22/06/2005
Press Release
SC/8422


Security Council

5211th Meeting (AM)


PARTIES IN CYPRUS WANT RESUMPTION OF UN GOOD OFFICES, ACCEPTED


UN PLAN AS BASIS FOR NEGOTIATIONS, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

 


Under-Secretary General, Briefing Council on May Visit,

Says Gap on Substance Appears Wide, Confidence between Parties Not High


All parties in Cyprus wished to see a resumption of active United Nations good offices and accepted that the United Nations plan should serve as the document on which negotiations would resume, Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said this morning as he briefed the Security Council on the situation in Cyprus.


In an assessment of the situation following his visit to Cyprus, Greece and Turkey in May, he said that political figures on both sides of the dispute were maintaining cordial contacts with each other in an effort to promote mutual understanding, and there were useful contacts at other levels, as well.† He had been interested to learn that an independent bicommunal survey that had polled attitudes regarding potential changes to the United Nations plan had found the encouraging result among grass-roots opinion on both sides, that it might be possible to make certain changes that would secure majority support for the United Nations plan in both communities.


But despite those important positives, he said, on the negative side, the gap between the stated positions of the parties on substance appeared to be wide, while confidence between them did not seem high.† Those two factors, especially in combination, made efforts to establish common ground extremely difficult.† The Secretary-General believed that the starting point for the United Nations must be full respect for the decision of the voters on each side of the 24 April 2004 referendum, which position should guide the Organizationís approach.


He noted that more than three quarters of Greek Cypriot voters had rejected the finalized United Nations plan.† While the United Nations could not countenance a solution other than the kind envisaged in Council resolutions, the concerns of highest priority that had led Greek Cypriots to vote in that way would most certainly have to be addressed in any future process based on the United Nations plan Ė- and the Greek Cypriot electorate must have confidence that their concerns would be borne in mind in a renewed process.† In that context, a prioritized and exhaustive list of concrete proposals for negotiation would be an important advance, because it was very hard to address a long list of concerns in an ordered way if they were expressed without modulation or indication of their relative importance.


At the same time, he stressed, it would not help the search for a solution if Greek Cypriot concerns were met in a way that lost majority support for the United Nations plan on the Turkish Cypriot side.† The Turkish Cypriot electorate must have confidence that they too would be borne in mind in any renewed process.† Meanwhile, confidence on the Turkish Cypriot side and in Turkey, whose role would be critical, was diminished by the fact that, although a clear majority among Turkish Cypriot voters supported a compromise United Nations plan finalized by an agreed procedure, they had seen little acknowledgement of their efforts to achieve a solution and little or no improvement in their situation since the referendum.


He said that, while it was natural for each party to seek to protect its own interests, it was important to encourage both sides to focus on their overriding common interest:† the need to agree on revisions so that the United Nations plan could command majority support not only in their own community, but also in the other.† Outsiders could help, but it was the parties who must summon the vision, courage and political will needed to make a settlement, which would require compromise.† Leaders had to lead, not just follow, their supporters, and a settlement would only be possible if the parties acted in a way that conveyed respect, understanding for one anotherís concerns and a desire for an early settlement.


Responsibilities also fell on Greece and Turkey, which must keep in mind that the Cyprus problem should be settled on its own merits and in the interests, first and foremost, of the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, he stated.† The two countriesí strong support for the Secretary-Generalís mission of good offices must be matched by a readiness to think afresh on certain aspects of the problem, so that a solution could be achieved on the basis of a revised United Nations plan.


As for the next steps, he said the Secretary-General was mindful of his own responsibilities and remained committed to assisting the parties to achieve a settlement.† Moreover, the persistence of the status quo on the island was unacceptable, as the Council had made clear on several occasions.† At the same time, the premature launch of an intensive new process would be inadvisable.† It was to be hoped that the Council would agree that nothing positive would be served by a new effort that ended, as had the previous two, in high-profile failure or frustrating stalemate.


He said that, as things stood, the Secretary-General believed that it would be prudent to proceed very carefully and intended to reflect on the future of his mission of good offices in the period ahead.† He would take full account of the Councilís reaction to todayís report and would also be closely observing developments on the ground, particularly any evolution in the position of the parties in light of the assessment and observations made today.† Depending on the evolution of events and attitudes on the island, it might become appropriate to consider appointing a Special Adviser, who would engage the parties and explore whether the necessary common ground existed, or could be built, to enable the resumption of full-scale negotiations.


The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 10:35 a.m.


Briefing by Under-Secretary-General


KIERAN PRENDERGAST, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefing the Council on his consultations in Cyprus, Greece and Turkey between 30 May and †7 June, said that the Secretary-Generalís aim in asking him to travel to the region had been to find out where the parties stood, to seek their views on what, if anything, the United Nations should be doing in the current circumstances.† In Cyprus, he had met Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos three times and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat twice.† In Greece and Turkey, he had met their respective Foreign Ministers, as well as other officials and prominent Greek and Turkish personalities.


