Russia vetoes U.N. resolution on Cyprus

/ Source: The Associated Press

Russia used its veto Wednesday to block a resolution outlining new U.N. security arrangements in Cyprus that would take effect if Greek and Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of reunification this weekend.

The 14 other members of the 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, which was up for consideration four days before Cypriots were scheduled to vote, as an attempt to influence the outcome of the referendums.

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 would ensure that Cyprus joined the European Union on May 1. But if either side rejects the plan, EU laws and benefits would apply only to the southern, Greek Cypriot part.

The country has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the island 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.

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 referendums. 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. Russia’s ambassador, meanwhile, said his country would be willing to revisit the matter after the referenda take place.

Annan lobbies for commitment
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 have authorized an arms embargo and new security arrangements that would have gone into effect next week if Greek and Turkish Cypriots voted “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 supported a united Cyprus’ entering the European Union on May 1.

Cypriots should also bear in mind that many countries had 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 mandate of the new force would have included monitoring and verifying compliance by Greek and Turkish Cypriots of the plan’s provisions relating to troop withdrawals, the dissolution of local forces and police activities.