UN urges rival Cypriots to start negotiations on peace deal

EDITH M. LEDERER

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Wednesday urging Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders to agree on terms for starting negotiations aimed at reunifying their divided Mediterranean island "within a foreseeable horizon."

The resolution approved by the U.N.'s most powerful body expresses regret at the lack of progress toward a Cyprus settlement since talks collapsed in July 2017 and urged both sides "to seize the important opportunity" of consultations with senior U.N. official Jane Holl Lute "on a way forward."

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.

Numerous rounds of negotiations over more than four decades have failed to reunify the island.

But in his latest report to the Security Council this month, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated that he believes "prospects remain alive for a comprehensive settlement within a foreseeable horizon."

The British-drafted resolution adopted Wednesday uses that language and calls on Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci "to actively and meaningfully engage with openness and creativity, fully commit to a settlement process under U.N. auspices, use the U.N. consultations to restart negotiations, and avoid any actions that might damage the chances of success."

The Security Council also urged implementation and development of new confidence-building measures, including those aimed at improving mobile phone and electricity connectivity on the island.

Deputy British Ambassador Jonathan Allen endorsed Guterres' view that prospects remain alive and said the resolution sends "a clear message to all sides: to work towards the resumption of talks."

The resolution extends the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force, which was established in 1964 to prevent fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, until July 31.

Deputy U.S. ambassador Roger Cohen stressed the international community's strong sentiment that "peacekeeping operations must support political solutions" and the urgency the United States sees for the Cypriot leaders "to come together."

"The United States has made clear, in reviewing all peacekeeping missions, that we will not support the status quo for missions where political processes are stalled," Cohen said.