December 13, 2017

S/2013/392 – Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in Cyprus

United Nations

S/2013/392

Security Council Distr.: General 5 July 2013

Original: English

 

 

 

 Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations operation in Cyprus

 

I.     Introduction

 1.       The present report on the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) covers developments from 16 December 2012 to 20 June 2013 and brings up to date, since the issuance of my report (S/2013/7) dated 7 January 2013, the record of activities carried out by UNFICYP pursuant to Security Council resolution 186 (1964) and subsequent Council resolutions, most recently resolution 2089 (2013).

2.       As at 20 June 2013, the strength of the military component stood at 859 for all ranks and the strength of the police component stood at 68 (see annex).


II.     Mission of good offices

3.       There have been no negotiations between the two leaders since March 2012. From April 2012 all through the period leading to the presidential elections held in the Republic of Cyprus in February 2013, the sides met instead at the level of the representatives in a process intended to reinvigorate the technical committees that had been established in 2008 to improve the daily lives of Cypriots through confidence-building measures. The Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage made important progress in the implementation of emergency measures for the protection of cultural heritage sites on both sides of the island. This included the establishment, in February, of a multi-donor partnership for the restoration of the Apostolos Andreas monastery under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). On behalf of the two communities, two protocols were signed with the Church of Cyprus and the Evkaf Administration, marking an important milestone in the collaboration between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots for the preservation of their common cultural heritage.

4.       Other positive steps included the implementation of a fire prevention campaign by the Technical Committee on the Environment and the activation of a communications mechanism in the event of an outbreak of a communicable disease by the Technical Committee on Health Matters. During the same period, the Crisis Management Committee undertook a joint firefighting exercise within the United Nations protected area. While the reinvigoration of the technical committees in the latter half of 2012 was a welcome development, their work does not constitute a substitute for substantive negotiations.

5.       The election of Nicos Anastasiades in the Republic of Cyprus on 24 February 2013 brought new hope and cautious optimism for constructive talks between the two communities. Mr. Anastasiades, as the new Greek Cypriot leader, has reiterated his commitment to solving the Cyprus problem and has indicated that he will dedicate time and effort to preparing fully for the resumption of the negotiation process. Following the February 2013 elections, the Turkish Cypriot leader, Derviş Eroğlu, also reiterated his readiness to resume the negotiations as soon as possible and has indicated that his team has begun detailed preparations to engage with its Greek Cypriot counterparts. On 30 May 2013, Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Eroğlu met for the first time as leaders of their respective communities in a convivial atmosphere at a dinner hosted by my Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, and my Special Representative and Chief of Mission, Lisa M. Buttenheim.


III.     Activities of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus

6.       UNFICYP aims first and foremost to prevent a recurrence of fighting and contribute to the maintenance of law and order and a return to normal conditions. Its mandate requires reconciling, as far as possible, security considerations and the maintenance of the military status quo while allowing Cypriots who live and work in the buffer zone to pursue civilian activities and enjoy full and productive lives. Such an approach, when successful, builds confidence between the communities and contributes to the overall United Nations effort in support of the peace process.

A.     Prevention of a recurrence of fighting and the maintenance of the military status quo

7.       During the reporting period, UNFICYP continued to maintain the integrity and stability of the buffer zone. Despite the ongoing low level of military violations committed by the opposing forces, which resulted in occasional altercations with UNFICYP, cooperation between UNFICYP and the opposing forces continued to be generally positive. The mission continued to maintain working relations with the Turkish forces, Turkish Cypriot security forces and the National Guard, at all levels of command. However, the non-recognition by the opposing forces of the aide-memoire of 1989 and incidents that challenge UNFICYP authority in the buffer zone continue to be problematic.

8.       On a number of occasions over the reporting period, the opposing forces, in particular the Turkish forces, have questioned the United Nations delineation of the ceasefire lines and, consequently, the extent of the buffer zone in certain areas. This has led to unauthorized construction of roads and infrastructure works, such as those undertaken recently by the Turkish Cypriot side at Avlona and on the Pyla plateau, all inside the buffer zone. While such actions are civilian-led, they received the support of the Turkish forces.

9.       Following the move forward by the Turkish forces in the buffer zone near the village of Avlona last November, which was aimed at preventing unauthorized civilian activity close to their ceasefire line (see S/2013/7, para. 7), the area remained generally stable. Regular UNFICYP patrolling and observation in the area, together with the re-establishment of an UNFICYP standing presence and constant liaison with the Turkish forces, had seemed to allay concerns, to the extent that in mid-June UNFICYP restored the status quo ante by removing a line of barrels it had placed there in November 2012. Disappointingly, despite the provision by UNFICYP of improved security in the area, Turkish forces immediately moved forward into the buffer zone and reinstalled a fence in the area. The UNFICYP Force Commander met with his counterpart in an attempt to return the area to the status quo ante, and these efforts continue.

