November 23, 2017

S/2013/781 – Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations operation in Cyprus

United Nations

S/2013/781

  Security Council
Distr.: General

30 December 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 21 June to 15 December 2013 and brings up to date, since the issuance of my report (S/2013/392) dated 5 July 2013, the record of activities carried out by UNFICYP pursuant to Security Council resolution 186 (1964) and subsequent Council resolutions, most recently resolution 2114 (2013).

2.       As at 15 December 2013, the strength of the military component stood at 857 for all ranks and the strength of the police component stood at 65 (see annex).

II.   Activities of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus

 3.       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

 4.       During the reporting period, UNFICYP continued to maintain the integrity and stability of the buffer zone. Despite minor military violations committed by the opposing forces, which resulted in occasional altercations with UNFICYP, relations between UNFICYP and the opposing forces remained good. Through regular patrolling and the mission’s observation, reporting and liaison infrastructure, UNFICYP managed to avert attempts by both opposing forces to effect low-level changes to the military status quo across the buffer zone. 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. On a number of occasions, the opposing forces continued to question the United Nations delineation of the ceasefire lines and, consequently, the extent of the buffer zone in certain areas.

5.       Regarding the situation near the village of Avlona, intensive UNFICYP liaison resulted in the removal from the buffer zone in December by the Turkish Forces of their fence (see S/2013/392, para. 9), and of two cameras that had been installed in July.

6.       While no progress was made in the implementation of military-related confidence-building measures, neither of the opposing forces conducted any major military exercises during the reporting period. For the sixth consecutive year, the Turkish Forces and the National Guard cancelled their annual exercises, Toros and Nikiforos, respectively. Yet, in old town Nicosia, where the ceasefire lines are in close proximity to each other, instances of ill-discipline at the lowest tactical level provoked reactions from the other side. Further, 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.

7.       The two sides continued to withhold access for demining to the four known mined areas in the buffer zone, of which three are under the control of the National Guard and one under that of the Turkish Forces. There has been no progress in terms of fulfilling the Security Council call upon the parties to extend demining operations outside the buffer zone. In cooperation with the opposing forces, UNFICYP has begun reconnaissance and technical surveys of two areas where mines may have been displaced into the buffer zone through flooding.

B.    Restoration of normal conditions and humanitarian functions

 8.       In line with its mandate to contribute to a return to normal conditions, UNFICYP issued more than 860 permits for farming and other civilian activities in the buffer zone, and approved 15 of 19 proposals for new civilian projects received during the reporting period. 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 security situation and required intensive liaison to resolve. On some occasions, UNFICYP personnel encountered aggressive behaviour, which was referred to legal process in more aggravated cases. To counter this trend, UNFICYP continued to encourage authorities and individuals to cooperate with the mission by providing relevant information on civilian projects in the buffer zone in a timely manner and according to established procedures.

9.       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. This was particularly the case in the mixed village of Pyla, where UNFICYP is responsible for the conduct of law enforcement by the two sides. The university, which opened in Pyla in October 2012, remained unauthorized during the reporting period, given the continuing concerns over its potential impact on law and order in the village. UNFICYP engaged local authorities and community representatives in the village in order to address and resolve criminal matters.

10.     The start of the hunting season on 3 November led to a renewed presence of hunters in the buffer zone. On 4 November, UNFICYP issued a press statement reminding hunters that hunting in the buffer zone was not allowed and could run the risk of drawing fire from either of the opposing forces as hunters wearing camouflage outfits and carrying guns could easily be mistaken for soldiers. UNFICYP also conducted anti-hunting patrols and escorted Cyprus police game wardens into the buffer zone, who seized a number of firearms from hunters lacking valid permits. During an anti-hunting patrol in November, an armed hunter pointed a loaded weapon at an UNFICYP police officer before leaving the area; the incident was reported to the Cyprus police for investigation.

11. During the reporting period, UNFICYP intensified contacts with various stakeholders with a view to improving the situation in old town Nicosia where the buffer zone is at its most narrow. Together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the mission continued to work closely with the Nicosia Master Plan — a bicommunal mechanism established in 1979 to address urban issues in old town Nicosia — to identify projects which can benefit both communities. In September, UNFICYP facilitated a joint site visit by Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot municipal architects, which included an inspection of buildings on the Green Line that are in danger of collapse and pose a safety hazard. In a separate initiative on 1 November, UNFICYP brought together for the first time the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot mayors of Nicosia and their respective council members for an informal social event at the Ledra Palace Hotel.

