23 February 2003

I am very pleased to be in Turkey again. I look forward to my meetings tomorrow with Turkish officials, including the President and the Prime Minister. I will also see Mr. Erdogan. This is a critical moment in the region, and Turkey has a central role to play in tackling the issues that confront us.

There are many issues that are of common interest to Turkey and the United Nations, not least the Iraq crisis. But I wish to highlight the fact that Turkey is my first stop on a tour that will take me to Greece and Cyprus . You will understand, therefore, that Cyprus is the question uppermost in my mind. We have reached the high point in the effort under way to solve the Cyprus problem. This is the defining moment for Cyprus . We are all preoccupied by Iraq , but we should not let this distract us from this crucial moment.

On 16 April, the European Union is due to meet for the signature of the Treaty of Accession of ten new members, including Cyprus . I devoutly hope that the Treaty will be signed on behalf of a united Cyprus . This is also the strong preference of the European Union. For that to happen, the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots have to decide, in separate simultaneous referendums on 30 March, to approve a comprehensive settlement and bring about a new state of affairs. For this to happen, the leaders must come to terms in time for those referendums to go forward. That time is now. That is why I am here. I wish to do all I can to encourage the leaders to muster the spirit of compromise, courage and leadership of which they are capable.

As you know, the parties accepted to negotiate on the basis of the revised proposal that I put to them on 10 December last. It did not prove possible for the parties to come to an agreement before the Copenhagen European Council last December. Since the beginning of the year, Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash have had a number of meetings on the island, with the participation of my Special Adviser, Mr. de Soto . He has carried out intensive consultations in Nicosia , Ankara and Athens . Since 16 February, Mr. de Soto has also been consulting with Mr. Papadopoulos, as the incoming Greek Cypriot leader. In light of what we have been hearing from the parties, we have been carefully examining whether and how it might be possible to improve the plan, while preserving the overall balance that it contains. The parties are aware of what we have in mind.

My purpose here is therefore to discuss with the Turkish government, as I will do in Athens with the Greek government, how the two motherlands can rally in support of this last effort, and assist the parties in coming to terms. The opportunity is open. It is clearly in the interest of all Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Greece and Turkey , to seize this opportunity now. There is little time. Let us take advantage of it..

I will now take your questions. I will take questions on Cyprus first.

Q: [on if the Secretary-General would bring a new plan on Cyprus and if this would be a final one]

SG: Well, I think I have implied in the statement I have made that we are in touch with the parties. Mr. Alvaro de Soto has been consulting them, and I am here to discuss this issue with them, and hopefully to come to a settlement. I think both sides indicated that they know what I have in mind and I am looking forward to very constructive and successful discussions with them.

Q: You still think there will be an agreement at the end of the month?

SG: I wouldn't be here otherwise. I'm still hopeful and I think we can do it if the will is there.

Q: What is the role of the United States in the process, is there a pressure on the UN [inaudible]?

SG: There has been no pressure on me or on the United Nations. On the contrary, I think there has been great support for our effort to settle this issue and to help a united Cyprus enter the European Union. There has been increased support from the European Union, from the United States and other governments. And I think we received great support from this region and I hope we will be able to do it.

Q: [On Iraqi missiles]

SG: I think the letter that [Hans] Blix sent to the Iraqi authorities is very clear; that they have to destroy these weapons. The resolutions covering Iraq are enforceable under Chapter 7, and I urge the Iraqis to do it and I am confident they will destroy the weapons. If they refuse to destroy it, the Council will have to take a decision on that. It is a decision for the Council and I would not want to be drawn on that. But I don't see why they would not destroy it.

Q: [On Iraqi government]

SG: They should realize the urgency and the seriousness of the situation and the inspectors are in constant touch with them. And the inspections are ongoing. It is not only the inspectors - the Arab leaders and the whole world are telling them to comply. And I think it is obvious that it is urgent and they must do it. And I hope they are not misreading the demonstrations and the mood around the world. Everyone, including those who are marching in these demonstrations, wants Iraq to decide and they want Iraq to comply with UN resolutions. So they should not misread the public. And I urge them to really listen to the will and the demands from the international community and disarm for the sake of their own people and the region. So that we will in time see Iraq back into the family of nations playing its normal role without restrictions.

Q: [On the new resolution that the Americans have been contemplating]

SG: It is not certain when the vote will come. There are indications that the resolution will be tabled next week. But it is going to take discussions, negotiations, and persuasions. And these resolutions can take a while or they can move very quickly, so I cannot give you a date when the resolution will be actually [voted] by the Security Council.  


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