12 SEPTEMBER, 2000


Opening Statement of Alvaro de Soto:

“In response to the invitation from the Secretary-General the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parties began last December in New York, proximity talks to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement. These talks have been going on for a number of months now, we view this is a continuous process with breaks some longer than others, sometimes for reasons beyond our control. They have been taken place in New York in December, in Geneva in February and again in July until the beginning of August.

Now the Secretary General has met this afternoon first with Mr. Clerides and then with Mr. Denktash and he made a number of points to them, in particular about how he sees the process unfolding and the basic guidelines which he expects to be followed, among other things in respect of the relations with the press and he has once more reiterated his wish that there will be a moratorium on contacts with the press both on the substance and on procedure in the interests of the good conduct of the process for which confidentiality is essential.

Now, among other things, the Secretary-General had read to them a statement which I will make available to you and which reads as follows.”

Following is the text of the statement of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, read today to the participants in the Cyprus proximity talks, Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash:

"The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parties have been participating, since December 1999, in proximity talks to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement. I believe the time has now come to move ahead.

In the course of these talks I have ascertained that the parties share a common desire to bring about, thorough negotiations in which each represents its side - and no one else - as the political equal of the other, a comprehensive settlement enshrining a new partnership on which to build a better future in peace, security and prosperity on a united island.

In this spirit, and with the purpose of expediting negotiations in good faith and without preconditions on all issues before them, I have concluded that the equal status of the parties must and should be recognized explicitly in the comprehensive settlement, which will embody the results of the detailed negotiations required to translate this concept into clear and practical provisions.”

de Soto: The Secretary-General has invited Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash to meet with me starting tomorrow and he has also told them that he is allowing for the possibility himself at appropriate times to join in the talks personally, so he is prepared to take some at more active role than he has dome until now. But having said this and within the limits that had been set by the Secretary-General I am prepared to address questions.

Question: Are they (the leaders) going to take part tomorrow?

de Soto: The Secretary-General has never seen an invitation of his to the parties rebuffed until now, so we have full expectation that it will be.

Question: The mandate of the Secretary-General from the Security Council specifically defines that the solution will be bicommunal, bizonal, federation, why those three words are absent from the statement?

de Soto: As I said earlier the Secretary-General made a number of points and this is merely a portion of the statement. It does not purport to enshrine all of the UN positions in these talks. One of the points that the Secretary-General reiterated is that his mandate emanates from the Security Council, specifically of course the Secretary-General in these good offices efforts, is acting within the framework of resolution 1250 which quite clearly asks that full consideration be given to all relevant Security Council resolutions. So that of course remains.

Question: Could you be please elaborate a little bit what you mean by saying the Secretary-General is going to play a more active role?

de Soto: What I mean by that is simply that the Secretary-General has told both Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash that he is considering actually joining the talks at appropriate times when they are in New York in the course of this month.

Question: In the statement the Secretary-General has read to the two leaders he says I have concluded that the equal status of the parties must and should be recognized explicitly in a comprehensive settlement. Could you care to elaborate and explain to us what the equal status of the parties mean? Does it mean political equality as defined in the UN resolutions or what?

de Soto: It says at the end of the letter which I admit is rather long and elaborate sentence. The precise meaning of this, of the notion of the equal status of the party which is of course political equality, has to be translated in clear and practical provisions, in legal terms, which will have to be a part of the comprehensive settlement. So the precise and elaborate definition of this point will have to await until negotiations on the comprehensive settlement conclude.

Question: So am I to understand that we are moving away from the UN definition of political equality?

de Soto: The language if you actually compare it with the tones of documents that have been produced on Cyprus over the years, you will find that the latter portion of this paragraph, there’s a striking similarity to something that was said by the Secretary-General in his report to the Security Council on his good offices in June of 1999.

Question: Did this statement satisfied both parties and are we ready now to move to direct talks?

de Soto: Two points on that. The first is that the Secretary-General didn’t ask for approval of his statement by the parties. It is his statement. This is his assessment, this is what he feels must happen, and this is the guideline that he will follow. On your second question I think that the key is in the last sentence of the first paragraph. “I believe that the time has now come to move ahead” that is exactly what he says.

Question: The time is tomorrow. Are they going to start tomorrow?

de Soto: They have been invited as I said, to meet tomorrow with me.

Question: Any timetable by the Secretary-General?

de Soto: I will be letting you know.

Question: Can you explain the phrase that “each represents its side and no-one else” what you mean? The sides represents someone else?

de Soto: Mr. Clerides represents the Greek Cypriot side and Mr. Denktash represents the Turkish Cypriot side. No-one at the table can purport to represent anyone but his own side. That’s what it means.

Question: There have been several statements from the Turkish Prime Minister and Mr. Denktash insisting on no negotiations on substance unless there is recognition. Have you had any indication of a change in this approach?

de Soto: I think that what we have is strong desire by the Secretary General which he hopes that all sides will support him in which is to move ahead with the negotiating process.

Question: My question was if they are ready to start meeting face to face?

de Soto: That is not at what the Secretary-General is proposing now. We have not made an issue about face to face negotiations. The terms of the invitation talk about meaningful negotiations and that is what we are encouraging the parties to engage in. If that has to be face to face perhaps at the appropriate moment that may be required. But in the meantime we don’t view that as a necessity nor are we pressing for it.

Question: When you say meaningful negotiations do you mean it is the stage of give and take?

de Soto: Negotiations usually means give and take and we surely understand that way.

Question: You said that this is what the Secretary-General has read out to the two parties without asking for a response. Could you tell us what response if any the parties gave to the Secretary-General?

de Soto: I think you know what my answer in that question is.

Question: Was it favorable then?

de Soto: I don't think I want to characterize it. They were interesting meetings. Let me just put that way.

Question: But you did get a response, did you?

de Soto: Let’s say that we got reactions.

Question: Why the meeting with President Clerides took so long?

de Soto: I won’t go into that.

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