Global Policy Forum

Russia Blocks UN Cyprus Resolution


By Edith M. Lederer

Associated Press
April 21, 2004

Russia used its veto on Wednesday to block a resolution outlining new U.N. security arrangements in Cyprus that would take effect if Greek and Turkish Cypriots vote in favor of reunification this week. The other 14 members of the U.N. Security Council voted in favor of the resolution, which failed because of the Russian veto.

Russian Ambassador Gennady Gatilov said his country saw the resolution, on the table four days before Cypriots vote, as an attempt to influence the outcome of the referenda. "We are certain that the referenda plans must take place freely, without any interference, or pressure from outside," he told the council. Opinion polls indicate that the U.N. reunification plan will be rejected by 65 percent of Greek Cypriots but approved by more than 60 percent of Turkish Cypriots. Support for the plan will ensure that a united Cyprus joins the European Union on May 1. But if either side rejects the plan, EU laws and benefits will only apply to the southern Greek Cypriot part.

The EU's top expansion official, Guenter Verheugen, said Wednesday he had "little hope" Greek Cypriots would vote this weekend to accept a United Nations reunification plan ensuring the entire island of Cyprus joins the EU May 1. The main Greek Cypriot objections are that the plan limits the right of Greek Cypriot refugees to return, while allowing tens of thousands of Turkish settlers introduced to the occupied north since the 1974 Turkish invasion to remain. "Never before in the course of this conflict have we been this close to a possible solution as now," Verheugen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. "We are just inches away from our objective, but ... I have little hope left for our being able to push forward those last remaining few inches." The country has been divided since the Turkish invasion in the wake of an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has devoted years to trying to resolve the Cyprus conflict, urged the Security Council to adopt the resolution to reassure Cypriots of U.N. commitments to their security. Annan was informed ahead of the council vote that the resolution would fail and didn't attend the meeting late Wednesday. The United States and Britain agreed to sponsor the draft. There was agreement among the council members on the substance of the draft but many countries raised questions about why the resolution was needed before Saturday's referenda and several objected to the pressure on the council to act so quickly on what would be a new U.N. peacekeeping mission.

The U.S. and British ambassadors both expressed regret after the vote. Last minute efforts to stave off the veto failed but other concerned countries including France, Brazil, Pakistan, China and Chile, agreed to support the resolution. Russia's ambassador said his country would be willing to revisit the matter after the referenda take place.

Annan, who made the final decisions on the reunification plan when both sides failed to agree, went to a closed council meeting Tuesday afternoon to appeal for support for the resolution. It would authorize an arms embargo and new security arrangements that would go into effect next week if Greek and Turkish Cypriots vote "yes" on reunification. "Your swift action would not prejudice the democratic decision of the people. But it would help to reassure them that the United Nations stands ready to meet its responsibilities, and that the settlement will be fully implemented, in a manner consistent with the principles of the United Nations Charter," Annan said, according to a text of his statement.

He urged all sides Wednesday to cast their votes knowing that the international community supports a united Cyprus entering the European Union on May 1. Cypriots should also bear in mind that many countries have pledged economic and financial support to a united Cyprus and that the U.N. Security Council "is willing to help on the peacekeeping and security front," he said.

In Washington, the Bush administration said it was "a historic moment" and urged Cypriots to vote "yes" on what it called a "fair and balanced" plan. The draft resolution sought to authorize the replacement of the 1,400-strong U.N. peacekeeping force that has been patrolling the border between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides for 30 years with a new U.N. mission with 2,500 troops, 510 international police officers and a substantial civilian staff. The new force's mandate would have included monitoring and verifying compliance by Greek and Turkish Cypriots of the reunification plan's provisions relating to troop withdrawals, the dissolution of local forces and police activities.

More information on the Security Council
More information on the Power of Veto


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