On 30 January 2014, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus until 31 July 2014. It also urged both sides to implement confidence-building measures and made clear that it was expecting an agreement and implementation of further measures, including military confidence-building measures and cooperation. The presence of the UN remains crucial for the stability of the island as any talks will take place under its auspices: it is not only the willingness of the two leaders that has led to a break through, but also the contribution of the UN in its role as mediator.
The Cyprus issue is an important “domestic” issue for Greece because of the historically strong bilateral relations between the two countries. Athens not only has a role and a voice but also the institutional responsibility and obligation to join the talks. Consequently it is Greece's eagerness to defend its own national interests that will ensure Greek officials work towards resolving the Cyprus issue;Greece will be fully committed to the process.
As noted in the February Joint Statement, “the leaders will aim to reach a settlement as soon as possible and hold separate simultaneous referenda thereafter”. This is a huge promise which needs to be respected during bilateral negotiations. Moreover, it states that “the united Cyprus, as a member of the United Nations and of the European Union, shall have a single, international legal personality and a single sovereignty”. This is probably the most important provision of the Joint Statement as it preserves undivided sovereignty, with a guarantee of equality and mutual respect.
However, are both leaders eager to accept this? The Greek Cypriot leader in particular must have reservations as it is the Greek Cypriots who will have to cede an “enormous amount” of national sovereignty to change the status quo, which, according to the Statement, is “unacceptable”. Of course, nothing can be taken for granted since “the united Cyprus federation shall result from the settlement following the settlement’s approval by separate simultaneous referenda.”
Undoubtedly, this Joint Statement has paved the way for a new era for the citizens of the island. The big question is whether the leaders will keep their promises and change the current situation in Cyprus, for the better or for the worse. In the Cyprus issue, everything is a matter of perception given that “the negotiations are based on the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
Fotios Stravoravdis is a former intern at UNRIC