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Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

2 December 1999

Proximity talks between the Cypriot parties are to begin tomorrow, Friday, 3 December, at Headquarters, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus told correspondents this afternoon at a press briefing.

According to the Special Adviser -- Assistant Secretary-General Alvaro de Soto -- the parties agreed to the talks "to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement". Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash, who were already in New York, were each to meet successively with the Secretary-General tomorrow morning. The talks were expected to last until about 15 December.

Given the terms of the meetings, it was unrealistic to expect any agreements on substantive questions to emerge during the current round, Mr. de Soto said. As the aim was a comprehensive settlement, the prevailing philosophy would be, "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed". That did not mean, however, that the talks would be procedural. It was very much the Secretary-General's hope that the parties would address the core issues of the Cyprus question, namely, security, distribution of powers, property and territory, he said.

When inviting the parties to participate in the talks, the Secretary-General had appealed to them to do so in a constructive spirit and without setting preconditions. He had asked them to exercise restraint in their public contacts and comments on the matter. Mr. de Soto said the talks were being held in the framework of the good offices mission of the Secretary-General, which meant that they would be conducted in confidence, so that the parties could speak freely. "Premature revelation of a tentative agreement that has been put in the freezer while awaiting a comprehensive settlement might jeopardize agreement on the overall package."

Mr. de Soto said he would not be briefing the press regularly, but would hold a briefing towards the end of the talks. In the meantime, he was prepared to discuss the organization of the talks, but not the substance.

Asked if a press briefing by Mr. Denktash today was a breach of the "press blackout" for which the Secretary-General had appealed, Mr. de Soto said the Secretary-General had requested the parties to observe the greatest possible restraint in any statements to the press, and hoped that Mr. Denktash would heed the appeal.

To another question, he said that, "by and large", the two parties had agreed to limits concerning contacts with the press. The limits were no stricter than those that normally applied in a well-conducted good offices effort.

Asked if the talks might be undermined by reports that Mr. Denktash was attending only as a result of pressure from United States President Bill Clinton, Mr. de Soto said it was no secret that the talks were the result of a collaborative effort. In response to a specific question, he added that Alfred Moses, United States Special Emissary for Cyprus, was to meet with the Secretary-General to deliver a message from President Clinton.

Asked what was the target of the talks and whether a joint statement would be issued, he said the Secretary-General wished to ensure that, at this stage, the proximity talks would be the beginning of a reasonably continuous and predictable process, "so that we can emerge with some clarity as to where we are headed in the next stages". It was too early to speculate as to whether a joint statement would be the outcome. "What you are more likely to see -- at least for a period of time -- are statements from either the Secretary-General or myself."

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