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DE SOTO: VERY ENCOURAGING START TO THE DIRECT TALKS
2002-01-16 21:33:34

Nicosia, Jan 16 (CNA) -- Alvaro de Soto, UN Secretary General's special adviser on Cyprus, has said today's first meeting between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot community was "a very encouraging start," noting they engaged immediately on the substance. He also said the two have agreed to meet three times a week, starting Monday, and described the climate at today's meeting "good and cordial" and announced that journalists will no longer be allowed to cover future meetings, which take place in a renovated building in the Nicosia airport area, now under UN control.



"The two leaders met today in private first in my presence and they had a good discussion on the substance, they subsequently met with their advisers," de Soto told over 100 media representatives, adding that "they have agreed to establish a pattern of meetings, which will be Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays starting at 5 pm, beginning on Monday next."

He said Clerides and Denktash want to "reflect in the remainder of this week on what they discussed today."

Asked how important an achievement was today's meeting for him, the UN top envoy on Cyprus replied "I thought it was a very encouraging start, they engaged immediately on the substance."

Replying to questions, he said his role at the talks is to "assist in any way I can."

He also clarified that when the two leaders met alone, he was alone too without his advisers but when they met with their advisers, his advisers were present as well.

President Clerides was accompanied by Attorney General Alecos Markides, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou and Undersecretary to the President Pantelis Kouros.

Denktash was accompanied by one adviser, his self-styled undersecretary to the president Elgun Olgun only.

De Soto normally has with him three aides, including a legal adviser.

In his brief remarks to the press, de Soto said that his statement today was "probably the last you will hear from me for sometime" but explained that journalists will be called if there is any announcement to be made in the future.

"The usual pattern will be that no press will be present at future meeting, they will be proceeding at a businesslike pace," he said.

Replying to other questions, he said he is settled on the island for the duration of these talks.

President Clerides did not make any statement as he was leaving the premises where the talks took place.

Denktash said he had a "very good" meeting during which he discussed the substance of the Cyprus question, adding that the next meeting is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

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