Briefing by the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus
Mr. Alvaro De Soto to the Press

United Nations Headquarters
December 2, 1999

As the whole world knows by now proximity talks between the Cypriot parties will begin tomorrow at United Nations Headquarters, Mr Clerides and mr denktash are already in New York. They will be seeing the Secretary General successively one after the other in the course of tomorrow morning. There will be no opening ceremony that goes without saying for those who are initiated in the language of diplomacy under which proximity talks means that they do not meet face to face. They are close, within reach but they do not actually meet face to face and this is what they have agreed on. The proximity talks expected to last for roughly a couple of weeks. The Secretary General has asked both sides to remain until about the 15th of December , this does not mean that it will be necessary for the talks to continue until the 15th of December but this is the rough target date for conclusion of this particular round.

Now the Secretary General is hoping that this will be the beginning of a serious process that will be carried through with the participation of both parties constructively and seriously until the long elusive and sought after goal of a comprehensive settlement . They have agreed to come to New York and I should perhaps emphasize is to hold proximity talks in order to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement. And I should repeat that. Proximity talks to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement. These are the terms under which the parties have agreed to come to New York. That already tells you quite a bit. It tells you that it would be adventurous to expect that any agreements are likely to emerge on substantive questions during this round of proximity talks. The aim being a comprehensive settlement, the ground rule is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and these talks have the goal of as the terms of the invitation say to prepare the ground. This does not mean that the talks are going to be procedural. It is very much the Secretary General's hope that they will address while they are here the core issues that underlie the Cyprus question which in his view include Security, Distribution of Powers, property and territory. There are a number of other issues of course that one can by and large cluster them in this subject.

The secretary general spoke to both Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash in issuing this invitation some weeks ago and he met both of them in Istambul. There he made an appeal to them to come to the talks in a constructive spirit. That there should be no pre-conditions to holding the talks and to addressing the questions that need to be grappled with. That the whole issue should be on the table and that they would come in a constructive spirit with a view to seeing the process through until its conclusion. He also appealed to them in order to assist in ensuring that the right atmosphere is in place that they should exercise restraint in their communications, the public statements, the statements to the press on this patter. He has also asked them and he very much that they will comply with his request that during the talks that they in effect refrain form making statements. I know that this appeal by the Secretary General which I am reporting to you here is not necessarily going to earn me any new friends amongst the press but we have an effort that is being conducted by the Secretary General in the framework of the good offices mission that has been entrusted to him by the Security Council. These good offices when conducted seriously are conducted in confidence, precisely because of the ground rule that I referred to earlier according to which nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Premature revelation of a tentative agreement that has been put in the freezer while awaiting a comprehensive settlement might jeopardize agreement on the overall package.

So we will be proceeding I hope on this basis. The S-G hopes that the parties will observe discipline, and by the same token will have to be fairly restrained in his own public statements on the subject as I will be, however I think it is important that it be understood that given the character of these talks as proximity talks where they do not meet each other, the only authoritative version of what is actually going on in the talks is that which is held by the united nations, the S-G and myself since we are the only ones who will be hearing from both sides. So this should color any interpretation that you might give to utterances by one or the other party that should accidentally slip.

In practical terms this means that we will not be briefing you with any regularity on the actual substance. I hope I am giving you a fair warning of this toward the end that is as we approach the middle of the month or earlier should the S-G judge it necessary we might indeed come to you. But as a general rule we will be conducting this in confidence.


Question: Will the UN throw ideas to parties and is Mr. Denktash's press conference today violating confidentiality?

Mr. De Soto: The Secretary-General is a good officer in these cases, essentially and ultimately a progress in any good offices effort depends on how much the parties are willing to make progress and whether the Secretary-General will be submitting ideas is something I would prefer not to go into just now.

On second question, the Secretary-General has appealed to Mr. Denktash as he has to Mr. Clerides to observe the greatest possible restraint in statements to the press an he hopes Mr. Denktash will need this appeal.

Question: Question on comprehensive solution?

Mr. De Soto: The notion of comprehensive settlement has been the aspiration for a Cyprus settlement for a long time. The Secretary-General received mandate to conduct this effort, this is not to say that Secretary-General will not ask for and indeed expect from the many governments that take an interest in the matter to assist him either by way of advice or intellectual input and who knows possibly some measure of diplomatic assistance but the responsibility lies with the Secretary-General.

Question: Article says Denktash here because of Clinton pressure. This undermines talks?

Mr. De Soto: It is no secret that there was a collaborative effort to get where we are now and indeed some government leaders have made public the fact that they contributed to where we are now and Secretary-General is appreciative of this but I would not take it beyond that. Alfred Moses is going to see Secretary-General to deliver a letter from the President.

Question: Role of special envoys and what is target at end of talks, announcement, joint statement or statement from UN.

Mr. De Soto: I think the important thing is to get into substantive questions there are many things on the table, enough to justify going into the knitty-gritty and we hope some momentum will be gathered there and it would be the Secretary-General's wish that these proximity talks are indeed the beginning of a reasonably continuous and predictable process so we should emerge from here with some clarity as to where we are heading in the next stages. As to joint statements, it is a bit early to speculate as to whether that might be an outcome, I would be inclined to doubt it myself, what you are more likely to see for a period of time at least is statements, if any, by Secretary-General or myself.

Question: Contents of letter by Clinton.

Mr. De Soto: Today, I don't know contents.

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