10.     In addition to these specific challenges, the opposing forces maintained attempts to effect low-level changes to the military status quo across the buffer zone. Through its liaison role, UNFICYP resisted such attempts to the extent possible and, in reaffirming its authority, continued to play a critical part in building confidence between the opposing forces. The mission’s observation, reporting and liaison infrastructure, underpinned by regular patrolling, has enabled issues to be resolved at the lowest appropriate level and remains an important element in maintaining confidence and stability.

11.     Previously reported military positions established by both opposing forces inside the buffer zone that violate the status quo remain in place. The Turkish forces frequently overmanned the liaison post at Strovilia in violation of the military status quo. The United Nations continues to hold the Government of Turkey responsible for the status quo in Varosha.

12.     During the reporting period, patrolling by UNFICYP military forces along the Green Line in the sensitive Nicosia old town was somewhat restricted for safety reasons. Neglect and adverse weather conditions over many years have rendered a number of buildings in that area unsafe. A joint approach by the mission’s military and civil affairs components, together with the Nicosia master plan — a bicommunal mechanism established in 1979 to address urban issues in old town Nicosia — is aiming at developing the most effective means of mitigating this danger.

13.     Tensions related to exploration for natural resources within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus continued during the reporting period. Drilling activities continued in order to verify the presence and extent of hydrocarbon resources within designated blocks to the south and south-east of the island. Turkey continued to protest the development. Following the start of a second phase of drilling activities, on 14 June, Turkey issued a statement confirming its position in support of Turkish Cypriot objections that such actions prejudge the rights of the Turkish Cypriot community. The statement indicated Turkey’s intention to provide assistance for the exploration for natural resources by the Turkish Cypriots to the south of the island. In response, on 17 June, Cyprus issued a statement in defence of its sovereign right to explore and exploit natural resources in its exclusive economic zone. The statement condemned Turkey’s intention to provide support for exploration for natural resources by the Turkish Cypriots, noting that such a development would increase tension in the area.

B.     Demining

14.     The two sides continue to withhold access for demining to the four remaining mined areas in the buffer zone. One area is located south of Varosha and is under the control of the Turkish Forces; three areas are in the Louroujina pocket and are under the control of the National Guard.

15.     There has been no progress in terms of fulfilling the Security Council’s call upon the parties to extend demining operations outside the buffer zone. Concerns persist, in particular with regard to mined areas adjacent to the buffer zone, where severe wet weather may have displaced mines into the buffer zone. In conjunction with the United Nations Mine Action Service, UNFICYP is seeking to address this hazard as soon as possible. I strongly recommend that minefields adjacent to the buffer zone be removed, as both a safety and confidence-building measure.

C.     Restoration of normal conditions and humanitarian functions

16.     UNFICYP approved all 17 civilian project proposals received during the reporting period, which were half the usual number and included very few proposals for new construction projects. As part of its ongoing support for such activities, UNFICYP continued to monitor the provision of basic services to both communities and to facilitate the maintenance of essential infrastructure for public utilities and services in the buffer zone. There were no instances of joint cooperation between the two sides on such technical work during the reporting period.

17.     In line with its mandate to contribute to a return to normal conditions, UNFICYP continued to encourage authorities, local community leaders and civilians to cooperate with the mission by providing relevant information on civilian projects in the buffer zone, in compliance with the UNFICYP permit system. In this regard and in order to promote cooperation with the mission, as well as intercommunal dialogue among community leaders in the buffer zone, UNFICYP hosted a meeting in March of mayors and muchtars from both communities. Despite these efforts, UNFICYP continued to face challenges to its authority by contractors and individuals carrying out unauthorized activities, on occasion in a manner that increased tensions in the buffer zone, which adversely affected the military status quo and required intensive liaison to resolve. The recent unauthorized laying of pipes by the Turkish Cypriot side on the Pyla plateau in the buffer zone is a case in point.

18.     During the reporting period, the university which opened in Pyla — the only mixed village in the buffer zone — in October 2012 (see S/2013/7, para. 15) continued to operate without UNFICYP authorization. UNFICYP remains concerned about the potential impact that any influx of students may have on the delicate demographic balance in the village. So far, the student body, the vast majority of which is Greek Cypriot, has remained low at about 145 students. Without agreement between UNFICYP and all parties concerned regarding security, policing and other arrangements, further expansion may have a destabilizing effect on law and order in the area.

