Although the situation in the buffer zone separating the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides of Cyprus has remained calm, efforts by the United Nations peacekeeping mission on the Mediterranean island to further talks on military confidence-building measures have not borne fruit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said.
The mission, known as UNFICYP, has focused mainly on maintaining the stability of the 180 kilometre-long buffer zone, covering around three per cent of the surface area of the divided island, Mr. Ban wrote in his latest report on the operation.
“The opposing forces have cooperated very well with UNFICYP military forces and the situation in the buffer zone has remained stable,” he said, adding that blue helmets have maintained good relationships with their counterparts from both sides.
But the forces continue to occasionally use low-level tactical measures to provoke reactions from one another, mostly in Nicosia, Mr. Ban noted.
UNFICYP is still optimistic that the military confidence-building measures it has proposed – including unmanning or closing observation posts in areas where opposing troops are close to one another as well as agreeing on future de-mining activities – will help to improve the situation, the report said.
However, the Secretary-General wrote that to date, while the National Guard has agreed to such measures, the UN is still waiting for action on the part of the Turkish Forces/Turkish Cypriot Security Forces.
“UNFICYP remains committed to reducing tension and military presence in the buffer zone through the implementation of confidence-building measures, with support from both sides,” he added.
Mr. Ban welcomed the cancellation for the second year in a row by both forces of their annual major exercises, a move which he hopes will help to advance the political process.
Last year, 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 would be of equal status.
Full-fledged power-sharing negotiations have been taking place since September 2008.
But in his report made public today, the Secretary-General noted that although considerable progress has been made in the talks, “the two sides have not yet considered in depth the role with the United Nations would be expected to play in support of a settlement.”
In spite of this, UNFICYP has already started preparatory activities based on a range of possible outcomes.
“It is my firm belief that UNFICYP continues to play a vital and unique role on the island,” Mr. Ban said, calling for the extension of its mandate by six months until next June.