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

15 December 1999

The Cyprus proximity talks at Headquarters have officially adjourned to allow for consultations and also for the holiday period, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus told correspondents at a press briefing yesterday afternoon.

The Special Adviser, Under-Secretary-General Alvaro de Soto, addressed the press after he briefed the Security Council today. He recalled that the parties had accepted the invitation of the Secretary-General to participate in proximity talks in order to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question. The proximity talks, during which, by definition, the parties had not met face-to-face, had begun on 3 December. The Secretary-General and the Special Adviser had conducted altogether nine meetings with each of the parties.

Previously, the Secretary-General had expressed hope that the talks would become the beginning of a continuous and predictable process, and that the four core issues that he had identified in his June report would be discussed, said Mr. de Soto. At his end-of-the-year press conference at noon today, the Secretary- General had said that he was the talks would resume early in the year 2000. The Secretary-General had issued an invitation to that effect to the parties; Mr. de Soto hoped that the exact date and place of the resumed talks would be announced soon.

Continuing, he said that the latest developments should be perceived as the beginning of an extended and complex process towards a comprehensive solution of an old problem. The issues were to be examined in great depth and with great care. Given that the talks were by nature confidential, he could not go into details of their substance. However, he could say that the core issues identified by the Secretary-General had been addressed, as well as other issues raised by the parties.

Asked about the hopes for the outcome of the talks, Mr. de Soto expressed hope that a comprehensive settlement would be reached at the end of the process.

Asked how the Secretary-General intended to proceed with the talks, Mr. de Soto said that he could not go into detail and appealed to correspondents for their understanding. However, the talks would be resumed on the basis of proximity talks.

Asked about an expected decision by the Security Council on the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Mr. de Soto said that the mandate of the Force would expire tomorrow, so he hoped that the Council would make a decision no later than that deadline

Asked if the parties had presented any position papers regarding the issues or items to be discussed during the talks, he said that during proximity talks, efforts were made to protect every aspect of what had transpired. Therefore, he would not respond to that question, now or in the future.

To a question as to whether the involvement of Special Envoys had helped or hindered his task, Mr. de Soto answered that the talks were being conducted either by the Secretary-General, or by himself on behalf of the Secretary-General. Negotiations had to have a clear leader, or facilitator. There were a number of Governments that had offered their services and assistance to the Secretary-General, who greatly appreciated their efforts.

Would the parties meet face-to-face and would it be better if they did so? a correspondent asked. Mr. de Soto said that it was possible. Such meetings had taken place in the past. Experiences varied, and he would not attach too much importance to a face-to-face meeting. For now, it was significant that the parties had agreed to participate in proximity talks as they had agreed to do.

Asked if the envisioned settlement would be based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, he replied the Security Council had taken a number of positions on the issues, and issued guidance for the conduct of the talks. Those resolutions were on the table; the Secretary-General was fully cognizant of them and hoped to facilitate a process that both parties could agree to. The solution needed to be lasting and fair.

Asked if additional information would be provided in case of new significant developments, Mr. de Soto said that what was significant was the fact that the two sides had agreed to come together and that there was an improved climate for talks. He was confident that the parties were indeed prepared to approach the talks in a constructive spirit, which would be needed for the negotiations to come to fruition. If correspondents were looking for "juicy details of what was going on behind the scenes", he could not provide any.

Asked if he were more optimistic today than he had been before the start of the talks, Mr. de Soto said that he was careful to avoid such words as "optimistic". He had tried to describe the Secretary-General's frame of mind -- which he shared -- and he would rather stick to that. Similarly, he declined to answer a question as to whether the talks were "producing movement, or not". Asked about the "sticking points" of negotiations, he said that they were many and varied.

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