Tomorrow morning (26 July), the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for six months. The draft resolution was initially circulated by the UK, the penholder, to other Council members last Friday (20 July) and the Council held its first round of negotiations this Monday (23 July). The second and final round of negotiations was held on Tuesday (24 July). The draft was put under silence last night. Silence was extended several times today at the request of the US, but was not broken. The draft is now in blue.
While the mandate of the mission, as reflected in the most recent UNFICYP resolution (S/RES/2398) from January remains essentially the same, some language was modified to reflect current developments.
During the first round of negotiations, it seems that the US proposed adding to the draft specific references to timed benchmarks for an exit strategy tied to the political process. It also appears that the US wanted to include a request for the Secretary-General to conduct a comprehensive strategic review of the mission, which would evaluate every aspect of UNFICYP.
The US previously called for a strategic review of UNFICYP during the July 2017 mandate renewal, and that review, which was widely supported by Council members, took place later that year. It was focused on providing findings and recommendations for how the mission should be optimally configured to implement its mandate. In his 28 November 2017 report on the strategic review, the Secretary-General emphasised the importance of maintaining the preventive and deterrent role of UNFICYP and recommended a slight reduction in its actual military strength from the current 888 to 802 troops, while maintaining the authorised strength at 860 troops to allow for an increase in case it is needed. Furthermore, he noted that UNFICYP plays an important role in resolving military and civilian incidents in the buffer zone, and that the mission’s liaison and engagement activities should be reinforced quantitatively by allocating more human resources and by redeploying resources from the headquarters to other sectors. In his most recent report on UNFICYP, the Secretary-General indicated that 94 percent of that review’s recommendations had been implemented, excluding those that depend on the mission’s budget approval for 2018/19.
The majority of Council members, including the UK, seemed to question the US proposals regarding a comprehensive review and benchmarks for an exit strategy. Most members seem to hold the view that, at this time, the inclusion of these elements in the draft could have a negative effect on the political process on the island in the midst of ongoing consultations by Jane Holl Lute. The US proposals were not included in the draft.
The negotiations on the current draft take place amidst stalemate in the current round of unification talks, which have lasted for one year. Earlier this month, the Secretary-General appointed Lute as a UN consultant tasked with conducting consultations with the parties and getting their reflections on the negotiation process.
The draft in blue welcomes Lute’s appointment and requests the Secretary-General to report back to the Council by 15 October on the outcome of her consultations. Earlier this week, Lute met with both Cypriot leaders separately and in the coming weeks, is planning to meet with the representatives of the guarantor powers—Greece, Turkey and the UK. Overall most Council members are very supportive of Lute’s mission and believe that the Council should wait for the outcome of her consultations before considering any decisions affecting the future of the UN mission.
New text has been incorporated into the current draft since the last UNFICYP renewal. The draft in blue contains additional language supporting various confidence-building measures and calling for an increase in the number of women in UNFICYP. It further takes note of the various initiatives that foster dialogue between the communities, such as the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the auspices of Sweden. Upon the initiative of Poland, the draft also contains new language recognising the important work of the Bi-communal Technical Committee on Education and calling on the sides to facilitate inter-communal youth contacts.
The Council held consultations on Cyprus on 17 July, during which Special Representative and head of UNFICYP Elizabeth Spehar briefed on the Secretary-General’s reports on UNFICYP and on progress towards a political settlement in the country. During the consultations, the Council agreed on press elements in which the members welcomed the appointment of Jane Holl Lute as a consultant to the UN Secretary-General on the Cyprus settlement; called on the parties to engage with the UN consultant; and to show political will and responsibility, making the necessary compromises to reach a settlement for the benefit of all Cypriots.
In the future, if there is little progress on the political front, suggestions made by the US during negotiations on the current draft resolution may garner increased attention from other Council members. At present, it appears that the US will agree to support the current draft.