The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously adopted Resolution 2398 (2018) on 30 January 2018, extending the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) until 31 July 2018.
It is not only factually incorrect but also unacceptable by the Turkish Cypriot side that the Resolution refers to the “Republic and Government of Cyprus”; that the approval of only the Greek Cypriot side was sought in order to extend UNFICYP’s mandate; and that the UN did not even consult with the other partner on the Island, namely the Turkish Cypriot side, throughout this process.
It is a clear contradiction that the UN, which claims to stand at an equal distance to both sides, has only sought the approval of one of the sides. Unless the UNSC abandons this biased and contradictory approach and accepts the political equality of the two sides on the Island, it will not be possible for the efforts to find a just and viable settlement to the Cyprus issue to bear fruit
The Resolution has expressed full support towards the implementation of the recommendations made in the report on the strategic review of UNFICYP, which was published in November 2017. Regarding the said Report, we would like to reiterate our view that what requires is a thorough review of the UNFICYP mandate rather than simply overviewing its operations. Thus, it is imperative that the UN signs a Status of Forces Agreement which lays the groundwork for the relationship between the UN and the Turkish Cypriot side and that, in this vein, it seeks the consent of the Turkish Cypriot side as well on all matters concerning the Island.
Concerning the negotiations, although it is recorded that the Conference on Cyprus which took place in June-July 2017 did not result in a comprehensive settlement, the sides are nevertheless urged to “renew their commitment to such a settlement”, namely a bicommunal, bizonal federal settlement. However, along with the collapse of the Cyprus Conference – which constituted the last phase of the 50-year-long negotiation process – the possibility of reaching a settlement under the said parameters has also been eliminated. It became clear once again in Crans-Montana that the Greek Cypriot side does not wish to share the Island with the Turkish Cypriots and that this mentality will not change. Moreover, the Greek Cypriot side’s holistic rejection of the active and effective guarantee of Turkey – the continuation of which the Turkish Cypriots demand as a precaution against the recurrence of the painful experiences of the past – is another important factor which prevents us reaching a viable settlement in Cyprus.
It is both futile and a waste of time to expect a different outcome by repeating a process which has been proved to be failure for the past 50 years. A negotiation process based on the same substance and method is tantamount to the perpetuation of the inhuman isolation and embargoes which continue to be imposed on the Turkish Cypriots. This is unacceptable. The fact that the UN refrains from making an assessment of these realities ensures the continuation of the status quo, which the UN itself has deemed unacceptable in its reports.
Similar to the previous Resolutions, the present Resolution calls on the implementation of remaining military confidence-building measures. Once again, the Resolution has omitted the fact that Confidence-Building Measures could not be implemented for a long time due to Greek Cypriot resistance to take the necessary steps towards this end. Moreover, although it is recorded that there have been some proposals and positive initiatives regarding demining in the Buffer Zone, the Resolution fails to refer to the fact that these positive steps have been taken by the Turkish Cypriot side. This omission is yet another indication that utmost attention is paid to opt for wordings in the Resolution which would cause minimal discomfort to the Greek Cypriot side.
Finally, we deem it necessary to emphasize once again that the UN-facilitated negotiations which have taken place with the professed goal of “putting an end to the status quo” have become the very factor serving to maintain it. If the true desire is to obtain a different outcome from the solution process and to make the island a beacon of security and stability in the region, it is important to refrain from repeating the mistakes of the past and to start considering potential alternatives.