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Security Council extends UN mission in Cyprus despite Turkey's negative vote

The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission that has been in place in Cyprus since 1964 following an outbreak of inter-communal violence by a vote of 14 to 1, with Turkey casting the lone negative vote.

In the resolution extending the mission (UNFICYP) until 15 June 2011, the Council called on the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to “intensify the momentum of negotiations” aimed at reunifying the Mediterranean island.

The 15-member body also called on them to develop a practical plan for overcoming the major remaining points of disagreement in preparation for their meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon next month.

Explaining Turkey’s vote, Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan said that Council resolutions, from the first one that set up UNFICYP to subsequent ones extending its mandate, are unfortunately still being drafted “as if there is only one side on the island.”

“There has not been a joint and constitutional government representing the whole of Cyprus since 1963. Treating the Greek Cypriot Government as the government of the whole island has been the main obstacle on the way to finding a just, lasting and comprehensive solution for over 47 years,” he stated.

“Turkey has underlined that the consent and cooperation of the two sides are bedrock principles for the success of a peacekeeping operation, he added, noting that this has not been corrected in previous resolutions or in the one adopted today.

Among the text’s other “shortcomings,” Mr. Apakan said, it did not fully reflect the observations of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who, in his recent report, underlined that the ongoing talks cannot be an open-ended process and that a critical window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

“We believe that the resolution should have carried a stronger message towards this end,” said Mr. Apakan.

Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu agreed during their meeting with Mr. Ban in New York on 18 November to intensify their contacts to advance progress in the negotiations, which began in 2008. It was also decided that they would meet with the Secretary-General at the end of January in Geneva.

“In the meantime, the leaders will identify further convergences and the core issues which still need to be resolved, across all chapters. That, in turn, will help the United Nations determine its own next steps,” Mr. Ban had announced at the end of last month’s meeting.

The core issues in the negotiations include governance and power-sharing, economy, European Union matters, property, territory and security.

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