19.     Regarding outstanding cases of assault in the buffer zone by Greek Cypriots on UNFICYP personnel and damage to United Nations property, the mission urged the relevant authorities to take prompt action. Occasional restrictions on United Nations staff members of Greek Cypriot origin seeking to undertake their duties in the north also remained in place.

20.    Beyond the buffer zone, UNFICYP continued to address day-to-day humanitarian and welfare issues faced by Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north and by Turkish Cypriots residing in the south. Twenty home visits were conducted during the reporting period. Despite continued voicing of concerns over the deteriorating health of elderly Greek Cypriots and Maronites in the north, requests for Greek-speaking doctors to treat these patients continued to be denied. The transfer of a defibrillator to assist one of the patients was also denied. As to the Turkish Cypriots in the south, UNFICYP continued to monitor their access to health and welfare support.

21.     UNFICYP welcomed the decision by the Greek Cypriot side in April to allow the transfer of new carpets from the north to the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque in Larnaca, although some restrictions to religious worship in the mosque remained in place. There were no new developments regarding the establishment of a Turkish language school in Limassol. UNFICYP also facilitated 11 religious and commemorative events, involving more than 1,100 individuals, which were held in the buffer zone or required crossings to either side. The Greek Cypriot, Maronite and Armenian communities continued to conduct religious services in the north according to the practice of previous years, but no new sites were opened for worship.

22.     UNFICYP continued its weekly delivery of humanitarian assistance to 347 Greek Cypriots and 124 Maronites in the north. It also continued to observe the functioning of the Greek Cypriot schools in the Karpas peninsula. Two requests by a Greek Cypriot family and a Greek Cypriot woman to return to the Karpas region are pending. UNFICYP assisted in addressing the legal and humanitarian issues surrounding the imprisonment and temporary detention of four Turkish Cypriots in the south and five Maronite and Greek Cypriots in the north. It conducted regular visits and facilitated family visits to inmates at detention facilities in the other community to ascertain the conditions and welfare of those serving sentences. The mission attended 14 court hearings to enhance confidence in the judicial proceedings.

23.     UNFICYP continued to support civil society initiatives that foster bicommunal cooperation and reconciliation. It facilitated 86 bicommunal events, in which almost 3,000 individuals participated, in cooperation with international and local partners. The events included regular meetings between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political party leaders and representatives under the auspices of the Embassy of Slovakia, as well as sporting, cultural and educational events.

24.     UNFICYP lent support to a variety of bicommunal projects in the buffer zone implemented by UNDP and its local partners. In May the Cyprus Community Media Centre, whose premises are in the buffer zone next to the Ledra Palace Hotel in Nicosia, launched the island’s first bicommunal Internet broadcasting facility. The multimedia studio aims at providing Cypriots with a neutral source of news and information on issues concerning peace and reconciliation, and developments in the two communities.

25.     UNFICYP police continued to assist and facilitate a number of investigations conducted by the respective police services into criminal matters that had occurred within the buffer zone. It did so through joint patrols to intercept poachers and smugglers, and to address increased incidents of theft and environmental cases of illegal tree felling, pollution and dumping. Of particular significance was its intervention, together with local environmental officers, at a pig farm where unregulated discharge of effluent risked polluting water sources through the buffer zone to the north, aggravating intercommunal relations and, potentially, the security situation.

26.     The Technical Committee on Crime and Criminal Matters, facilitated by UNFICYP police, met four times during the reporting period. Discussions included plans for a bicommunal seminar on domestic crime issues, to be held on the island in 2013, joint attendance at a workshop held at a university in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and ways in which to improve respective investigations through the possible exchange of evidence and wanted persons. The Joint Communications Room continued to provide a forum for enhanced cooperation between the two sides through the exchange of information on criminal matters. During the reporting period, 19 new information requests were received and 49 further exchanges were recorded, in equal measure from each side, either in response to requests or offering unsolicited information. As a result of this cooperation and goodwill, including shortened response times, eight criminal cases have been opened, four of which are currently in court, including instances of organized crime throughout the buffer zone. In January the Joint Communications Room also helped to defuse tension following the vandalism of a mosque in Dhenia, which was in the very early stages of restoration by UNDP.

27.     UNFICYP police continued to provide escorts for convoys with Turkish Cypriot civilians and humanitarian supplies in accordance with the leaders’ agreement of October 2010 that was reached upon the opening of the Limnitis/Yeşilırmak crossing. While civilian traffic over the crossing continued to flow reasonably unimpeded, the Turkish Cypriot side continued to increase its requests for formal escorts above the agreed number and the Greek Cypriot side denied access to a Turkish Cypriot convoy on 3 June. To ensure smooth operating of the crossing, UNFICYP has reminded both sides of their obligations stemming from their agreements of June 2009 and October 2010.

