Abstracts from Secretary General's press encounter with European Commission President Romano Prodi  in Brussels

28 January, 2004 


EC PRESIDENT: When it comes to Europe, the one issue where the UN plays a crucial role is Cyprus. I thanked the Secretary-General for his effort to promote a comprehensive settlement and for excellent cooperation between his Organization and the Commission. I recently had very intensive discussions with Prime Minister Erdogan in Ankara. I insisted the Union wants to see an agreement before May 1 so that a united Cyprus can join the European Union. We are convinced a window of opportunity still exists to reach a settlement before accession on the basis of a plan presented by the Secretary-General. The issues are well known but there is a need for more political will on the part of all parties involved. The Commission can provide technical assistance to the UN on issues relating to European law. We are ready to accommodate the terms of a settlement on the basis of the Secretary-General's plan. We are also ready to organize an international donor's conference to mobilize financial support for needs arising for a settlement.

Q: Sir, you said that you were waiting for parties to give engagements and commitments that they will find a solution before May 1, but what is the schedule in your mind, bearing in mind that on the one hand there should be a deadline for negotiations, a deadline for you to fulfill the blanks and a deadline to sign an agreement. And in addition, what is also the problem regarding the referendum, should the referendum be before May 1or after May 1? And for Mr. Prodi, there were particularly the Greek side on the Cyprus side are very keen on having a solution which is being you know in competition with the EU acquis. So do you think that we could find the solution or make arrangements within the EU acquis in the light of the solution?

SG: I have made it clear that my good offices are available provided that parties demonstrate their will and their determination to find a solution. There are four parties, four parties to the, actually let me be a bit more specific. There are two parties, the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots. And then you have the two mother lands, Turkey and Greece, who have a considerable role to play and influence. And there's also a security agreement between them, which will be part of the discussion.
If indeed we are going to try and settle this issue early enough for the expansion on 1 May, then if you work backwards we don't have much time. The plan on the table does envisage that the parties may have a possibility of negotiating changes to the plan. It also indicated that where they were not able to agree, they may give me the authority to fill in the gaps, which means that, if you work backwards, ideally we should try and have an agreement between the parties by the end of March to be able to have the simultaneous referenda in April to meet the May 1 deadline. And I think this should be clear for everyone who approaches me and says let's resume talks; we are determined to go ahead; we want to settle it before the 1st of May. That is the calendar we should be looking at.

EC PRESIDENT: For my part, is very short answer. As I told before, we are disposed to provide not only technical assistance but also financial assistance to the UN on all the issues related to the Acquis Communitaire and all the chapters that can be useful to be dealt in this situation.

Q: Marie Luis Muller from Reuters. To pick up on the question of Iraq, in August the UN became a target for hostilities in Iraq. I mean, what if anything has changed that situation today? I mean, do you, have you seen any evidence of any changes?

SG: Let me be quite honest and clear. We are still concerned about security. That is one of the reasons why we have established an office in Cyprus and in Amman and we've not returned in full force to Iraq. 

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