12.     Beyond the buffer zone, UNFICYP continued to address concerns of Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north, including through weekly delivery of humanitarian assistance to 347 Greek Cypriots and 120 Maronites in the north, and support to the Greek Cypriot schools in the Karpas peninsula. UNFICYP also facilitated a post-mortem transfer of a Greek Cypriot for burial in the north. The two Greek Cypriot requests for return to the Karpas region (see S/2013/392, para. 22) still await a reply from the Turkish Cypriot authorities. For Turkish Cypriots residing in the south who requested assistance, UNFICYP conducted home visits and liaison with local authorities to ensure access to health and welfare support. As noted in previous reports, there were again no new developments regarding the establishment of a Turkish language school in Limassol. UNFICYP also assisted in addressing the legal and humanitarian issues surrounding the imprisonment and temporary detention of four Turkish Cypriots in the south through regular visits to the detention facilities where they were held. UNFICYP also attended four court hearings to enhance confidence in the judicial proceedings.

13.     With a view to fostering bicommunal cooperation and reconciliation, UNFICYP supported 51 civil society events, in cooperation with international and local partners, in which more than 2,000 individuals from both communities engaged in sporting, cultural, educational and other activities. It also supported regular meetings of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political party representatives under the auspices of the Embassy of Slovakia, including a joint visit by them to the monasteries Sourp Magar and Agios Panteleimon in the north in late November.

14.     In September, UNDP sponsored an off-island brainstorming exercise in Malta bringing together 60 prominent Cypriot civic, business and political leaders. The three-day event reached consensus on the need to create new opportunities for intercommunal business cooperation in order to demonstrate the benefits of a settlement. Practical examples included roaming agreements for island-wide mobile telephony and joint visits of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot business leaders to Turkey. Participants also agreed on the need for more structured public dialogues on the settlement process, which could support the formal negotiations.

15.     UNFICYP facilitated 42 religious events, involving more than 13,000 individuals, which were held in the buffer zone or required crossings to the other side. With UNFICYP support, both sides took important steps to facilitate the practice of religious worship. In recognition of his function, on 18 October the Grand Mufti of Cyprus was able to cross to the south for Friday prayers at Hala Sultan mosque for the first time. He was hosted and accompanied by the Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus. This followed the lifting of the ban on the Bishop of Karpas to cross to the north, which resulted in the Bishop’s visit to the Karpas area, accompanied by the Imam of the Hala Sultan mosque, on 16 October. Subsequently, on 30 November and 1 December, the Bishop of Karpas conducted services at the Apostolos Andreas monastery in the Karpas region, which were attended by more than 5,000 persons. Underpinning these developments, UNDP worked closely with the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage on the protection of cultural sites on both sides of the island, with significant progress made on the restoration of the Apostolos Andreas monastery, including through the two contribution agreements signed on 17 September with the Church of Cyprus and the Evkaf Administration, respectively.

16.     On 5 November, the Cyprus Football Association and the Turkish Cypriot Football Association signed a provisional agreement for football in Cyprus, endorsed by the Union of European Football Associations and the International Federation of Association Football. The arrangement aims to unify and facilitate the progress of football on the island based on trust, mutual respect and goodwill. Football clubs on both sides have supported the agreement.

17.     On 16 July, some 100 tons of oil leaked into the sea off the northeastern coast of the Karpas peninsula, when a pipeline connecting a tanker to a power station broke. To tackle the resultant 7-kilometre slick, the Turkish Cypriot side requested assistance, through UNFICYP, from the Greek Cypriot side, which immediately responded positively. After some liaison, UNFICYP facilitated the successful transfer of 34 oil absorbent booms, under contractual arrangement between the respective Chambers of Commerce.

18.     The Technical Committee on Crime and Criminal Matters, facilitated by UNFICYP police, continued to meet, while the Joint Communications Room continued to provide a forum for enhanced cooperation between the sides through the exchange of information on criminal matters which have inter-communal elements. Good cooperation led to the opening of eight criminal investigations over the reporting period, three of which, relating to burglary, car theft and sexual assault, are currently under legal process.

19.     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. From July to November 2013, about 700,000 official crossings were recorded through the buffer zone. From May to November, goods worth nearly €400,000 crossed from the south to the north, while goods amounting to about €2.6 million moved in the opposite direction. Both sides continue to apply administrative procedures, which, at times, had the effect of discouraging intercommunal trade. No agreement has been reached on the opening of further crossing points.

20.     Occasional restrictions on local United Nations staff members seeking to undertake their duties in the north remained in place.


III.   Committee on Missing Persons

 21.     During the reporting period, the Committee on Missing Persons continued with the exhumation, identification and return of the remains of missing persons. As at 15 December 2013, the Committee’s bicommunal teams of archaeologists had exhumed the remains of 1,012 individuals on both sides of the island. To date, the remains of 475 individuals have been returned to their respective families, including 83 during the reporting period. The total number of missing persons identified in 2013 now stands at 137, making the year the most successful in the life of the Committee yet. In late November, following a June request by the Committee, the Turkish Forces authorized the excavation of one suspected burial site in a fenced military controlled area in the north.