28.    The Committee on Crossings, which was tasked by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders in December 2010 to reach an agreement on new crossing points, did not meet during the reporting period. Despite UNFICYP engagement with both sides, their positions on the locations of new crossing points remained irreconcilable.

29.     From 7 December 2012 to 12 June 2013, about 610,000 official crossings were recorded through the buffer zone. From November to April 2013, goods worth €440,000 crossed from the south to the north, while goods amounting to about
€2 million moved in the opposite direction. These figures reflect a broadly downward trend in both people crossing and trade between the communities in recent years.


IV.     Committee on Missing Persons

30.    During the reporting period, the Committee on Missing Persons continued to carry forward its bicommunal project on the exhumation, identification and return of the remains of missing persons. As at June 2013, the Committee’s bicommunal teams of archaeologists had exhumed the remains of 978 individuals on both sides of the island. To date, the remains of 407 individuals have been returned to their respective families, including 71 during the reporting period. The sharp rise in the return of remains is largely attributable to the successful transition to the genetic laboratory of the International Commission of Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the sample testing of DNA and in-house final identifications made by the Committee’s own recently created genetic unit. In recent years the Committee has been granted access to unfenced military areas in the north on a case-by-case basis. In a positive development during the reporting period, the Committee for the first time also requested access to a fenced military area in the north and was granted permission.


V.     Financial and administrative aspects

31.     As indicated in my last report, the General Assembly, by its resolution 66/268, appropriated the amount of $54.6 million gross for the maintenance of UNFICYP for the period from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013, inclusive of the voluntary contribution of one third of the net cost of the Force, equivalent to $17.5 million from the Government of Cyprus and the voluntary contribution of $6.5 million from the Government of Greece. I invite other countries and organizations to do likewise, with a view to reducing the portion of the cost of UNFICYP covered by assessed contributions.

32.     My proposed budget for the maintenance of the Force for the period from
1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 is currently under consideration by the General Assembly. Should the Security Council decide to extend the mandate of UNFICYP for a further period of six months, as recommended in paragraph 46 below, the cost of maintaining the Force would be limited to the amount approved by the Assembly.

33.     As at 20 June 2013, the total outstanding assessed contributions to the special account for UNFICYP for the period from 16 June 1993 to 20 June 2013 amounted to $15.9 million. The total outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations as at the same date amounted to $1,254.2 million.

34.     Reimbursement of troop and contingent-owned equipment costs has been made only for the periods up to 30 April 2012 and 30 June 2010, respectively, owing to the delay in the receipt of assessed contributions.

VI.     Observations

35.     During the reporting period, the situation along the ceasefire lines remained mostly calm and stable, with a low level of military violations. The opposing forces should build on this positive trend and engage with UNFICYP on military confidence-building measures. In this context, I welcome the engagement of the UNFICYP Force Commander with the commanders of the opposing forces on this issue and hope that it may eventually result in meaningful discussions on the implementation of military confidence-building measures.

36.     In the first instance, I encourage both sides to desist from challenging the United Nations delineation of the ceasefire lines and, consequently, the demarcation of the buffer zone, which only increases tensions. I reiterate my belief that the overall situation would improve if both sides formally accepted the aide-memoire of 1989, which the United Nations has used for the past 24 years to regulate activities in the buffer zone.

37.     Safety and stability in the buffer zone continued to be negatively affected by unauthorized civilian activity. Civilian activities in the buffer zone are a natural consequence of an increased sense of overall security by the local population. Such activities, however, will only promote trust between the communities if they are undertaken in accordance with UNFICYP procedures. I call upon the respective authorities to act decisively towards individuals, as well as entities, who engage in such unauthorized activities, thus showing respect for UNFICYP authority in the buffer zone and support for the mission’s ability to implement its mandate.

38.    In this regard, the maintenance of essential infrastructure for public utilities in the buffer zone is becoming increasingly contentious. Given that both communities have availed themselves of such utilities for decades and will continue to do so, it is important that neither side seeks exclusive control of those shared resources but that each side instead works closely with the mission according to agreed procedures. UNFICYP stands ready, as it has done in the past, to assist the sides to engage in joint technical cooperation on such issues.

39.     I am concerned that the financial and economic crisis affecting Cyprus has the potential to negatively impact intercommunal contacts and relations. In this context, the downward trend in the movement of persons and the trade in goods is regrettable. I call upon both leaders to exert efforts, in both word and deed, towards creating a climate conducive to the widening and deepening of such contacts, including encouraging trade, where possible, so critical to building trust. In this regard, I welcome the recent establishment of a bicommunal radio station as an important step towards promoting a better understanding of the perspective of the other side and the effective involvement of civil society in the debate about the peace process.

