UN mediation, Sakari Tuomioja and Cyprus, Helsinki, 10.9.2014


Honourable Parliamentarians, our International Guests,
Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends of Cyprus

The United Nations and

The United Nations was born from the ashes of the
Second World War. It was designed as an improved successor to the League of
Nations, which had been incapable of preventing the war. The United Nations
embodied the widely shared desire to create a more positive future for
humankind, a vision of humanity living in peace, freedom, and prosperity. The
maintenance of international peace and security was, and remains, the primary
task of the UN in realizing this dream. The Charter of the UN was to guide the
orderly conduct of international affairs and provide the instruments for
implementing the tasks of the new world organisation.

Unfortunately, the UN Security Council became an early
hostage to the Cold War confrontation, and proved unable to fulfill its mandate
properly due to a deadlock between its permanent members. Direct policing of
international conflicts by the Security Council through enforcement measures
was therefore not realistic, and the UN had to rely on more subtle measures.
This was essential for both UN
and mediation efforts.

The Charter mandates the UN Secretary-General to
inform the Security Council on any potential threats to the maintenance of
international peace and security. The Secretary-General may also perform such
functions that are entrusted to him or her by the UN primary organs. These may
include prevention and peaceful settlement of disputes.

The Charter lists mediation among instruments to
settle disputes by peaceful means. Peacekeeping is not mentioned in the
Charter, and peacekeeping operations evolved partly through creative action by
the UN. Also the UN mediation activities developed during the Cold War years
primarily through practice, with the Secretary-General playing an important
role. Sometimes he was engaged personally, in other cases appointing a Special
Envoy to represent him in peace efforts.

The case of Cyprus is an example of an evolving
practice both in peacekeeping and in mediation. After the intercommunal
fighting had broken out on the island in 1963, the UN Security Council was able
in 1964 to agree on a peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Force in
Cyprus (UNFICYP). Secretary-General U Thant, on recommendation by the Council,
decided to appoint a Mediator to lead efforts in solving the conflict. After
his first nominee, Jose Rolz-Bennet, was rejected by Turkey, the choice fell
upon Sakari Tuomioja.


Sakari Tuomioja had been as the budget director in the
Ministry of Finance a member of the so-called peace opposition during the war
and he was 33 years old when he entered the first post-war Paasikivi cabinet in
1944 as Minister of Finance. Next year he was appointed Governor of the Bank of
Finland, by the was also frequently called to join the government as Minister
of Trade and Industry, Foreign Minister and then as Prime Minister. The formation
of this government broke up the close friendship and cooperation between
Tuomioja and Urho Kekkonen, to the extent that in 1956 they both stood for
president in the elections. Kekkonen was elected and Tuomioja, standing as the
candidate of the Conservative and Liberal parties, became third.

By this time Tuomioja had left Finland and was the
Finnish Ambassador in London. In 1957 he followed Gunnar Myrdal as the Executive
Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe for a three-year term in
Geneva. Already during this period he had called to act as the UNSGs special
representative in Laos by his friend Dag Hammarskjöld. He was the Finnish
Ambassador in Stockholm when he was called by SG U Thant to act as the Mediator
in Cyprus.

Notwithstanding Sakari Tuomioja’s membership in the
small Liberal party and his standing for president – which he later regretted –
he was not primarily a politician but an independent civil servant and a
conciliator and consensus builder, something which at times the rather
confrontational practices of Finnish politics and labour market relations had
trained him for. He is known to have said that there were no disagreements to
which rational men could not find a solution.

But that was before he had been introduced to the
Cyprus question. The less than five months that Tuomioja was able to work as
the mediator before falling fatally ill, was a period of intense activity under
the constant threat of renewed violence and military intervention. Initially,
before Galo Plaza was appointed UN Special Representative with responsibility
for the Peace-keeping operation, Tuomioja had to fill that role as well, a job
that is not necessarily helpful for the task of mediation.

