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Transcript of Remarks by Special Advisor of the Secretary-General Alexander Downer following his meeting with the Secretary-General. Ledra Palace Hotel, Nicosia 27 April 2012


 

Transcript of Remarks by Special Advisor of the Secretary-General Alexander Downer following his meeting with the Secretary-General. Ledra Palace Hotel, Nicosia 27 April 2012

Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for coming. I think that it is important at this juncture for me to speak more broadly to the public, rather than to theLeaders or the Leader of one side.
As you know three and half years have passed since this round of negotiations to reach a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue began in September 2008. That year, the Secretary-General responded to the then Leaders and their desire to begin negotiations by assuring them that the UN would provide unwavering support in a process, the success of which would be critical to all Cypriots.
The aim of these talks has been to reach a comprehensive settlement based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation as set out in relevant Security Council resolutions. Since 2008, I have continuously stressed to both Leaders that they owned this process and therefore their continued leadership was the critical element to make it succeed.
We often use the expression, this is a Cypriot-owned and Cypriot-led process- it’s important to remember that. It’s also important to recall that since then a significant number of convergences have been reached across the chapters of the negotiations.
But it is clear to me and to both Leaders that the negotiations have recently come to something of a standstill. As you know, I met last week with the Secretary-General in New York to discuss this assessment of the state of the negotiations. Following this meeting, the Secretary-General called both Leaders to say he was very disappointed that the sides had not progressed as he had hoped. It is clear that something has to change.
Earlier this year, the Secretary-General wrote to the two Leaders pointing out that the talks had moved into the final phase. The two sides went to Greentree in January with three main challenges to resolve: the election of the executive, property and citizenship. As you know, only limited progress was made.
The face-to-face meetings of the sides held since January have still not solved these problems. The “food for thought” ideas that the UN has put forward have been welcomed by both sides. But the sides have yet to achieve the common understanding on property despite several months of work.
There have also been significant differences on the issue of the executive. The Greek Cypriot side has insisted that Mr. Christofias reached an agreement with Mr. Talat on cross-voting in 2010 whereas Mr. Eroglu says this agreement was not concluded and he has been opposed to cross-voting. Recently, Mr. Eroglu wrote to the Secretary-General suggesting that he would accept cross-voting in the context of a multilateral conference and this has been acknowledged positively by the Secretary-General.
There is no doubt that there will only be a settlement if common ground is shared between the two sides. We all need to face the facts. Given all this, the Secretary-General and I have discussed a series of options as far as the next steps in the talks are concerned. As he informed both Leaders, he has concluded that there has not been sufficient progress on core issues at this stage to call a multilateral conference. You might recall that the Secretary-General suggested that there be a multilateral conference in late April or early May after the last Greentree meeting.
Look- obviously the Secretary-General is not in favour of calling a conference that would be a failure. And what is more, while the Turkish Cypriots have been anxious to go to a multilateral conference as soon as possible, the Greek Cypriot side has said that all internal issues need to be resolved before a multilateral conference is held.
As you know, today I met with both Leaders and discussed the Secretary-General’s thoughts and I explained to both Leaders that there could be no more business as usual. The Secretary-General appreciates that both Leaders have wanted to conclude an agreement at least on core issues by the time Cyprus takes over the presidency of the European Union. It certainly remains the Secretary-General’s ambition to call a multilateral conference in the summer in order to conclude the final phase of the negotiations. But for this to happen the two sides will need to agree on the way forward. The UN will over the next couple of weeks engage in shuttle diplomacy between the two sides to negotiate the way forward and the precise way in which these matters should be handled.
In the meantime, the UN does not see any value in scheduling Leaders’ meetings unless there is a clear indication from both sides that there is something substantial to be concluded.
The Secretary-General has told the sides that it is never too late for bold and decisive moves and new ideas or innovative proposals. But if none are taken, then obviously there will be no further convergence on core issues.
Before I conclude, I want to say that this is not the time to get into some unconstructive and negative blame game. If the talks ultimately flounder, there will be plenty of time for that then.
It is critical for you to understand something very important. This process is Cypriot-led and Cypriot-owned. The UN is only here to help. But in the end, the UN can never want this agreement more than the two sides. If the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Leaders cannot agree with each other on a model for a united Cyprus, then we cannot make them.
Thank you very much.
Question: Can I just clarify, are you going to engage in shuttle diplomacy in the hopes that a conference would be called in the summer?
SASG: No, the Secretary-General would like to convene a multilateral conference in the summer to conclude the final phase of negotiations, but we want to engage with the two sides- obviously we have begun that process today- on the modalities on the way forward so the UN team will engage in shuttle diplomacy between the two sides in order to work out precisely the details of the way forward from here.
Question: And would that include a change in procedure ….(inaudible)…. Cypriot-led process?
