United Nations.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has urged the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus to make decisive steps towards a final agreement on the Cyprus problem, noting that at this state of the talks, to maintain the momentum and continue negotiations, even in an intensive manner, is not enough.
Speaking on Wednseday, after talks at the Greentree Estate in Long Island, New York, with President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, Ban said that at the end of March he would be hearing about the process from his Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer and, ”if his report is positive, consistent with the relevant Security Council resolutions and following consultations with the two sides, I intend to call a multilateral conference in late April or early May.”
Ban thanked the leaders of the two communities for accepting his invitation to join him at Greentree over the last two days, noting that ”this has been our fifth meeting together to support the leaders’ work to develop a comprehensive settlement for Cyprus, building on the steady efforts that have been made on the island since the resumption of negotiations more than three years ago.”
”When we met in Greentree last October, the leaders expressed confidence that they could reach a settlement. The two sides have continued their negotiations since that time to meet this objective. Just before this latest meeting at Greentree, I wrote to the two leaders pointing out that the talks have moved into the final phase. Substantive discussions at Greentree were an integral part of this phase, leading to a multilateral conference and an ultimate settlement. Both leaders responded by reiterating their commitment to a solution,” he said.
He pointed out that ”the two sides came to Greentree with three main challenges to resolve” namely ”the election of the executive, property and citizenship.”
”I asked the leaders to use this time to make decisive moves. Discussions over these two days were robust and intensive, although limited progress was achieved. I reminded the leaders that this process is Cypriot-owned and Cypriot-led. The UN is not here to impose solutions upon the sides,” Ban said.
The UN Secretary General noted that ”in terms of next steps, I have proposed that the sides complete the exchange of data on property within the next two weeks, to which they agreed.”
”Today my Special Adviser Mr. Downer will brief the Security Council in informal consultations. I will be providing a report to the Security Council on the status of the negotiations at the end of February. At the end of March, I will seek a review of the process from my Special Adviser, Alexander Downer. If his report is positive, consistent with relevant Security Council resolutions and following consultations with the two sides, I intend to call a multilateral conference in late April or early May,” he added.
Ban noted that ”at this stage of the talks, to maintain the momentum and continue negotiations, even in an intensive manner, is not enough.”
”I have urged the leaders to make decisive steps to move to a final agreement,” he added.
Ban also said that ”the UN remains convinced that it is in the interest of all Cypriots to reach a durable settlement,” adding that ”my Special Adviser and his team has been doing their utmost to assist the process and they remain ready to assist the sides in this important task.”
The clear prerequisites put forward by the Greek Cypriot side at the Greentree meeting between President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias, Turkish Cypriot Leader Dervis Eroglu and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon are evident within the UN Secretary General’s statement, President Christofias has said.
In statements he made to the press after the conclusion of the three-day meeting at Greentree, New York, the President said that “discussions took place without the achievement of progress again,” adding that this was due to the fact that “both sides remain firm on their positions.”
President Christofias expressed his point of view that the invitation of Ban to the two leaders was not justified as no progress had been made in the last two-and-a-half months.
“We have so noted both in a letter we sent to the Secretary General and during a meeting we had with him,” he said, adding that “we were clear that any progress achieved should be significant and resolving the internal aspects of the Cyprus issue.” Then, he noted, “we can proceed – as is provided for by UN Security Council resolutions – with the possibility of an international conference.”
President Christofias explained that both sides are firm on their positions as regards issues of governance, not only as far as the executive power is concerned but also as regards external relations, international treaties and airspace.
Referring to the property issue, he said that in all discussions held the issue is connected with the territory issue, expressing appreciation towards the UN Secretary General because in all his and his team’s relevant remarks the connection between the two is emphasised.
President Christofias also said that the Turkish side submitted certain data outside the deadline defined, adding that the data could also be found on the internet. This, he noted, constitutes a violation of the commitment of both sides for the creation of a committee which would discuss the relevant data confidentially.
“Unfortunately the Turkish side did not respond,” he said, adding that “the matter is still unresolved and the General Secretary’s statement calls on both sides to exchange certain important data concerning the property issue and to simultaneously discuss the property issue.”
That does not necessarily mean that maps should be presented, he said, specifying that this is ”not what we are asking for.”
”We are asking for the Turkish Cypriot side’s intention as regards our basic demand for territorial adjustments,” he stressed, explaining that this is means that 100,000 refugees from 1974 ought to be offered the possibility to return under Greek Cypriot rule and to have full ownership of their properties.
This will greatly help in order to discuss with an open mind the issue of property as regards properties remaining under Turkish Cypriot rule, he said.
Referring to the possibility of an international conference being convened and of timetables being set, President Christofias reiterated that he made it clear to the UN Secretary General that he will not accept a timetable for the international conference.
“The Secretary General expresses intentions in his statement, but under specific prerequisites,” he noted, adding that “the prerequisite is that significant progress will be achieved, which will meet with our approval and which Downer will report on.”
The Secretary General, President Christofias said, will consult us on whether this progress exists and on whether the conference will be convened,” stressing that the UN Secretary General’s position “will be in accordance with the last UN resolution and all the others UN Security Council resolutions as regards an international conference being convened.”
He further said that he would have wished for progress to have been achieved, thus noting that he leaves from Greentree “not satisfied”.
Referring to Cyprus’ EU presidency, which has been put forward as a milestone, President Christofias said that he has been very clear and decisive on this issue.
“I have made it clear that there is no correlation between Cyprus’ presidency – which is the presidency of the Republic of Cyprus and not of the Greek Cypriot side – and the possibility for an international conference to be convened or of the solution of the Cyprus issue,” he said.
President Christofias expressed the wish that the Turkish stance changes before July so that a solution can be achieved.
“I think it will be very hard,” he said, “having in mind Eroglu’s persistence on various issues which we cannot accept.”
Unless Turkey is truly pressed to change its position there is no chance for an international conference to be convened and for the Cyprus issue to be resolved, he stressed.
Commenting on the part of Ban’s statement referring to the achievement of limited progress, President Christofias said that “if the fact that there has been agreement for the exchange of data can be considered progress, then let us call it progress.”
He noted however that no progress has been achieved on the substance of the various issues.
The President also said that upon his return to Cyprus “we are fully ready and have all the necessary data which will be confidential.”
Replying to a question as to how it can be made sure that the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor for Cyprus Alexander Downer will move within the context of UN resolutions, since many were the times that he moved in the opposite direction, President Christofias noted that “there is always the Security Council.”
Despite the fact that Downer has acted in an adverse with UN Security Council resolutions manner in the past, the Security Council has on quite a few occasions ensured that the direction of the process is different from the one Downer wanted to follow, he pointed out.
“We have a multifaceted and multidimensional foreign policy,” President Christofias pointed out, adding that ”our contact with Security Council members is on a daily basis and it follows that we will be able to judge whether there is progress or not and to speak up about it in public.”
Moreover, President Christofias said that the Government will speak out if issues regarding the internal aspects of the problem are not resolved, stressing that «neither Downer nor any Downer can reach any arbitrary conclusions without being able to fall back on some evidence.”
Referring to the process to be followed upon his return to Cyprus, he said that it will be the same as before, something which is not particularly to his liking.
“We will keep to the specifications of the process with great diligence,” he added.