Today it is established wisdom, that for mediation to
succeed, the mediator has to have, i.a., the confidence and trust of all
parties and to have a clear and uncontested mandate from the international
community. Tuomioja’s endeavours met the first requirement, but the second one
was not filled. The mandate came from the SC resolution, but not all permanent
members on the Council were prepared to let him do the job. I am referring to
the role of the United States, which at one point deliberately aimed at by-passing
the UN mediator, causing some tensions between the SG and the US. On the other
hand it was probably US intervention which prevented a Turkish military
invasion from taking place already in the summer of 1964.

Tuomioja suffered a fatal brain stroke just as he was
leaving on another tour of the capitals of all the countries involved. He had
no formal proposal with him, but certain ideas for a solution he wanted to put
to the principals. It is an intriguing question did his stroke also kill the prospect
for a solution for the next 50 years? We cannot know, and perhaps the only
thing that can be said is that there was a certain momentum at the time, which
may, or may not have led to a solution, was lost.

After Tuomioja many other Finns have been called to
act as mediators in many disputes and conflicts, including Martti Ahtisaari,
Harri Holkeri, Elisabeth Rehn, just to mention the most prominent names.


The UN Peace-keeping operation in Cyprus became one of
the longest in UN history, vestiges of which still remain on the island. As has
been previously mentioned today, among the first UN troops to arrive on Cyprus
were the Finns. The main body of the Finnish Contingent began to arrive to
Nicosia on April 25th in 1964, exactly one month after my father had
been appointed as the Cyprus mediator. By May 1st almost 1000
Finnish soldiers had touched down in Cyprus.

Finland kept its full contingent for 13 years, until
1977. This made Cyprus a very well-known topic in Finnish media and Finnish
families. UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim praised the Finns high
professionalism and commitment to peace. He especially praised the success in
winning the trust and respect of both communities, something that has
proven to be a challenge to anybody involved in the Cyprus question.

The Cypriots themselves seem to remember the Finns
quite fondly, often referring to two obsessions of these exotic peacekeepers:
their saunas and their frequent use of bicycles as a means of transportation.
Maybe the latter made the Finns easily approachable, easier to trust, when
passing through villages.

A small number of Finnish senior officers remained
with UNFICYP until 2005, when the last Finnish peacekeeper left Cyprus. But
Cyprus was not forgotten in Finland. The year after, during the Finnish EU
Presidency, we really wanted to contribute to this issue in a pragmatic way, as
Ambassador Torstila mentioned.

Finland made a deliberate choice to slightly link the
EU- and UN-tracks, in order to find some steps that could be commonly agreed
upon between the two communities, and by Turkey. The red thread was the
economy, improving trade possibilities for all the parties involved. This
“Finnish proposal” from 2006 is still something we hear as a reference for
first steps and confidence building measures.

We still follow the same red thread: we have
confidence in that there would be major economic benefits to both communities,
in addition to all the other positive consequences one can imagine, when a
long-standing conflict comes to an end. The Nordic countries have together
emphasized these benefits, and have contributed in bringing the business
communities hopes and needs to the awareness of the main negotiators, for
example through a successful seminar in Brussels in March this year.

The business community is, however, only one part of
the civil society that needs to cooperate across the two sides. Religious
communities, sporting communities, youth organisations, women’s groups… all
need to be more and more frequent in their contacts and more and more vocal
about their common needs. I do think that if there is no strong demand from the
society, there is less movement on the top-level towards a just and fair

And let me remind you, that the UN resolutions
extending the UNFICYP mandate from last years put responsibility on the two
sides and their leaders in relation to this. They are strongly urged to promote
the active engagement of the civil society and to remove all obstacles to such

Dear friends of Cyprus,

The UN lead negotiations are again ongoing. There is a
new Special Advisor, Espen Barth Eide, a former colleague personally known to
me and I trust him to do everything in his powers to find concrete steps
towards a solution. There are elements that have surrounded the current
negotiations with hope and optimism, that for very long were missing. My father
was the first UN mediator on Cyprus. I do hope that Espen Barth Eide will
complete this mission.

