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Press Conference by Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus

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

27 April 2010

Very good progress had been made so far in the United Nations-mediated negotiations on the long-running Cyprus dispute, including a broad measure of agreement on the three “chapters” of governance and power-sharing, the economy, and European Union matters, Alexander Downer, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, said at a Headquarters press conference today.

Mr. Downer said the political chapter was the most complex, and now was a good time for the United Nations and other interested parties to think about moving the Cyprus peace talks forward, and eventually to a successful conclusion. He added that he did not believe the recent change in the leadership of one negotiating party would impede progress. The United Nations expected that the recent change in the Turkish Cypriot leadership from Mehmet Ali Talat to Derviş Eroğlu did not mean the negotiations would restart from scratch, but rather that they would continue from their present status, he said.

Mr. Downer emphasized that the Turkish Cypriot leadership was a matter for the Turkish Cypriots, and noted that both he and the Secretary-General had spoken to Mr. Eroğlu, as well as to President Demetris Christofias of Cyprus and Ahmet Davutoğlu, Foreign Minister of Turkey. “It’s our view that the process should continue on the basis of what has taken place so far”, and for the two leaders to build on the progress that had been made, particularly on the three chapters listed above.

The negotiations were held under United Nations auspices, the relevant Security Council resolutions and on the basis of the agreements that Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat had signed on 3 May and 1 July 2008, as the leaders of their respective communities. On that basis, Mr. Downer said, he and the Secretary-General looked forward to a continuation of the negotiations, and hoped they could come to a successful conclusion.

He emphasized, however, that the process was not indefinite. It must move forward with a good deal of momentum. “There is obviously now a change in the leadership on one of the sides. We don’t want to see that leading to a slowing in the momentum, and we don’t want to see the whole process start, of course, all over again when so much has been achieved over the past 18 or so months,” he said.

Responding to an assertion that there had been no progress “in 45 years”, the Special Adviser said it was unfair to say that because considerable progress had been made over the last few months, and it was fair to say that the negotiations had achieved a broad design of what a united Cyprus would look like under a federal system. The basis for the talks was the creation of a united federal system in Cyprus and, while it had undoubtedly taken time to get to the present stage, an impressive amount had been achieved, he said. That was all the more reason to want to see the negotiations continue as constructively and quickly as was possible and practical, building on the agreements already reached between the two sides.

He reiterated that while no particular time constraints had been imposed, it was clear that the process must continue to move forward fairly quickly because it could not just drag on forever. “This is not an infinite process.” The two leaders had recommitted to establishing a bizonal and bicommunal federation with political equality and a single international personality. That formed the basis of their negotiations and that was what they were endeavouring to achieve, he said.

In response to another question, he said he did not think any of the parties had changed position as a result of one party having changed leaders. He also did not believe there was any virtue in going back to the beginning of the peace talks, and had no expectation of that happening just because of a change of leadership.

The United Nations expected the talks to continue from where they had left off, and it was quite clear from the comments made by both sides since the election that that was also their view, he said. “By the way, so that there is no mistake about this, that is very strongly our view. That we put 18 months, all of us, in hard work into these negotiations. A good deal has been achieved and clearly we don’t want to waste that time and the agreements that have already been struck by the leadership of the two sides.”

He said he planned to meet with both Mr. Christofias and Mr. Eroğlu as soon as possible upon his return to Cyprus next week, not only to report on his discussions in New York; but also to discuss with them when their next meeting would be arranged. The United Nations wished to see that happen without much delay, while understanding that the change in the Turkish Cypriot leadership meant they would need to put together a new team and have some time to prepare. It was extremely important that the good progress made so far not be wasted by undue delay, he reiterated.

Acknowledging that the negotiations were complex, Mr. Downer noted that while the parties had already agreed on many difficult issues, some “challenging issues” lay ahead. The important thing was political will on both sides to solve the remaining problems, he said, adding that both parties understood that neither side could have exactly what they wanted, because that was impossible. There must, therefore, be a spirit of compromise based on the determination to achieve an agreement, he explained.

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For information media • not an official record

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