Highlights of press conference by Alvaro de Soto
Under-Secretary-General and Special Advisor
to the Secretary-General on Cyprus 
at the Palais Des Nations
on 12 July 2000


Alvaro de Soto, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, said a written formal statement would be distributed to the media. As was announced earlier, the mid-July break would begin at the end of today. It came earlier than he would have liked. He had thought it would be useful that before the break, the two sides participating in talks should consider some points that he put to them. This morning he had orally given them some indication of how he saw things unfolding in the course of the proximity talks. He did not give the two parties anything in writing. The indications were essentially in the way of preliminary thoughts at this stage in the talks. They were, he hastened to add, not proposals. He had not submitted any proposals. He had just spoken to the parties about some ideas and asked them to reflect on them during the break and to give him their reactions when they returned on 24 July.

As journalists would recall, the Secretary-General has asked that a complete moratorium be observed by the two sides; not just by the leaders, but also members of the delegations and also at home in general. The Secretary-General and himself had explained the reasons for this. The Secretary-General expected this moratorium to continue uninterruptedly over the next few months, and that included the forthcoming break. That was one point that was very important if this process was to be maintained on an even keel. The second point that the Secretary-General had raised with Mr. Glafcos Clerides and Mr. Rauf Denktash when he met them last Wednesday, and which he wanted to reiterate now, was that given that the break fell at dates when certain sensitivities became heightened, that leadership would be exercised in order to ensure that the tone did not get out of hand and that it should not have a negative effect, either on the situation on the ground, or on the talks.

In response to a question about speculation that the “preliminary thoughts” that he had offered to the two parities had been created with the help of the United States and United Kingdom mediators, Mr. de Soto said that the purpose of the two talks was to bring about an agreement between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots. The primary source of inspiration was what he had been hearing from the two sides. Having said that, the United Nations was in contact with a number of Governments which followed these matters with great interest, some of whom had envoys in Geneva, including the two countries referred to in question. The UN welcomed assistance from all sides. But only the United Nations was responsible for the ideas out forward today to the two sides.

Asked about the schedule of the talks, Mr. de Soto said that as announced before, the proximity talks would resume in Geneva on 24 July. They would proceed until around 4 August. There would then be a further recess, after which talks would resume in New York on 12 September and would go into early October.

A journalist asked if the goal was still to find a comprehensive settlement, of if there could be an interim agreement based on his “preliminary thoughts”. In response, Mr. de Soto said he had not asked the two parties to give him their approval or to concur with the ideas he had put to them. He had requested their reactions. He hoped that in reacting to these ideas, the two sides would also come forward with a further and deeper indication of where they stood on the issues.

Asked if he thought the parties had abided by the moratorium, or if they should be “banished” to Camp David, and if he felt better or worse after this round of negotiations, Mr. de Soto said the moratorium could have been observed more strictly than it had been. As for the “banishing” the parties, there were many possible formats for talks. What they had were proximity talks and that format was perfectly satisfactory for now. As for the second question, there were many ups and downs in Cypriot talks so he was not sure if there was any purpose served by giving an answer just now. He suspected this would be a graph with many peaks and many valleys. What had to be done was to average them out.

A journalist asked if the “preliminary thoughts” tackled all the core issues or just the hottest ones. Mr. De Soto said he thought it was wise that he should not reveal anything about the contents of his thoughts.

Asked how long the blackout would continue, Mr. de Soto said it would continue as long as it was necessary to keep the talks confidential.

A journalist wondered if substantive talks could be started when talks resumed. Mr. de Soto said he certainly hoped that they would be able to move earnestly in that direction. Another journalist wondered when the two leaders could meet face to face, to which Mr. de Soto said that they would come together when the moment was right for them to do so.

Asked if the talks could by speeded up, Mr. de Soto said that given that the Cypriot problem had been around for decades, it was obvious that they wanted a culmination of these negotiations , which was a comprehensive settlement, to be reached as soon as possible. But it was more important to get things right than to get them done quickly. So if it was necessary for them to spend more time, and for there be some periods of reflection, and if it was unavoidable that there be some breaks for other reasons, then so be it as long as they remained on track. As the Secretary-General had said earlier, they were trying to take the long view and to keep their eyes on the prize which was a comprehensive settlement. The UN had not circumscribed its goals to July, but rather had sought to get, and had gotten, agreement on a programme of work with many days of actual talks moving toward negotiation over a period of months. So he was not unsatisfied.

Asked why he had met the Turkish Cypriot leader more times than the Greek Cypriot leader, Mr. de Soto said that the length of time or number of times he met with each leader should not be interpreted to reflect anything in particular.

A journalist asked if his “preliminary thoughts” had suggested confidence building measures? Mr. de Soto said that he had not gotten into such measures. The Secretary-General wanted the two sides to focus on the issues that needed to be solved as part of the comprehensive settlement.