The Paris Agreement: Why it was Possible?

by Giorgos Kentas, PhD candidate at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels

Research Fellow, Research Center - Intercollege


A long awaited meeting between the President of Cyprus, Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, and the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, ended up in an agreement. The two men met in Paris on 28 February 2006 in order “to review the situation in Cyprus and examine modalities for moving forward on the process leading to the reunification of the island”[1]. That meeting took place twenty-two months after the Greek Cypriot community rejected the UN Secretary-General’s Plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus Problem. That decision induced some tension between the Mr. Annan and Mr. Papadopoulos, especially after the former published a Report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus[2] and the latter wrote a detailed letter to response to that Report[3]. In this sense, the Paris meeting could be considered as a move towards the restoration of a good relationship and mutual trust between the Government of Cyprus and the UN Secretary-General.


The result of that meeting was the culmination of months of preparation between Cypriot diplomats, on the one hand and members of the UN Secretarial and Mr. Annan’s team, on the other. The Permanent Mission of Cyprus to the UN held ordinary meeting with the UN Secretarial in order to prepare the ground for a new UN initiative for Cyprus.  In May 2005, the Government of Cyprus sent a special envoy to New York, Mr. Tasos Tzionis, in order to consult with the Deputy UN Secretary-General, Sir Kieran Prendergast. During that meeting, “the Greek Cypriot delegation explained in detail its views on both procedure [for fresh Cyprus talks] and substance [of the rejecter UN plan]”[4]. The Greek Cypriot side maintains that a new round of negotiations should be carefully prepared and claims that bi-communal discussions should take place without any strict timetables. The objective of a new round of full-scale negotiations should be a mutually acceptable settlement of the Cyprus problem. In the Greek Cypriot view, the Secretary-General should not be asked (once again) to arbitrate between the two sides, namely to finalize a plan in case the two sides fail to reach an agreement.


On 20 May 2005, on the same day that Mr. Tzionis concluded his meeting with Mr. Prendergast, the UN Secretary-General asked the latter “to visit the region and listed the views of all parties on the future of the Secretary-General’s mission of good offices on Cyprus”[5]. Mr. Prendergast had consultations with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leadership, as well as with the Governments of Greece and Turkey. After he returned to the New York on 7 June 2005, he reported to the Secretary General. Sir Kieran Prendergast’s briefing of the Security Council was a milestone for the future attitude of the UN Secretarial towards the Cyprus question[6]. Mr. Prendergast held that the parties accepted the UN plan as basis for negotiations. He noticed, however, that the gap on the Plan’s substance appears wide and confidence between the parties is not high. He noted that the fact that more than three quarters of Greek Cypriot voters had rejected the finalized UN plan is important and could not be ignored.  While the UN, he claimed, could not countenance a solution “other than the kind envisaged in Council resolutions, the concerns of highest priority that had led Greek Cypriots to vote in that way would most certainly have to be addressed in any future process based on the United Nations plan”. In his view, the Greek Cypriot electorate “must have confidence that their concerns would be borne in mind in a renewed process”.  In that context, Mr. Prendergast held that “a prioritized and exhaustive list of concrete proposals for negotiation would be an important advance, because it was very hard to address a long list of concerns in an ordered way if they were expressed without modulation or indication of their relative importance”. At the same time, Mr. Prendergast stressed that “it would not help the search for a solution if Greek Cypriot concerns were met in a way that lost majority support for the United Nations plan on the Turkish Cypriot side”. He concluded that before any new round of full-scale negotiations the gap between the stated positions of the parties on substance of the UN plan and the lack of confidence between them should be addressed. He contended that “the premature launch of an intensive new process would be inadvisable”. With regard to the appointment of a new Special Adviser for Cyprus, Mr. Prendergast said that the Secretary General will consider that possibility after the “evaluation of events and attitudes on the island”.


In the UN view, progress on the Cyprus question depends on the enhancement of confidence among the concerned partied and on the appropriate address of the Greek Cypriot concerns in a way that the majority of the electorate in both communities would have supported an agreement for the settlement of the Cyprus problem. Hence, the careful preparation of full-scale negotiations is the subject matter for the UN.