SASG: Well, it’s Cypriot-owned and Cypriot-led, we can’t, remember, make them do anything, so that’s going to be very much up to them whether they think the UN should play a different role to help the process, but it’s clear that there is a general view that whilst a multilateral conference would be good to hold, and to hold that in the summer would be constructive, we need to have in place the right modalities in order to get us to that point. And the right modalities to take us forward in more general and broader terms.
Question: Taking into consideration the UNresolutions on Cyprus and taking into consideration the European Court of Human Rights, do you think it’s fair that the rightful owners of properties will not have the ability to choose to go back to their homes?
SASG: Well that’s really not a matter for the UN, is it? That’s a matter for the negotiations for the two sides, and that’s obviously one of the issues discussed and debated in the context of property issues. As you know, there was once before a plan called the Annan plan and it had a particular series of proposals in relation to property. This time the two sides have been talking about a somewhat different approach that hasn’t been concluded yet. Look in the end, it is a Cypriot-owned and Cypriot-led process- it’s important I make it clear that I’m not trying to impose anything on them. Many have said that I am, and I’m not. We operate according to Security-Council resolutions of course, but within those parameters we essentially leave it to the two sides to negotiate it. So the answer to that question is that that’s something they have to negotiation to the satisfaction of both sides.
Question: (inaudible)
SASG:Well, I’ll be away for the next two weeks myself, and the UN team will be going backwards and forwards between the two sides to hear their views and to see what we can do and what they would like to do. I have a sense of course of what they would like to do and I’ve obviously passed on to the Leaders some aspects of the Secretary-General’s thinking as well. But of course the Secretary-General is not going to decide exactly on the modalities- this is something for the two sides to decide. So, I think we just have to hear what they have to say, see what can be worked out, and when I get back I’ll talk to the two sides myself and I don’t know where we will be at that point, but I look forward to being back.
Question: (inaudible)
SASG: Oh, well, hypothetical questions are never answeredby politicians and certainly not by foreign ministers. Since I’m neither of these things any more but was for a very long time, I know not to answer hypothetical questions. I mean, I don’t need to deal with the hypothetical, that’s why I don’t answer hypothetical questions. I’ll deal with it if I ever have to.
Question: (inaudible)the UN SG believes that it’s ‘no more business as usual’ …. (inaudible)… that suggests a radically different approach- what’s up with that? What are some of his ideas- how will this be different?
SASG: Well, they need to be their ideas, I think it’s important to say- not us tying to impose anything on them. We need to honestly hear more about what they have to say. I think that over the next two weeks we’ll be in a much better position to answer that question than I am at the moment.
Question: Both the SG and his predecessor on numerous occasions referred to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, and both of them say that removal of the isolations will in some way have a positive effect on the negotiations. Do you think the isolations have a role in the failure, or stalemate (inaudible)…
SASG: Well, this is again one of those issues that is fiercely debated between the two sides and I think you know why it is, and what lies behind this issue. Obviously this debate will come to a stunning and rapid end, if there is a comprehensive settlement. Many issues on this island will be resolved as a result of the two sides negotiating a comprehensivesettlement, so debate over this will be automatically concluded without an agreement. It’s not entirely obvious to me how the status quo will change. That’s not a question that the SG or I can do anything about, that is just a reality of international politics. So, I think raising the question raises one of the incentives for making sure the two sides are able to achieve an agreement.
Question: Do you think it’s a coincidence that your position of ‘no more business as usual’, coincides with that of the (inaudible) ……
SASG:We certainly don’t take any sides in this matter, but we made it clear that we want to see convergences leading to a multilateral conference and I think we obviously haven’t achieved that. On the other hand we have made it clear we don’t want to see the process fail, we don’t want to see the Good Offices close- I don’t know whether that is a Greek Cypriot position- I guess that we can be accused of taking a Greek Cypriot position in saying that. We don’t take sides, we just try to give realistic assessments of the situation as it is. I don’t think anyone wants to keep business going as usual and it actually hasn’t been for the last few weeks. What do I mean by that? Let me throw a little bit of light on that to dispel your conspiracy theory- it’s clearly hidden in the question, the conspiracy theory.
Look, I’ve made it clear to the two Leaders, and they’ve made it clear to me, that the Leader’s meetings have honestly not been very productive, to say the least, over the last few months and I think you all know that- I don’t think that is a secret and instead of having regular Leaders’ meetings once a week, I think we should think about when we do have Leaders’ meeting and on what terms we hold the Leaders’ meetings. So, business as usual would be continuing with weekly Leaders’ meetings, not business as usual means, no, let’s convene a meeting when there’s really something substantial to discuss, the preparatory work has been properly done and we think the Leaders can conclude a convergence or agreement at that meeting. So, that’s not taking anybody’s side- I’m trying to be as careful as I can with my wording so I’m absolutely not seen to be taking anybody’s side, but I think it’s important that when we do have Leaders’ meetings to make them really productive and useful and not against them.
Question: (inaudible)
SASG: Well, we operate according to relevant Security-Council resolutions, as you know.
Question: (inaudible)