40.    I continue to believe that the development of economic, social, cultural, sporting or similar ties and contacts will have a positive impact on the negotiations and the broader climate. Such contacts promote trust between the communities and help to address the concerns of isolation expressed by the Turkish Cypriots. Moreover, greater economic and social parity between the sides will make an eventual reunification easier and more likely. In the context of an internationally sanctioned peace process, efforts in the opposite direction can only be counterproductive.

41.     I thus encourage the parties to move forward on future possible crossings, which would result in greater social and economic interaction between the communities. As we witnessed with the opening of the Ledra Street crossing in 2008, progress on this front will help to improve the overall confidence between the communities. I urge the parties to adopt a pragmatic and results-oriented approach to the issue and to do so quickly.

42.     Another significant measure to build confidence between the sides would be to address the existing minefields both in and outside the buffer zone, which continue to pose a danger to both civilians and patrolling military personnel. I call upon the parties to facilitate, without delay, access to all remaining mined areas in and outside the buffer zone, in line with Security Council resolution 2089 (2013). Such a move can be made unilaterally and does not require mutual agreement. The United Nations stands ready to assist the parties in their aspiration to achieve a mine-free Cyprus.

43.     With regard to the exploitation of natural resources around Cyprus, I once again call upon all parties to make every effort to avoid raising tensions, which may have a negative impact on the security situation, including in the buffer zone. It is important to ensure that any new-found wealth, which belongs to all Cypriots, will benefit both communities. Without doubt, the discovery of offshore gas reserves constitutes a strong incentive for all parties to find a durable solution to the Cyprus problem. It is my hope that the discovery may engender deeper cooperation for the benefit of all stakeholders in the region.

44.     The United Nations remains committed to supporting the critical work being done on behalf of the families of victims through the Committee on Missing Persons. I count on the support of all parties to preserve the non-political and bicommunal character of the work of the Committee. While increased access to a fenced military area in the north is a positive development which I welcome, I once again urge all parties to be more accommodating of the Committee’s exhumation requirements throughout the entire island.

45.     Regrettably, restrictions continue on the movement of locally employed United Nations personnel. Freedom of movement for all United Nations personnel is a matter of principle for the Organization and an operational requirement for UNFICYP. I call upon the Turkish Cypriot authorities to respect that principle.

46.     UNFICYP continues to play an essential role on the island by exercising authority in the buffer zone and contributing to keeping the calm and resolving various issues that affect the everyday lives of individuals in both communities. However, its ability to play this role depends by and large on the commitment of the sides to refrain from challenging the authority and legitimacy of UNFICYP in the buffer zone. In the hope that both sides will continue to cooperate with UNFICYP in good faith, I recommend that the mandate of the mission be extended for a period of six months, until 31 January 2014.

47.     UNFICYP maintains close collaboration with my mission of good offices, led by my Special Adviser, and other United Nations actors on the island. In line with relevant Security Council resolutions, most recently resolution 2089 (2013), the mission will remain engaged in contingency planning in relation to the settlement. The planning will continue to be guided by developments in the negotiations and views of the parties on the possible role of the United Nations in this respect.

48.    At the same time, I shall continually keep the operations of UNFICYP under close review, taking into account developments on the ground and the views of the parties, and shall revert to the Council with recommendations, as appropriate, for further adjustments to the UNFICYP mandate, force levels and concept of operations as soon as warranted.

49.     In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to my Special Representative and Chief of Mission, Lisa M. Buttenheim, to the Force Commander, Major General Chao Liu, and to the men and women serving in UNFICYP for the efficiency and commitment with which they have discharged the responsibilities entrusted to them by the Security Council.

Annex

 

                            Countries providing military and police personnel to
the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus
(as at 20 June 2013)

 

 

Country

Military personnel

 

 

Argentinaa

294

Austria

4

Canada

1

China

2

Hungaryb

84

Slovakiac

200

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

274

      Total

859

 

 

Country

United Nations police

 

 

Australia

15

Bosnia and Herzegovina

7

Croatia

4

India

8

Ireland

12

Italy

4

Lithuania

2

Montenegro

4

Serbia

2

Slovakia

2

Ukraine

8

      Total

68

 

   a  The Argentinian contingent includes soldiers from Brazil (1), Chile (14) and Paraguay (14).

   b  The Hungarian contingent includes soldiers from Serbia (7).

   c  The Slovakian contingent includes soldiers from Croatia (2) and Serbia (39).