He said that on the Greek Cypriot side, Mr. Papadopoulos had said he was eager for negotiations to resume under the Secretary-Generalís auspices and that his people were suffering from occupation and uncertainty and wanted a solution.† On procedure, he had said new negotiations should be carefully prepared without deadlines, arbitration of substantive issues by the United Nations or third parties, and that only a settlement plan agreed by the parties should be submitted to referendum.† At the same time, he agreed that negotiations should not be open-ended.


On substantive issues, Mr. Papadopoulos had said that the plan finalized by the Secretary-General last year gave the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey ďnearly everything they wanted, more than they needed and more than was fairĒ, he said.† In his view, that was why a majority of Greek Cypriots had rejected the plan, while a majority of Turkish Cypriots had accepted it.† He believed that future negotiations could only be† successful if the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey understood that and they were prepared to meet outstanding Greek Cypriot concerns during the course of negotiations.


He said that the substantive points that the Greek Cypriot side would like to pursue touched on most of the main issues dealt with in the plan, including governance, security, citizenship, residency, property, territory, economic and financial issues, transition periods and guarantees of implementation.† Asked by the Greek Cypriot side for his initial reaction to their ideas, the Under-Secretary-General had said that he thought the other side would find daunting the breadth and depth of what the Greek Cypriot side had elaborated and encouraged them to produce a list of focused, finite, manageable, prioritized proposals.


On the Turkish Cypriot side, he said, Mr. Talat had said he wanted to see a settlement as soon as possible based on the United Nations plan and that he would like to see intensive negotiations under the Secretary-Generalís auspices to achieve such a settlement within a reasonably short time.† He had stressed the desire of his people for an urgent settlement.† On procedure, Mr. Talat favoured a process with United Nations arbitration and clear time limits for negotiation, since he was concerned that the negotiations might otherwise drag on indefinitely.


He said that Mr. Talat had stressed that Turkish Cypriots were disappointed at the Security Councilís failure to react to the Secretary-Generalís good offices report of 28 May 2004, particularly insufficient acknowledgement by the international community of the fact that a majority of those who had voted on the Turkish Cypriot side in the referendum had accepted a compromise United Nations plan and that the Councilís lack of action to help ease unnecessary restrictions that had the effect of unjustifiably isolating and punishing the Turkish Cypriots.† That lack of response should be remedied and, should negotiations resume, there should be some sort of mechanism in place so that each side would know their fate should the negotiations end in failure resulting from the actions of the other side.


On substance, he said, Mr. Talat had said that his people had been prepared to accept the United Nations plan, not because it was ideal, but as a compromise.† He had stressed that certain key features -Ė political equality, partnership, bizonality, bicommunality, the guarantee and alliance treaties -- were the essence of the plan and should not be eroded.† Other points of concern that the Turkish Cypriots would like to discuss in future negotiations included territory, property, resettlement of dislocated Turkish Cypriots, financing, and guarantees against usurpation of the settlement arrangements by either side.


He said he had told Mr. Talat of the Secretary-Generalís surprise at the Security Councilís lack of response to his report, but reminded him that 76 per cent of the Greek Cypriots who had voted had rejected the finalized United Nations plan, which was a problem not just for the Greek Cypriots, but for both sides.† Mr. Talat had said that he would be prepared to entertain minor changes within the parameters of the plan, but it was very important to have a clear and final list of demands from the Greek Cypriot side.† However, he regarded the concerns raised by the other side, as well as outside the parameters of the plan and unacceptable to the Turkish Cypriot side.


In Athens, the Greek Government had expressed a wish to see a resumption of the Secretary-General mission of good offices, he said.† In that context, Greek representatives had described the United Nations plan as the first comprehensive solution framework ever put forward, and it had come close to delivering a settlement.† However, Greece believed that on certain aspects the plan reflected the fears of the past more than it did the challenges of the future with Cyprus as a member of the European Union.† The Greek Government would want to see the two sides in cooperative negotiations based on the United Nations plan, so that outstanding concerns could be addressed and a settlement achieved.


He said that in Ankara, the Turkish Government said that they wished to see a settlement based on the United Nations plan, and that Turkey would welcome an intensive process under the Secretary-Generalís auspices.† For that to happen, the Turkish Government believed that it was important for the Greek Cypriot side to furnish a clear and exhaustive list of changes it would like to see to the plan.† The Turkish Government stressed the sense of frustration in Turkey at the Security Councilís lack of response to the Secretary-Generalís report of 28 May 2004, saying that that made it difficult to persuade people that Turkish and Turkish Cypriot efforts for a solution were adequately acknowledged.†


The Secretary-General had conveyed to Prime Minister Erdogan his surprise and disappointment that the Council had not reacted to the report or to last yearís developments, he said.† Also, both the Turkish Cypriots and Turks had expressed disillusion, as well as disappointment, at what they perceived as inadequate steps by the European Union to ease Turkish Cypriot isolation, which they felt they had been led to expect.


