Kofi Annan recommends renewal of UNFICYP mandate
by Apostolis Zoupaniotis
United Nations, Jun 7 (CNA) -- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has recommended a six month extension of the UN Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), until mid December, with the present authorised strength and concept of operations.
He also says that the time is not ripe for him to appoint a full-time person dedicated to his good offices mission in Cyprus, adding that he intends to dispatch on an ad hoc basis a senior official from the Secretariat to visit Cyprus, Greece and Turkey to assess the situation on the ground in light of recent political developments.
In his report to the Security Council, Annan describes the situation on the island ''stable, although the official contacts between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides, which had ceased since the April 2004 referenda, have not been resumed and there is little sign of improvement in relations.''
He notes that the regular monthly meetings between political parties illustrated ''the differences on core issues of the Cyprus problem'' whereas separate meetings between parties produced ''no tangible progress beyond general declarations of support for a just settlement.''
''There was no substantive change in the position of the sides on my mission of good offices,'' Annan says, and describes the election of Mehmet Ali Talat to the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community as ''a commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Cyprus issue.''
Annan says the Turkish Cypriot leadership and the government of Turkey have called for a resumption of talks and a solution based on his proposed solution plan.
He notes that following informal consultations with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos a Greek Cypriot delegation went to New York to explore the possibility of resuming negotiations.
On Cyprus' EU accession, the Secretary General says its benefits are becoming manifest but also notes that in the area of property ''it has opened up new fronts of litigation and acrimony'' with hundreds of Greek Cypriot claims against Turkey pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
''The prospect of an increase of litigations in property cases on either side poses a serious threat to people-to-people relationships and to the reconciliation process,'' Annan says.
On the work of the Committee of Missing Persons (CMP), he said the modalities of an exhumation and identification programme were discussed and points out that critical provisions pertaining to the CMP terms of reference and an agreement between the two sides on exhumation and identification of remains of missing persons ''have remained unimplemented.''
Annan says the overall military security situation continued to be stable, he does not consider the rotation of Turkish troops and their equipment a ''reinforcement'' and says the number of Turkish troops and the nature of their equipment remained unchanged.
''The defence budget in the south has declined,'' it added.
The Secretary General refers to the clearing of National Guard minefields in the buffer zone and notes the absence of progress on arrangements for the clearing of Turkish forces minefields.
The reports says that ''as at 20 May 2005, more than seven million crossings by Greek Cypriots to the north and Turkish Cypriots to the south have taken place, with remarkably few incidents.''
Trade across the buffer zone has been limited by ''technical and political hurdles, with goods worth less than half a million Cyprus pounds crossing the line since the EU's green line regulation came into effect last year.''
Annan says the Greek Cypriot side supports the EU aid package of 259 million euro for the north but the Turkish Cypriot side ''agrees to accept it only together with the Commission's recommendations on direct trade between the north of the island and the EU. The Greek Cypriot side continues to oppose such direct trade.''
On the UNFICYP budget, Annan proposes some 44.3 million dollars.
Concluding his report, Annan describes the situation as ''calm'' noting that in the absence of a viable political process the distrust between the two sides had persisted.
''I continue to believe that the presence of UNFICYP on the island remains necessary for the maintenance of the ceasefire and to foster conditions conducive to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem,'' he says.