The bottom line of diplomacy is that a peaceful
solution is always an option, always a possibility, if both parties really want
it. “I get everything I want, they get what I’m ready to give” seldom works
when trying to reach an agreement, and even more rarely does it work as a solid
base for a peaceful society, that is considered fair and just by all of its

It is a painful fact that during these fifty years
there have been numerous events and injustices that make it tempting to only
look back, and they do make a very solid foundation for mistrust.

We do not want to commemorate 60 years of UNFICYP
after ten years. Cypriots should not want it. 
Therefore the focus needs to be in the benefits of a common road ahead,
not at everything that has happened in the past. The biggest responsibility in
starting to do so lies with the leaders, the politicians and the media.

It is easy to be frustrated and cynical when a
conflict has been going on for so long. The negotiations do not appear to be
easy, but I do think the two sides deserve all our encouragement and support in
order to take historical steps towards peace and prosperity.

On Mediation

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our long experience in Cyprus informs
the active engagement of Finland in the field of mediation. Against the
extensive track record of UN mediation, it is surprising that there has been
relatively little systematic development of its normative and institutional
basis. The constrained role of the UN in maintaining international peace and
security during its first decades partly explains this.

There is a clear need, and strong demand, for more
systematic development of international mediation. Finland has endeavoured to
contribute to this development. In 2010 Finland and Turkey convened the Group
of Friends of Mediation at the United Nations.

We have since then acted as a convener of interested
parties, and we have worked hard to mobilise international support for
mediation. We have helped to produce new political momentum and new instruments
to make mediation more effective.

The UN Group of Friends currently brings together 40
countries active in mediation, seven regional organizations and the United
Nations. Later this month, during the high level week of the UN General
Assembly, I will co-host with my Turkish colleague the fifth ministerial meeting
of the Group of Friends. The meeting will discuss the role of regional
organisations in mediation, considering especially the cases of the OSCE in
Ukraine and IGAD in South Sudan.

’The Friends of Mediation’ concept has proved to be a
fruitful format for political mobilization. Finland has recently launched the
OSCE Group of Friends of Mediation, together with Turkey and Switzerland, and
the European Union Friends of Mediation, together with Spain.

In July, the General Assembly approved unanimously the
third UN resolution on mediation. It was initiated by Finland and Turkey, who
also chaired negotiations on the text. The new resolution calls for more
systematic cooperation and partnerships in mediation, especially between and
among the UN and the regional and sub-regional organisations. It is a
substantial new contribution to follow the first-ever UN resolution on
mediation that was adopted in 2011.

The three resolutions help mediators in the field
especially by reinforcing their mandate to act. I am fully convinced that more
effective mediation is still needed in today’s world.  This is most recently demonstrated by the
crisis in Ukraine. There is no substitute for dialogue and diplomatic efforts
in that crisis.

Effective mediation must be based on the consent of
the parties and on inclusivity, national ownership, and the equal participation
of women in peace efforts. These are reflected in the fundamental principles of
the UN Guidance for Effective Mediation, which
was produced as a follow-up to our first resolution.

I would like to underline that especially women’s full
participation is an urgent priority in any
mediation effort or inclusive peace process. Lack of it is a major obstacle to peace. Currently, very few peace agreements address gender-related
issues. I am pleased that the new UN resolution contains positive new elements
also on women’s participation.


In conclusion, and referring to the topic of this

What really would have made Sakari Tuomioja happy
would have been a successful outcome of all the UN efforts, an island filled
with non-biased interpretations of todays’ and yesterdays’ events, leaders
shaking hands and doing what is historically correct: a united island, a unique
blend of cultures, one Cyprus.

Thank you.