Press conference given by Mr. Alvaro de Soto
5 September, 2001
In his opening statement the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General of the UN on the Cyprus Problem Mr. Alvaro de Soto said the following:" As it is well-known consultations have been underway for some time in order to put talks on the Cyprus problem back on track. As part of these efforts in which many have contributed the Secretary-General met last week with his Excellency Mr. Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader. During my visit here which ends today I have continued consultations with his Excellency Mr. Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader and with Mr.Denktash.
In concluding my visit I wish to make the following announcement: I wish to announce that on behalf of the Secretary-General I have conveyed to his Excellency The Greek Cypriot Leader Mr. Glafcos Clerides and his Excellency Mr. Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, an invitation to resume the search for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem under the Secretary-General's auspices. It is our hope that a new and re-invigorated phase of the Secretary-General's good offices will begin with separate meetings of the Secretary-General with each of the two leaders on 12 September 2001 in New York.
Let me add a couple of points before taking your questions. First you will see that there is no date foreseen for adjournment of the talks that we hope would begin on the 12th of September. What we would hope is that in the days following the meeting with the Secretary-General the two leaders would have separate working meetings with me as they have done in the past on the substantive issues that must be addressed as a part of a comprehensive settlement. The Secretary-General, and in this he is supported widely, would hope to see an intense period of work in the time ahead as part of a continuous process. The Secretary-General very much wants to be in a position to report progress on issues of substance before the end of the year. This is without prejudice to the guiding principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
Question: Can we consider the Secretary-General's Statement of 12th of September 2000 in which he foresees the establishment of a new partnership embodying the political equality and equal status of the two parties as the common ground for this new process?
Answer: The Secretary-General's public statement to the two leaders that he made on the 12th of September of last year and that he subsequently made public has not been retracted and obviously it still stands. There is no change in its status such as it is. As far as we are concerned that statement marked the end of the stage for preparing the ground and we would hope to see meaningful negotiations in New York and beyond.
Question: Have you this time noticed any slight changes in the positions of the two sides that would lead to a breakthrough, that would lead to accession to the EU with or without an agreement? I would also like to ask which would be the basis of the forthcoming talks.
Answer: I don't want to get in to an assessment of the situation and whether there are grounds for an improvement in talks. Obviously if the Secretary-General had not taken the steps that he has recently taken, if he did not have hope for the future of talks and for getting them back on track he would have not taken the steps that he has done which included his meeting in Salzburg with Mr. Denktash and my coming here. You have inquired for the basis of the talks. Let me tell you that as far as the Secretary-General is concerned, he has been and will continue to be guided by the principles of the Security Council Resolution 1250: No preconditions, all issues on the table, a commitment in good faith to continue to negotiate until a settlement is reached and full consideration of relevant UN Resolutions. The Secretary-General will be guided by the Security Council. As to whether other goals can be achieved in the course of these negotiations we should leave that to those negotiations.
Question: As you emphasized the announcement of the Secretary-General dated 12 of September stands there. How about the oral remarks of the Secretary-General on the 8th of November 2000. Do they stand there as well?
Answer: The Secretary-General did make some oral remarks to the two leaders privately, last November. At the time he made clear what their status was. And he also made clear that he didn't expect the two sides to agree with what he was saying or to negotiate his oral remarks as if they were a negotiating text, they were not meant to be a text at all. There is no change in that status therefore. Rather, we would like the parties to negotiate legally binding texts on the whole range of core issues.Question: You have already received the reactions of the leaders of the two sides. Until when do we have to wait in order to know it they are going to accept the invitation?
Answer: What I can say is that we don't yet know if we have an agreement from both sides. Mr. Clerides has signified his readiness to come to New York. I have not pressed either leader for an immediate response, but obviously one would be needed fairly soon. We are waiting for Mr. Denktash to respond and we hope he will do so in due course.
