866/2004 would significantly help to increase the
      volume of trade and should be pursued with renewed vigour. Increased cross-island
      trade, together with deeper economic, social, cultural, sporting and other ties and
      contacts, would promote trust between the communities and help to address the
      concerns of the Turkish Cypriots regarding isolation.

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    1. In their efforts to promote closer cooperation between the communities, local
      and international actors continue to be confronted with challenges and obstacles
      linked to the status of the north and concerns relating to “recognition”. While the
      United Nations policy on Cyprus is maintained and decisions of the Security Council
      on the matter are upheld, concerns about recognition should not in themselves
      constitute an obstacle to increased cooperation. As the two sides explore further
      opportunities for confidence-building and cooperation, I urge them to devise creative
      ways of overcoming obstacles with a view to achieving meaningful progress and
      delivering tangible benefits to their communities. The United Nations remains fully
      committed to providing them with the necessary facilitation and support.

    2. With regard to the request of the Security Council to see the establishment of a
      mechanism for direct military contacts, I regret that no agreement could be found
      following the submission by my Special Representative of a proposal on 1 May 2020
      and her recurrent engagement. I remain convinced that such a mechanism would allow
      the parties to effectively alleviate day-to-day tensions in and around the buffer zone
      and would constitute an important military confidence-building measure. In the
      absence of genuine will to arrive at a mutually acceptable but effective military
      contact mechanism, UNFICYP will continue to pursue other military confidence –
      building measures with the sides. One such measure could involve the mutually
      agreed use of technology to further unman positions along the ceasefir e lines.S/2021/635
      14/16 21-08696

    3. I applaud the tenacity and continuing efforts of women’s groups and women
      activists in Cyprus to ensure the full participation of women in the peace process and
      for a gender-responsive settlement. UNFICYP will continue to play its part in leading
      by example on gender parity in peacekeeping and will maintain its efforts to support
      gender and peace activists to take their rightful place in the peace initiative on the
      island. In that respect, I urge the leaders to fully support the work of the Tec hnical
      Committee on Gender Equality and the critical role of civil society and to ensure a
      linkage between the two, in order to pursue a sustainable and equitable solution to the
      Cyprus issue for all.

    4. The situation of asylum seekers and refugees across the island, as well as the
      issue of access to asylum procedures in accordance with international law, continued
      to be a challenge during the reporting period and is of serious concern to the United
      Nations. While appreciating the exceptional circumstances and pressures arising from
      COVID-19, as well as the high volume of arrivals in Cyprus in relation to the size of
      the population, I must recall the critical importance of full adherence to international
      legal norms in the handling of asylum seekers and refugees, wherever they may be

    5. I also encourage the continuation of regular interaction between experts of both
      sides to discuss the issue of irregular migration in meetings facilitated by my mission
      of good offices and attended by the UNHCR representative on the island, as initiated
      in May.

    6. In the light of the continued contribution of UNFICYP to peace and stability
      and to the creation of conditions conducive to a political settlement, I recommend that
      the Security Council extend the mandate of the mission for six months, until
      31 January 2022. Looking ahead, UNFICYP will continue to monitor the evolving
      situation and adapt its operations to implement its mandate effectively.

    7. I would like to thank the partners, in particular the European Commission, that
      have continued to provide support for the work of both United Nations missions in
      Cyprus, the United Nations Development Programme and the Committee on Missing
      Persons in Cyprus, and that have contributed to the implementation of various
      confidence-building measures. I also thank the 36 countries that have contributed
      troops, police or both to UNFICYP since 1964 and pay tribute to the 186 peacekeepers
      who have lost their lives in the service of peace in Cyprus.

    8. I express my gratitude to Ms. Spehar for her service as my Special
      Representative in Cyprus, Head of UNFICYP and Deputy Special Adviser on Cyprus.
      I also express my appreciation to all the women and men serving in UNFICYP for
      their steadfast commitment to the implementation of the mandate of the mission and
      the cause of peace on the island

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