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UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Encouraged by Commitment of Leaders for Cyprus Settlement
2008-07-29 09:13:35

Nicosia, Jul 29 - Alexander Downer, the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, said on Tuesday that he was encouraged by his talks with the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, noting that they are sincere in their commitment to reach a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

Speaking at a press conference in Nicosia during a brief visit to the island, Mr. Downer noted that developments over the past months have fostered a genuine sense that prospects have perhaps never been better to achieve a comprehensive settlement, adding that there is convergence on quite a number of issues and that this process needs to move forward constructively.

Mr. Downer assured that the UN Secretary General's decision to appoint a Special Adviser ''reflects the high level of commitment of the Secretary General to assist Cyprus.''

He said that during his stay on the island he was briefed by the UN officials on the situation and met with the leaders of the two communities ''to hear of their assessments of the process so far and see how best they would like the UN to help them move the process forward.''

Mr. Downer said he was ''encouraged'' by what he heard. ''Clearly you have two leaders who are sincere in their commitment and in their engagement to move forward together towards a comprehensive settlement, and this commitment, evident through their joint statements of their recent meetings, have defined the parameters of the solution and the end game, and they have given the process a good deal of momentum,'' he added.

He noted that ''the Secretary General himself is delighted with the leaders’ announcement of the 25th of July to begin fully-fledged negotiations on the 3rd of September.''

''Developments over the past months have fostered a genuine sense that prospects have perhaps never been better to achieve a comprehensive settlement, favorable to all Cypriots,'' Mr. Downer said.

He furthermore said he looked forward to working with the parties and will be back on the island in early September ''for the formal launch of the talks.''

Asked what the UN role will be since there have been statements about a solution for the Cypriots by the Cypriots, Mr. Downer said ''this process is under the auspices of the UN, but the UN role is to provide help as best we can and we look forward to doing that.''

''The facilitators in the working groups and the technical committees I think have been doing a very good job,'' Mr. Downer pointed out, adding that the role of the facilitator ''is a natural role for the UN to play.'' He added that ''we look forward to being as helpful as we possibly can.''

Asked if he discussed the process of the direct talks with the leaders of the two communities, Mr. Downer said: '”we have had pretty extensive discussions during the course of this morning about a whole range of things.”

''It is looking quite promising, but there is no doubt that this is a very difficult process for them,'' he added.

To a question about the difficulties faced by the leaders of the two communities, Mr. Downer replied, ''one of things that has impressed me is the way there is convergence on quite a number of issues, but of course there are many unresolved issues still to be addressed,'' adding that ''the process had got up to a good start.''

Asked about the timeframe for the completion of the process, Mr. Downer said ''the leaders have not set any specific deadline but on the other hand, having said that, this is not a process that anybody wants to see roll on endlessly.''

''It is a process that needs to move forward constructively and as quickly as is practical, so I think that is being handled very well,'' he added.

Asked if he planned to be based in Cyprus, Mr. Downer said he would be traveling to Cyprus ''as needed,'' adding that he would be back in time for the launch of the talks. ''I will go back to Australia from time to time and I will clearly be here a substantial amount of time as well. We will see how it goes, as needs arise,'' he added.

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