SASG: Well, you know the answer to that- I’m not getting into yet another debate on about what Security-Council resolutions say. If you like, my office can furnish you with a new, full set of them. The UN has a booklet of all of the relevant Security-Council resolutions and you’re welcome to read that.
Question: (inaudible)
SASG: Well, we’ll have to wait and see. What I said was, and I chose my words very carefully, the Secretary-General hoped for a multilateral conference. Obviously the two sides, the Turkish Cypriots have been much more enthusiastic about a multilateral conference and the Greek Cypriots side felt that all the internal issues need to be resolved before a multilateral conference takes place. So, the Secretary-General has to take into consideration where the parties are at on this issue and that will remain the case over the next couple of months. But there’ s more than that- it’s going to depend on the discussions between the two sides on the modalities as well- so we’ll just have to see how that pans out.
Question: Your presence on the island has been diminishing….
SASG: Has it? Give me the evidence- present your evidence (laughing)?
Question: Present your tickets…
SASG: (laughing) well, I think you’ll find that you will be disappointed and you’re wrong. I was here for a couple of weeks- this month it’s true, I’ve really been focusing on New York, but I’ll be back here next month for a couple of weeks.
Question: Do you believe that the two Leaders and the interested parties have the will to reach a solution?
SASG: Well, I think you have to ask them that question. I mean they both tell me they do.
Question: What’s your perception?
SASG: It’s not about perceptions, it’s about what they tell me. And both Mr. Christofias, throughout the time I’ve been involved in this issues since I very first met him, I guess it was in July 2008 until today has continued to tell me of his commitment and I’ve no reason to doubt that. And Mr. Erogul, who has of course succeeded Mr. Talat, has given me assurances of his commitment as well. That’s one of the things about Cyprus- you don’t very often meet people who say they don’t want to see a solution to the Cyprus problem. I once famously used an Australian expression, so now I’ll stick to English and American expressions and not the ‘argo’ of the bush of Australia. But people are all in favour of a solution, aren’t they? The question isn’t so much whether they are in favour of a solution, but whether they are in favour of a sane solution and whether you can reconcile the positions- that’s more the difficulty.
Question: (inaudible)…..summer conference?
SASG: Again, this get’s back to the issue of hypothetical questions. Let’s just see how we go over the next couple of weeks in particular in discussing the modalities and the way ahead.
Question: … This will not be the end of the procedures?
SASG: Well, we ourselves, think it’s important to respect Security Council resolutions and the will of the Security Council to see a solution to the Cyprus problem, so I think the important thing is that we focus on that.
Question: …(inaudible)…. Summer conference…. Is the concern that the Turkish side would cease negotiations post July 1st no longer valid? Or is it still?
SASG:I think it’s fair to say that both sides are going to have to look at the modalities of how this issue is negotiated over the weeks ahead and we’ll see. I think you can say a lot of things about timelines- you can talk about the Cypriot presidency of the EU, you can talk about the summer holidays, August, everything is pretty much closed down, you can talk about the end of the year when we are in the full blast of an election campaign for the presidency. These are all issues and of course it’s important, not necessarily that you need reminding of this, but everybody has to think about it- I don’t know if Mr. Christofias is going to run for election again or not. But either way there will be an election in February next year and that is a point in time which is important and which there is an increasing focus on because it’s ten months or so away now and you just can’t deny the reality of that. Now, I’m not saying anything about his decision on whether to run, or that he doesn’t run, or what the implications of either of those decisions will be, that’s honestly nothing to do with the UN- that’s between him and his colleagues. But the fact is that there will nevertheless be an election and that’s going to be a substantial- and this might be understatement- distraction, in the months leading up to the actual date.
Question: (inaudible)
SASG: It’s the SG’s view that he hasn’t felt able to call a multilateral conference at this stage, but he would like to at some stage during the summer, whether that will be possible or not remains to be seen.
Question: Nothing has happened over the past forty years…… (inaudible) Are you expecting a miracle?
SASG: Well, that’s something you can speculate on- history won’t reveal whether I’m expecting, or even, believe in miracles. But I pick you up on your question that nothing has happened in the last three and half years, that’s not right. There has been a lot achieved in that time. I mean there is a basic framework around which convergences have been achieved. It’s easy to dismiss this when you’re engaged in the heart of the Cyprus issues, but actually the reality is that this is, there is a lot that hasn’t been agreed, as you know, but there’s also a lot that has been agreed and personally I think it would be a crying shame to throw away all that has been achieved over the last three and half years. I personally think it’s extremely important to try and preserve what has been achieved. I can’t pre-judge what will happen in the future, Imean a lot has been achieved and obviously it is possible for a full agreement has been concluded, not to say that it will be, but it is possible. But that will require a great deal of political will power on both sides for that to happen.
Thank you very much.
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Special Adviser to the Secretary-General Alexander Downer briefing the media at Ledra Palace Hotel, Nicosia, following his meeting with the Secretary-General at UN Headquarters in New York last week. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General Alexander Downer briefing the media at Ledra Palace Hotel, Nicosia, following his meeting with the Secretary-General at UN Headquarters in New York last week.

 
 
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