The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus, known as UNFICYP, while urging the leaders of the Mediterranean island’s Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to pick up the pace of their reunification talks.
The Council decided, with Turkey voting against, to keep the mission – which has been in operation since 1964 after the eruption of intercommunal violence between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities – in place until 15 December 2009.
In May 2008, Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat committed themselves to working towards “a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, as defined by relevant Security Council resolutions.”
That partnership would comprise a Federal Government with a single international personality, along with a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State, which will be of equal status.
In today’s resolution, the 15-member Council stressed “that there now exists a rare opportunity to make decisive progress,” commending Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat for their political leadership and welcoming progress made to date.
“I see a need for an increase in the pace of the talks as the sides start to address issues more holistically,” he wrote. “Indeed, the parties themselves recognize that a settlement will be harder to reach as each day passes without a solution.”
Mr. Ban credited the “close relationship” of the two leaders for a lessening of the “mutual public recriminations” that were more prevalent in the past, but said it was discouraging that polls have revealed a high level of scepticism among the populations regarding the negotiations.
Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat have met dozens of times since full-fledged power-sharing negotiations began last September, with their latest talks having taken place yesterday in Nicosia.
In a related development, Alexander Downer, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, will host a new initiative to highlight the artistic achievements of people living on the island in a bid to bridge the communal divide.
“I’m a great believer in the power of art to soothe, but also to provoke reflection,” he said.
The exhibition, to be inaugurated in July, will display paintings and mixed-media pieces inside the premises where the leaders of the two communities hold their talks.