Question: To what extend have you managed to accommodate the preconditions which Mr. Denktash was setting out before embarking on new talks and to what extend have you managed to allay the concerns of the Greek-Cypriot side concerning any substantive changes in the peace process?
Answer: Given the guiding principles of the Security Council on the Cyprus problem, I don't think that it would be appropriate to discuss preconditions and whether they have been accepted at all. There has been quite a bit of public discussion on many points regarding the talks including what is the basis and whether that should be changed. I should comment here that I have never been entirely sure what was meant by the basis of the talks, which would imply, at least intellectually, that there is some agreed platform to which both sides are committed I think that misses the point. We of course expect both sides to be committed to the overall goal of a comprehensive settlement but it is clear that there is some considerable distance between the publicly stated positions of the sides. So it will require flexibility, real work, spirit of compromise and political will in order to achieve a mutually acceptable outcome. Such an outcome must be fair, viable and it must sort out all issues, which is not to say necessarily that we are looking for equal distance solutions, and we understand that that is one of the many words that, should not be used in the context of efforts to solve the problem of Cyprus. We do not believe that it is useful to try to negotiate, either now or during the negotiations, some sort of framework agreement to establish a platform for the negotiations.
Question: Will the talks start on a new ground or will they be based on what it was set on the previous round including the non-paper submitted?
Answer: I have already said that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed I don't want to get into a discussion on papers or non-papers which may or may have not been handed in the talks, particularly if as non-papers have no status or existence. Obviously certain ideas that we put in the course of last year to the two sides have not suddenly vanished from our minds but nothing formal has been put forward. We are still in the process of developing ideas and we are open - minded about them as we hope the parties would be as well.
Question: If nothing is agreed until everything is agreed how can you reconcile the diversion of principles as expressed by the Secretary-General on the 12th of September and 8th of November 2000?
Answer: The 12th of September statement that the Secretary-General made to the two sides was not submitted for agreement to the two sides. So we do not think that there is any clash to the principle "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".
Question: Since President Clerides has to be back to Cyprus on the 17th of September when do you plan to finish this round of talks? Secondly what do you expect by such a short period of negotiations that would only last 5 days?
Answer: If there is concentrated work and willingness to push ahead you might be surprised on how much can be done. We have in fact put to the two sides some ideas on how to accelerate and intensify the process, in order to translate in to reality the idea it should be a new and re-invigorated phase. We would like to continue discussing that.
Question: When do you expect Mr. Denktash to give his final answer?
Answer: As I have already said I didn't press him on Mr. Clerides for a reply on the spot. Obviously we would hope that he does so in time so as to arrive in New York to participate in the new round of talks.
Question: Would the new round of talks represent a new phase of negations or a continuation of the talks interrupted last November?
Answer: I think that point is covered by defining this as a new re-invigorated phase of the Secretary-General's good offices.
Question: Last time you were here on January you said that the two sides were uncomfortably close to the moment of truth. What has changed for you to hope that they will attend the talks?
Answer: I don't think that there is a change to that particular situation.
Question: Is there a common ground between the two sides or are you going to New York in order to find a common ground?
Answer: We hope that the common ground would be developed in the process of negotiating specific legally binding texts. So let us go forward. There has been a lot of work in the past from which we can borrow. However wet have to be open to fresh ideas as well.
Question: What was the response of both sides to the ideas that you have put forward to they to invigorate and accelerate the process.
Answer: I would them rather not get into that.
Question: Are you in a position to tell the people here that there is some significant, even the smallest development that would lead to something positive?
Answer: I don't think that we would be in a position to actually report something concrete until there is something concrete.
Question: Do the two sides agree on the terms of a final settlement?
Answer: We are not quite there yet.
Question: Are talks aimed at a new partnership?
Answer: The Secretary-General said on the 12th of September that we would hope that effort would bring about through negotiations a comprehensive settlement that would enshrine a new partnership. He hopes that the two sides will join in an effort to give it a legal form.
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