PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT GLAFCOS CLERIDES
AFTER THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL AT LAEKEN, BELGIUM ( December 15, 2001)
President Clerides ( Introductory Remarks):
Well, I will not make a very long statement because I prefer the dialogue from the monologue. All of you know that recently Mr Denktash and I have agreed to begin negotiations in the context of the good offices of the Secretary General, to a direct dialogue to find a solution of the Cyprus problem.
Previous to this we had proximity talks. I accepted proximity talks because Mr Denktash at that time believed that we needed proximity talks to prepare the ground. But, I very much prefer the face-to-face talks as a way to find a solution to our problem.
Now, of course, we shall begin on the 16th January in the presence of the representative of the Secretary General, Mr de Soto, and at that first meeting we have to decide how we begin and how we proceed. Therefore, we have a lot of work to do and for this reason, we decided that we should meet at least three times a week and without any further agreements, Mr Denktash made a public statement that the Cyprus problem should be solved by next June.
So, although this was not in an agreed period, I welcome his statement because we do want to proceed very definitely with the solution of the Cyprus problem.
Now, your questions, please.
Question: Are you optimistic that by June you will have a solution to the problem?
Answer: I am an optimist by nature, but that does not mean that I don?t have some reservations as to how quickly we can move. The thing is that we are going to the talks with the intention to solve the problem and where there is a will there is a way. Therefore, we must assume that Mr Denktash is coming with the same intention and therefore one can be optimistic reservedly.
Question: Mr Clerides you are going to have another meeting before the 16th January. When will it take place?
Answer: We have not yet fixed a date because it is up to me to extend the invitation. My idea is that this meeting should take place after Christmas and before the New Year. By that time the Ramadan will also be over, the Christmas will be over and therefore we both will be free for this meeting.
Question: I want to ask you the question that after 26 years and the first time you were directed to the North side, what made you change idea?
Answer: Mr Denktash was kind enough to invite me as his interlocutor together with Mr de Soto to dinner and I accepted the invitation. Because when we finished the meeting on the 4th and we agreed that we were going to begin negotiating, within the context of the good offices of the Secretary General that all preconditions have been abandoned and that we lean for a comprehensive settlement.
Mr Denktash asked Mr De Soto when he was leaving where he said that he was leaving the next day and he said ?Why don?t you have dinner with me?? and he turned to me and he said ?Would you like to join us?? and I said ?Very much indeed?. Then he asked me what menu I wanted and I told him and the menu was agreed. So, there it was. I went across and I had a very good dinner.
Question: Mr President you just had a meeting with the Greek Premier. Would you please tell us what you talked about??
Answer: Well, I have also seen Mr Simitis to brief him and there was a thought that I would might go to Athens to brief him. But, then since we are both here, I did the briefing here.
Question: I am wondering to what extent are you concerned that these efforts to ahieve a solution in Cyprus might be manipulated by forces inside the EU, who want to use the situation to block the entire enlargement process? Answer: Well, the word manipulation does not have a very good meaning.
We will not object that some advice may be given to us on matters which relate to the question of the acquis communautaire, because we don?t want to reach an agreement, which would be contradictory to the acquis communautaire. That will be a welcome advice.
But, apart from that, these negotiations are between the two communities, the Greek-Cypriot community and the Turkish-Cypriot community and there is a representative of the Secretary General and that is how we are going to be protected.
Question: The joint documents so far issued seem to mention that ten countries by name?.Does this increase the pressure on Cyprus to find a solution about the Cyprus problem. On whose side is time in this case?
Answer: We have been trying to find a solution to the Cyprus problem long before we applied to join the EU and we continue after application to join the EU, making efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.
There are many reasons which make us think that a solution must be found in the near future. That beyond the question of joining the EU, the EU has made it absolutely clear that it is no longer necessary precondition that we should solve the problem in order to join the EU.
That does not stop us from wanting to find a solution for many other reasons, which I don?t think I need to explain here.
Question: Referring to the draft conclusions, for the first time I think in a major EU document we see no mention of the Helsinki agreement by name. Is that any source for concern?
Answer: These matters were referred to in the meeting of the Foreign Ministers. It is been answered in the Foreign Ministers meeting. Ioannis Kassoulides: In the communiqu?s of the General Affairs Council, there is a reiteration of the decision of Helsinki.