INCREDIBLE TIMING, MR SECRETARY-GENERAL
By Benon Sevan, Former UN Under-Secretary-General
Like most Cypriots, I welcomed the successful meeting held between the President of the Republic of Cyprus, H.E. Mr Demetris Christofias, and the Turkish Cypriot Leader, H.E. Mr Mehmet Ali Talat, on March 21, at the residence of the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Cyprus, Mr Michael Moller.
Speaking on behalf of the leaders, Mr Moller, who worked very hard with all concerned in helping set the stage for the meeting, announced afterwards that the two leaders had met "in a very positive and cordial atmosphere" and that their exchange of views on a number of issues had achieved "a great degree of convergence". The two leaders, he said, had decided to ask their respective advisers to meet this week in order "to set up a number of working groups and technical committees, establish their agendas, and to do so in the most expeditious way possible." Beginning Monday, March 24, Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou and Mr Ozdil Nami were to meet daily in order to set up the working groups and technical committees, thus emphasising the determination of the two leaders to proceed expeditiously with the understandings reached at Friday’s meeting.
Furthermore, Mr Moller announced that "in taking full responsibility for the conduct of future negotiations," the leaders had also agreed to meet "three months from now to review the work of the working groups and technical committees, and using their results, to start full-fledged negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General of the United Nations." The two had "also agreed to meet as and when needed prior to the commencement of their formal negotiations."
The outcome constitutes a groundbreaking first step in the right direction. Given the commitment and determination of the two leaders, this breakthrough could and should promote the positive political environment so essential for the success of the future negotiations towards a comprehensive Cyprus settlement. The international community has welcomed the positive outcome of the meeting and has expressed its readiness to lend full support to the efforts to reach a negotiated settlement.
No one doubts that difficulties will be encountered in the intensive preparatory process that will lead to the start of the full-fledged negotiations in three months’ time. The United Nations is expected to help facilitate the meetings of the working groups and technical committees which will hold intensive meetings during the coming three months.
All the more incredible, therefore, to learn that Mr Moller's assignment as Special Representative comes to an end on March 29, when he departs Cyprus, where he has served for just over two years. In addition to the proven excellence of Moller's diplomatic skills, the departing SRSG has a sound knowledge of the Cyprus question. He knows the issues and he knows the leaders and personalities of both communities well. His continued services and contribution at this crucial stage of developments on the island would have been invaluable at this time to all parties concerned. All the more reason why it is difficult to fathom the thinking of Secretary-General Ban Ki moon. While urging Cypriots "to move from talks to real engagement", the Secretary-General paradoxically allows his experienced envoy to depart the island just when it is about to face this crucial and testing opportunity that could well determine its future.
Moreover, Mr Moller leaves his post without even an announcement from the Secretary-General as to who will permanently replace him. All we have from the United Nations is that the Secretary-General is dispatching Mr. B. Lynn Pascoe, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, heading a team that would "engage in dialogue with all stakeholders" in Cyprus.
A little dialogue beforehand would have helped. Mr Pascoe arrives in Cyprus on Sunday, March 30, the day after the departure of Mr Moller. Incredible timing, Mr. Secretary-General.