UN urges rivals in Cyprus to engage with UN on peace talks


UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Thursday urging rival parties in Cyprus “to seize the important opportunity” to engage with a new UN envoy seeking to determine if the time is right to resume talks on reunifying the divided Mediterranean island.

Numerous rounds of negotiations over more than four decades have failed and after the most recent talks collapsed last July, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres encouraged a period of reflection. In early July, Guterres asked UN official Jane Holl Lute, a former US Homeland Security deputy secretary, to sound out all sides.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said later Thursday that Lute has held one round of talks in Cyprus and would consult with Guterres.

The council focused on efforts to revive negotiations in the resolution which extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus until Jan. 31, 2019.

Cyprus was divided into a Turkish-speaking north and a Greek-speaking south in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by Cypriots who supported uniting the island with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes it and still maintains around 35,000 troops there.

The UN peacekeeping force was established in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. After the hostilities of 1974, the Security Council mandated the force to perform other duties including supervising cease-fire lines and maintaining a buffer zone,

The Security Council resolution noted the lack of progress toward a settlement and “urges the sides and all involved participants” to engage “constructively” with Lute and renew “their political will and commitment to a settlement under United Nations auspices.”

It also called on the two leaders to intensify efforts to agree on key outstanding issues, improve contacts between the rival communities and “the daily lives of the Cypriots” and increase civil participation to mobilize support for a settlement.

Council members urged the implementation and further development of confidence-building measures, including for the military.