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UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow morning (27 July), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) until 31 January 2018. The negotiations were not difficult. Following one round of negotiations this Monday (24 July), the draft was put in blue today (26 July) after no delegation broke silence.

The Council was briefed in consultations on 18 July by Elizabeth Spehar, Special Representative and head of mission, and Espen Barth Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus. During this meeting, Council members expressed unanimous support for the extension of the mandate in its current configuration for another six months. As part of its broader initiative for a review of UN peacekeeping operations, the US called for a strategic review of UNFICYP. Several other members expressed support for this proposal.

The renewal of UNFICYP’s mandate comes against the backdrop of the recent collapse of unification talks in the Conference on Cyprus. The latest round of unification talks, which started on 15 May 2015, became a high-level Conference in Geneva, when the guarantor powers (Greece, Turkey and the UK) joined the Cypriot leaders in the negotiations on 12 January 2017. The question of security and guarantees was the main issue discussed at the conference. The presence of the guarantor powers was necessary, given that any agreement on this issue would require their approval. Although no agreement was reached during the high-level segment of the conference, the participants agreed to establish working groups to identify some of the main issues regarding the question of security and guarantees.

The Conference on Cyprus reconvened with the Cypriot leaders and the guarantor powers in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, on 28 June. After more than a week of lengthy and tense negotiations, Secretary-General António Guterres informed the public on 7 July that the talks had collapsed and that the Conference on Cyprus had been closed without an agreement being reached. The positions of both sides on security and guarantees seemed to have been fixed, with the Greek Cypriot side in favour of ending the system of security guarantees with the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Cyprus, and the Turkish Cypriot side apparently holding the view that the system of guarantees should be maintained, at least for a certain period after unification. Guterres has noted that the UN remains at the disposal of the parties in its facilitation role should they decide to continue the negotiations.

There seem to have not been any controversial issues in negotiating the renewal of UNFICYP’s mandate. The draft draws heavily on the elements of the most recent UNFICYP resolution (S/RES/2338) of 26 January. The one change is the request for the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of the mission, providing findings and recommendations for how the mission should be optimally configured to implement its current mandate. The proposal, made by the US, is in line with broader efforts by the Trump administration to review UN peacekeeping operations with the aim of improving efficiency and reducing costs. As during the 18 July consultations, there was broad support among Council members for the strategic review during the negotiations.

The draft makes reference to the latest round of unification talks, noting the outcome while encouraging all sides to sustain their commitment to a settlement under UN auspices. It seems that the majority of Council members share the view that it is too early to make any significant changes to the mandate of the mission or to exert any form of pressure on the sides given political sensitivities in Cyprus following the collapse of the talks.

Looking ahead, the Council will have to consider evaluating its approach to Cyprus, especially if the negotiations between the leaders do not resume in the foreseeable future, which would also have implications for the good offices efforts of the UN.

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