STATEMENT TO THE PRESS BY THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL
The UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, today made the following statement to the press on his departure from Cyprus at Larnaca Airport:
?Let me share a few thoughts with you as I leave Cyprus. Yesterday I called on H.E. Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader, and on H.E. Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader. The three of us met last night and I had the pleasure of hosting both of them to dinner. All together we have had several hours of discussion on both the substance and procedure. I am concluding my visit here sobered by the challenge at hand but even more deeply convinced that this is the time to press on and rise to the challenges that we face.
As I said on my arrival two days ago, an historic opportunity exists now to reach a comprehensive settlement. There is no doubt in my mind that this would be in the interest of both sides and the region and this opportunity must be seized. I have reminded both leaders of the responsibility they shoulder and of my willingness to help them reach the goal they set out to achieve at the end of last year.
The two leaders have both stated to me their readiness to intensify their efforts. I am going away from Cyprus with the commitment of both leaders to go about this effort in a genuine spirit of give and take. Despite their differences on substance and on the time frame, I am still convinced that between now and the end of June they can resolve all the core issues provided they go about their task decisively and with the necessary political will.
The core issues I have asked them to focus on are governance, security, territory and property. Of course the two leaders agreed last December that all issues are on the table. I appeal to the two leaders to do just that and I am looking to the motherlands, Greece and Turkey, for sustained and constructive support.?
After his statement the U.N. Secretary-General replied to press questions as follows:
Question: You had these commitments from both sides in the past. What makes you sure that this time they will respond to this commitment and that they can overcome the difficulties as they appear on the procedure so that they can come back with some results by the end of June?
Answer: Well, I as you know had separate discussions with them and then we came together yesterday evening and I know that, as I have indicated in my statement, there are some differences on the substance and on timing, but having spoken to both sides and analysed it for myself, I believe that it can be done in various ways. I know that Mr. Denktash has indicated and again today that he felt June might be too soon. But I think it can be done if the will is there and I hope that they will find the inspiration to do it. Will and inspiration. We?ve been working on that and I hope it will be there. I also think in the discussions I had, my sense is that the two men can do it if they find the will and the timetable of June, in my judgements, can be met, if they focus on the core issues now in a spirit of give and take. From the discussions I had with them and the encouragement I have given them, I hope that they will move ahead in that spirit.
Question: You had the chance to visit and hear both sides. I am sure you had a sharp image from both sides. As U.N. Secretary-General what are your comments from the embargo towards the Turks for almost 30 years;
Answer: I think from what I saw on the ground and from the green line this morning, I noticed the waste and assessed that it could be put to good use, if one were to come to peace. I also had written messages from people and I saw in the eyes of people that they would want to see peace on this island. It was interesting and I have come to encourage them but wherever I went they were encouraging me and praying for peace and hoping that I can convince the leaders to find the inspiration to bring peace to them. My message to the leaders was that I hope they will find the inspiration. As I have said, this is a historic occasion and we have to really try and do it this year and I think it can be done. The core issues we?ve discussed for a long time and I think that both sides want to move away from the entrenched positions and proceed on a genuine determined basis, on a give and take basis and we will make progress. But I feel for the people, I felt their desire for peace and I can assure them that on my side as far as the U.N. Secretary-General, I and the Organisation are going to work with the two leaders to bring peace as soon as we can. I think this is the moment, that?s why I am here to encourage the leaders to move forward. Question: Without playing with words, can we say freely that you have succeeded in getting the two leaders to work out a breakthrough so that they will draft a new agreement before the end of this year?
Answer: When I left New York, I was asked that question and I said that one should not expect miracles from such a short trip. What is important is perhaps the message I leave with the leaders.
And as I said, I have spoken to them and I still believe we can make substantial progress by the end of June, despite the doubts on the part of Mr. Denktash. I would urge him and everyone concerned to really focus on the core issues so that we can move forward. I genuinely believe that if they focus on the core issues and put the interests of the people first and are determined to make peace, it can be done and it can be done this year.
Question: Are you prepared to put some ideas or some confidence ideas on the table to help the leaders find a solution?
Answer: We have indicated to them that I am prepared to help them, to assist them and to facilitate the talks. My representative here, Mr. de Soto, who is on ground will help them in the coming months as we move ahead, and I myself will stay close to the process from New York.
Question: Are you going to call both leaders to come to New York for intensive negotiations?
Answer: I think the main issue is that they have intensive negotiations and it can take place here on the island or elsewhere. If they do it on the island and we get results, they don?t have to come to New York to do it. What I told them is that if they succeed, I will join them here so that we can all lift a glass of champagne and celebrate.
Question: As the representative of U.N., will you take a stand on the core issue of twin recognition and sovereignty for both sides? Is this on or off?
Answer: As I said, the issues on the table are being discussed by the two leaders and I defined the core issues I want them to focus on. They have indicated that all issues are on the table. Therefore these issues are under discussion between them and I hope at the end of the day we will have a solution that they can both live and we can all live with.
Question: What about you? You have an opinion on that?
Answer: It is not my opinion that counts, it?s the outcome of the negotiation which we are pressing them to do because they have to come up with an agreement, and a mutually acceptable solution that they can work with. We are here to help them, stir them to reach to that conclusion, not to impose ideas or conclusions on them.
Question: Do you think that the prospect of membership of the European Union can bring a more balanced solution?
Answer: I think that when the two leaders came together in December one of their hopes was that they would conclude negotiations for a reunited Cyprus to enter the European Union with the next wave. If that were to happen it would be in the interest of the Greek-Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, it would be in the interest of the island and it would be in the interest of the region. And this is why I would want all of us to work towards that goal and I would also urge the neighbouring countries to sustain and support this effort.
Question: The press is reporting today that you are going back empty handed. Do you agree with that?
Answer: They seem to know more than I do because if they had listened to what I said in arrival and what I said before I left New York, the objective for which I came here, that kind of statement would be inappropriate. I came, as I said, to press and encourage the leaders to intensify the efforts so that we can make good progress in the coming period and to offer to help them to do that. This is what I came to do and I think that I am going away satisfied.
Question: Would Mr de Soto remain a facilitator of these talks or will he be able to play a much more energetic and productive role by producing ideas and papers?
Answer: Mr de Soto will stay on the island as long as it takes and I think for the moment he is going to stay here till the end of June which is the target date at which point we will make an assessment to see how far we had cracked the core issues and then look ahead? Of course is not just Mr de Soto. I myself in the spirit of my good offices will be helping the process along. So both of us will assist the parties as we move forward.
Question: What does ?assist the parties? mean? Are you just facilitating or are you going to produce some papers and help the parties overcome the difficulties?
Answer: We will do whatever it takes to help the parties get to a successful conclusion.
Question: The question of equality is a very important issue for the Turkish people. What can you do to satisfy the Turkish people?
Answer: I think the question of structures and powers is part of the discussions the two leaders are having. I think it would be inappropriate for me to tell you what I think they should do.
Question: Would you say that you leave Cyprus more confident than you were before you came here that an agreement can be reached by June?
Answer: I think a resolution can be reached. When you talk about a resolution to be reached by June I don?t know how you define that. But what I have to say is that we have to focus on the core issues and be able to resolve the core issues. And if you resolve the core issues by June you are beginning to see the end of the tunnel and you are making progress. I am not saying that by June they should have a signed and sealed agreement but at least they should be able to have resolved the core issues.
16 May, 2002