In Paris, Mr. Kofi Annan and Mr. Papadopoulos reviewed the situation in Cyprus and examined modalities “for moving forward on the process leading to the reunification of the island”[7]. They agreed that “the resumption of the negotiating process…must be timely and based on careful preparation”. Although the definition of ‘careful preparation’ is ambiguous –each side holds it own interpretation– all concerned parties agree that full-scale negotiation should open only when the possibility of agreement is ‘within range’.


It seems that before the Paris meeting there was some consultation between the leaders of the Cypriot communities, on the one hand, and the UN Secretary-General’s team, one the other. After the Annan-Papadopoulos meeting, the Secretary-General noted “that the leaders of both communities have agreed that bi-communal discussions on a series of issues, agreement on which are needed for the benefit of all Cypriots, will be undertaken at the technical level”[8]. In the same statement, the Secretary-General noted “that he had received assurances from the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr. Talat, that he shared the same aspirations”[9]. Mr. Annan and Mr. Papadopoulos “expressed their common hope that these discussions would help restore trust between the two communities, as well as prepare the way for the earliest full resumption of the negotiating process”[10]. The two men, however, did not clarify which issues the leaders of the two communities agreed to discuss at a technical level.


The Secretary-General and Mr. Papadopoulos also “agreed that it would be beneficial for all concerned, and would greatly improve the atmosphere for further talks, if progress could be achieved on further disengagement of forces and demilitarization on the island, on the complete de-mining of Cyprus, and on the issue of Famagusta”[11]. The Paris agreement for the discussion of the issues of disengagement, demilitarization, de-mining and Famagusta did not necessarily imply the consensus of the Turkish Cypriot community to engage in technical negotiations on these issues. In a sense, Mr. Annan and Mr. Papadopoulos agreed that those four issues were vital for the improvement of the atmosphere for further talks and invited the Turkish Cypriot community to response positively.


The Paris agreement was possible because both sides, the UN and the Cypriot Government, share an aspiration for the careful preparation of further talks on the Cyprus question. The Turkish Cypriot community is interested in engaging in technical negotiations on quotidian issues; however, it is not clear if it is also willing to participate in negotiations over disengagement of forces, demilitarization, de-mining and the status of Famagusta.


In case the two communities set up technical committees to discuss everyday issue, which are beneficial for all Cypriots, we can expect that they will develop mutual trust and modalities of collaboration. We cannot rule out, however, the possibility that new areas of tension may be induced from the installation of such committees, since the two communities do not see eye to eye the legal status of the status quo on the island.


In our view, the EU needs to have a role in the preparation and the operation of any bi-communal committees on the island. The UN alone cannot guarantee a positive result because it lacks the leverages and it cannot provide concrete motivations. Any discussion on the development of trust between the two communities and on the preparation of a new round of full-scale talks should be made with reference to the participation of Cyprus to the EU, the implementation of the Union’s Regulation for financial aid to the Turkish Cypriot community, the enhancement of the Green-Line Regulation, the potential trading relationship of the Turkish Cypriot community and the EU and “the adaptations to the terms concerning the accession of Cyprus to the European Union with regard to the Turkish Cypriot Community”[12] in the event of a settlement.


[1] “Secretary-General Meets with the President of Cyprus”, 28 February 2006 (UN doc. SG/SM/10361).

[2] “UN Secretary-General Report on his Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus” 28 May 2004 (UN doc S/2004/437).

[3] Letter by President Papadopoulos to Mr. Kofi Annan, dated 7 June 2004. (That letter was circulated as an official UN document).

[4] Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, 20 May 2005.

[5] “Secretary-General Asks Kieran Prendergast to Meet with Political Leaders in Cyprus at End of May”, 20 May 2005 (UN doc. SG/SM/9884).

[6] Security Council (5211th Meeting), “Parties in Cyprus want Resumption of UN Good Offices”, 22 June 2006.

[7] “Secretary-General Meets with the President of Cyprus”, 28 February 2006 (UN doc. SG/SM/10361).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Protocol No 10 to the Act of Accession (Article 4).

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