Assessing the situation, he said there were some important positives to acknowledge.† All parties wished to see some sort of resumption of active United Nations good offices, and accepted that the United Nations plan should serve as the document on which negotiations would resume.† Political figures on both sides in Cyprus were maintaining cordial contacts with each other in an effort to promote mutual understanding, and there were useful contacts at other levels, as well.† He was interested to learn that an independent bicommunal survey that polled attitudes to potential changes to the United Nations plan found the encouraging result among grass-roots opinion on both sides, that it might be possible to make certain changes that would secure majority support for the plan in both communities.


On the negative side, he said the gap between the stated positions of the parties on substance appeared to be wide, while confidence between them did not seem high; rather the contrary.† Those two factors, especially in combination, made efforts to establish common ground extremely difficult.


As he considered what course of action to take, there were a number of additional factors that the Secretary-General would bear in mind, he said.† The Secretary-General believed that the starting point of the United Nations must and should be full respect for the decision of the voters on each side in the referendum of 24 April 2004, and an approach that was guided by that full respect.


On the Greek Cypriot side, more than three quarters of those who voted rejected the finalized United Nations plan, he noted.† While the United Nations could not countenance a solution other than the kind envisaged in Council resolutions, the highest priority concerns which led Greek Cypriots to vote the way they did would most certainly have to be addressed in any future process based on the United Nations plan Ė- and the Greek Cypriot electorate must have confidence that that would be borne in mind in a renewed process.† In that context, a prioritized and exhaustive list of concrete proposals for negotiation would be an important advance, because it was very hard to address a long list of concerns in an ordered way if they were expressed without modulation or indication of their relative importance.


At the same time, it would not help the search for a solution if Greek Cypriot concerns were met in a way that lost majority support for the United Nations plan on the Turkish Cypriot side -Ė and the Turkish Cypriot electorate must have confidence that that, too, would be borne in mind in any renewed process.† Meanwhile, confidence on the Turkish Cypriot side, and in Turkey whose role would be critical, was diminished by the fact that, although a clear majority among those who voted on the Turkish Cypriot side supported a compromise United Nations plan finalized by an agreed procedure, Turkish Cypriots saw little acknowledgement of their efforts to achieve a solution, and little or no improvement in their situation in the period since the referendum.


He said it was natural for each party to seek to protect its own interests on both procedure and substance.† But it was important to encourage both sides to focus on their overriding common interest, namely, the need to agree on revisions so that the United Nations plan could command majority support not only in their own community, but in the other, too.† In that regard, the Secretary-General wished to stress the obligations of the parties themselves.† Outsiders could help, but it was the parties who must summon the vision, courage and political will needed to make a settlement, with all that that implied by way of compromise.† Leaders had to lead, not just follow their supporters.† A settlement would only be possible if the parties acted towards each other in a way that conveyed respect, understanding for one anotherís concerns, and a desire for an early settlement.†


Responsibilities also fell on the Governments of Greece and Turkey, he stated.† They must keep in mind that the Cyprus problem should be settled on its own merits, in the interests, first and foremost, of the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.† The strong support of Greece and Turkey for the mission of good offices, for which the Secretary-General was grateful, would need to be matched by a readiness to think afresh on certain aspects of the problem, so that a solution could be achieved on the basis of a revised United Nations plan.


As for the next steps, he said that the Secretary-General was mindful of his own responsibilities, and remained committed to assisting the parties to achieve a settlement.† The Secretary-Generalís good offices ought to be available to parties who requested them.† Moreover, the persistence of the status quo on the island was unacceptable, as the Council had made clear on several occasions.† At the same time, launching an intensive new process prematurely would be inadvisable.† He hoped the Council would agree that nothing positive would be served by a new effort that ended, as the previous two efforts did, in high-profile failure, or else in a frustrating stalemate.


As things stood, he said, the Secretary-General believed that it would be prudent to proceed very carefully, and intended to reflect on the future of his mission of good offices in the period ahead.† As he did so, he would take full account of the reaction of the Council to todayís report.† He would also be observing closely developments on the ground, particularly any evolution in the position of the parties, in light of the assessment and observations made today.


Depending on the evolution of events and attitudes on the island, it might become appropriate to consider appointing a Special Adviser, on a when-actually-employed basis, who would engage the parties and explore whether the necessary common ground existed, or could be built, to enable full scale negotiations to resume.† For, ultimately, it was only through negotiations between them on the basis of the plan that a settlement would be achieved.


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