Press Briefing by Alvaro de Soto
Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus
after the end of the fifth round of the proximity talks
Geneva, 10 November, 2000


Special Adviser: We have concluded several days of very intensive work here. As the Secretary-General said when he met you two days ago, he has invited the two sides to meet again in late January.  

Anticipating your questions as to whether the two sides have agreed to come, I can tell you that I was not in a position to press them for a reply to the invitation, since for scheduling reasons we are not yet in a position to give a precise date. As you know when the Secretary-General was here, he met them, and gave them some thoughts about procedure and also about some substantive aspects of a comprehensive settlement in the hope of facilitating negotiations. I would make this clear because there have been a number of press reports on this subject. He did not put forward a proposal. What he did was make to them oral remarks. I might emphasize that the status of what he said to them is just that: - oral remarks. The Secretary-General told Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash that what he hopes is that they reflect on and use these ideas, including all the ideas that have been put to them in the last few months, and react to them. We have said that serious efforts at reaching a settlement can only be conducted in private: it would not be helpful if the ideas were discussed in public or through the media.  

Question: When you last concluded a round of talks in New York you talked about a qualitative step that was achieved during that round. Can you say the same thing this time? And the second part of my question: you also referred to the phrase that 'peace may be at hand'. Can you say that too?

Answer: On the first question, what I was referring to is the depth and the nature of the engagement, which had taken a marked turn for the better in New York and that, I believe, continues to be the case. This doesn't mean that the parties are entirely or equally happy about the evolution of developments but they are still firmly engaged. On the second point perhaps I was being overly baroque in what I said earlier. I was making an allusion to a statement once made rather prematurely by Secretary of State Kissinger about peace being at hand (peace in Vietnam). It was rather premature because the war went on for many months after that. What I said in New York is that I was not saying that peace was at hand.


Answering a subsequent question regarding statements to the press by Mr. Denktash, Mr. de Soto said he didn't think it would serve any useful purpose for him to comment on statements made to the press. All I can say is that Mr. Denktash told the Secretary-General and has repeated to me that he will be evaluating the remarks made orally by the Secretary-General and that he will be adopting a position in this regard in due course. I look forward to hearing back from him on this and other subjects when I visit the island in December. As the Secretary-General mentioned, towards the end of this month I am going to Athens and Ankara and at the beginning of December I shall be in Cyprus.


Question: Concerning these oral remarks, how do you consider these remarks, you personally. How do you consider your efforts to continue?

Answer: As I said, the Secretary-General made these oral remarks to the two sides with a view to facilitating their efforts and to give them an idea of his thinking about some of the elements that might go into a comprehensive settlement. He gave this to them in the hope of helping them understand his views regarding where things should go. But they were, in many ways, general remarks and there are a lot of details that will have to be filled out as part of the ambitious goal of drawing up a comprehensive settlement which, as I said to you previously, is going to have to be rather a bulky product once it comes into being as we hope it will do.


Question: Has any progress been made? Have you taken any steps forward and does it appear likely that the parties might be meeting in face to face talks?

Answer: I don't think it would be adroit on my part to try to characterize where we are going. As I said on the first of November, I was not foreseeing any spectacular announcements or major breakthrough and I think that events have born out my prediction. I think I would probably stick to my general policy of not trying to characterize progress. As I said earlier, given the method of negotiations that we have adopted, measurement of progress is an extremely difficult thing to do because of the absence of the second point that you referred to which is face to face negotiations. No actual give and take in the usual sense is occurring, so I can't report to you that today it was agreed to do such and such thing. That is not how the progress is going to be measured. I am afraid it is going to be slow. We shall only see whether it works once we have a package deal at the very end. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. And more specifically on your second question, as I have said before I don't foresee moving to a face to face format anytime soon.


Question: Could you elaborate a bit on how other variables are a factor in your negotiations, in particular the question of the accession talks between Cyprus and the European Union and also the positive steps in that direction by Turkey?

Answer: It's a very good question actually because I am sure there are lot of people who are confused at the two events if you can characterize in that way the accession partnership issued on 8th November by the European Commission. The Secretary-General 's oral remarks to the parties occurred on the same day and this was a fortuitous coincidence. The Secretary-General would have liked to come to Geneva earlier but he had to rearrange his schedule because of the trip that he had to make earlier in the month to the Middle East. We continue to believe that certain external factors over the last year and a half or two are by and large a positive force that should help energize the process concerning Cyprus. Beyond that, I don't believe that there is any point in my commenting on specific episodes in those external factors. We just hope that any positive influence that they might be able to bring to bear will continue to be there.


Answering a subsequent question, he said the Secretary-General was conducting his mandate in the framework of resolution 1250 of the Security Council, which sets out the four general guidelines according to which the talks should be conducted and I won't bore the rest of your colleagues by repeating those guidelines.


Question: Earlier you said that you considered that the parties were not entirely or equally happy with the oral remarks of the Secretary-General. Do I detect a hint of disappointment on your part?

 Answer: Not at all. I was talking in the subjunctive and if I may paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, I would say it is not possible to keep everyone happy all of the time and so there will be variations. That is par for the course. We hope that everyone will be equally happy at the end of the day; that's when it counts.

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