IV.   Financial and administrative aspects

22.     The General Assembly, by its resolution 67/272, appropriated the amount of $55.6 million gross for the maintenance of UNFICYP for the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014, inclusive of the voluntary contribution of one third of the net cost of the Force, equivalent to $18.7 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.

23.     Should the Security Council decide to extend the mandate of UNFICYP for a further period of six months, as recommended in paragraph 33 below, the cost of maintaining the Force would be limited to the amount approved by the General Assembly.

24.     As at 6 December 2013, the total outstanding assessed contributions to the special account for UNFICYP for the period from 16 June 1993 to 6 December 2013 amounted to $15.9 million. The total outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations as at the same date amounted to $2,509.6 million.

25.     Reimbursement of troop- and contingent-owned equipment costs has been made for the periods up to 31 August 2013 and 31 March 2013, respectively, owing to the delay in the receipt of assessed contributions.

V.   Observations

 26.     During the reporting period, the situation along the ceasefire lines remained mostly calm and stable, including as a result of UNFICYP regular patrolling and liaison with the opposing forces. In view of this positive state of affairs, I encourage both opposing forces to establish dedicated teams to actively engage with UNFICYP on military confidence-building measures. One such measure could include formal acceptance by both sides of the aide-memoire of 1989, which would bring to an end contestation of the United Nations delineation of the ceasefire lines. Another measure could be to facilitate, without delay, access to all remaining mined areas in and outside the buffer zone, in line with Security Council resolution 2114 (2013).

27.     The Nicosia old town within the Venetian walls, a highly militarized area where the buffer zone is at its most narrow, faces a growing number of challenges, including for UNFICYP patrolling. I call on both sides, in cooperation with UNFICYP, UNDP, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot municipalities as well as the Nicosia Master Plan, to adopt a holistic approach to the urban infrastructure of the old town through joint projects that could transform the wider area and promote confidence and trust. Restoration of derelict buildings could also be addressed within this context.

28.     To the extent that security and stability are not negatively affected, UNFICYP sought to approve civilian activities in the buffer zone. Such activities, however, will promote trust between the communities only if they are undertaken in accordance with UNFICYP procedures. I thus call upon the respective authorities to act decisively towards all who engage in unauthorized activities, thus showing respect for UNFICYP authority in the buffer zone and support for the mission’s ability to implement its mandate.

29.     The continued low number of people crossing and trading across the buffer zone is regrettable. I still believe that the development of economic, social, cultural, sporting or similar ties and contacts will have a positive impact on efforts to resume negotiations and the broader climate. Such contacts promote trust between the communities and help to address the Turkish Cypriots’ concerns of isolation. In this regard, I am encouraged by the interreligious dialogue between Greek Orthodox and Muslim leaders as well as the recent provisional agreement between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot football associations. I once again call upon both community leaders to exert efforts towards creating a climate conducive to the widening and deepening of such contacts. 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.

30.     With regard to natural resources around Cyprus, it is important to ensure that any new-found wealth will benefit both communities. I remain of the view that such developments constitute a strong incentive for all parties to find a durable solution to the Cyprus problem and should engender deeper cooperation for the benefit of all stakeholders in the region.

31.     The United Nations remains committed to supporting the critical humanitarian work being done on behalf of the families of victims through the Committee on Missing Persons. While I welcome the unprecedented number of identifications carried out by the Committee this year, I also note that up to 50 years after their disappearance, half of all missing persons have yet to be located and 75 per cent have yet to be identified. It is critical that the work of the Committee suffer no further delays. In this regard, while the recent granting of access to a Turkish military area in the north is welcome, the aforementioned statistics and the advancing age of relatives of missing persons highlight the need to expedite the process. I therefore reiterate the need for increased cooperation with the Committee.

32.     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.

33.     UNFICYP continues to play a crucial 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 July 2014.

34.     UNFICYP continues to maintain 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 2114 (2013), the mission remains 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.

35.     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.

36.     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. In view of the upcoming fiftieth year of the mission in March 2014, I take this opportunity to also express my gratitude to the 32 countries that have contributed since 1964 either troops or police or both to UNFICYP, and I pay a tribute to the 184 peacekeepers who lost their lives over that period in support of peace in Cyprus. I trust that this fiftieth anniversary will further the impetus towards an early resolution of the conflict and the reunification of the island.


Annex

 

Countries providing military and police personnel

to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (as at 15 December 2013)

 

 

Country

Military personnel

 

 

Argentina

266

Austria

4

Brazil

1

Canada

1

Chile

14

China

2

Croatia

2

Hungary

77

Paraguay

13

Serbia

46

Slovakia

157

Ukraine

2

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

272

      Total

857

 

 

Country

United Nations police

 

 

Australia

14

Bosnia and Herzegovina

7

Croatia

4

India

8

Ireland

12

Italy

4

Lithuania

2

Montenegro

3

Serbia

2

Slovakia

2

Ukraine

7

      Total

65