posted on Tue 29 Jan 2019 8:03 PM
UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (30 January), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for an additional six months. Council members held one round of expert level negotiations on 25 January following the circulation of the draft by the UK, which is the penholder on Cyprus. Russia broke silence this morning (29 January) over language on peacekeeping performance, but the draft was nonetheless put in blue without addressing its concerns on this matter.

Although there was wide support among Council members to extend the mandate of the mission in its current configuration, the negotiations seem to have been somewhat contentious on some specific issues. The draft draws heavily from the latest mandate renewal resolution in July 2018, and also contains new elements raised by some Council members.

Consistent with its position during the negotiations on the last mandate renewal, the US once again appears to have suggested that there should be a comprehensive strategic review of all aspects of the mission. It seems, however, that most members questioned the usefulness of such a strategic review at the current time. Some members seem to have pointed out that the timing is not appropriate, given that the Council is still awaiting the results of the consultations UN consultant Jane Holl Lute is conducting with Cypriot leaders on the prospects of resuming the political process. In addition, other members seem to have emphasised that a strategic review conducted as recently as 2017 is still being implemented. As a compromise, the draft in blue requests the Secretary-General to address within his next report, “how all UN activities in Cyprus can be best configured to advance political progress while preserving stability”.

In his latest report (S/2019/37), the Secretary-General addressed the issue of more direct intercommunal contacts, encouraging “the sides to consider developing, with support from UNFICYP, their own mechanisms for alleviating tensions, be they of a military, police or civilian nature”. Council members seem to have been generally supportive of increased intercommunal contacts, although there were some differences as to how this could be achieved. The draft in blue makes a general call on the sides to explore ways to establish mechanisms for alleviating tensions and addressing island-wide matters, with UNFICYP facilitating through its liaison role.

As noted above, one of the more contentious issues in the draft resolution seems to have been how to refer to peacekeeping performance in the context of UNFICYP. Russia and China have expressed their preference to consider peacekeeping policy issues, including in relation to the development of an integrated performance policy framework, in the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34) ahead of the Security Council. It is possible that Russia may raise their concerns on this matter during an explanation of vote.

The negotiations on the draft come at the time when the political process in Cyprus has been stalled since the collapse of latest round of negotiations in the summer of 2017. In July 2018, the Secretary-General appointed Lute as a UN consultant to conduct talks with the Cypriot leaders on the way forward in negotiations. During the past several weeks, she has been working with the leaders on mutually acceptable terms of reference for the resumption of unification talks.

The draft resolution expresses regret at the lack of progress in the political process, while urging leaders to agree on terms of reference. Related to this, the draft requests the Secretary-General to submit a report by 15 April on the UN’s good offices and on the process towards reaching a consensus starting point (terms of reference) for results-oriented negotiations.

On 23 January, Special Representative and head of mission Elizabeth Spehar briefed the Council in consultations on the latest UNFICYP report and recent developments. In addressing the media following the consultations, Spehar emphasised the support of Council members for the mission and the Secretary-General’s good offices. She did, however, note the absence of positive developments during the past reporting cycle.

The political process in Cyprus is likely to play an instrumental role in the Council’s deliberations on UNFICYP. It appears that in the absence of a viable political process in the foreseeable future, Council members would be more willing to consider changes to the mission’s mandate and configuration.