January 17, 2019

Transcript of Remarks to the Press by Alexander Downer, Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus

Ladies and Gentlemen, I will just give you a brief outline of what has been happening during the course of the day. As you know the Secretary-General came here this morning. The Secretary-General met for two full hours with the leaders which included breakfast as well. During that time the Secretary-General instituted substantive discussions on four core issues of the Cyprus talks. First of all, on governance and power-sharing, in particular focusing on the issue of the executive, that is, the presidency. Secondly, on the issue of property. Thirdly, on the issue of territory. Fourthly, on the issue of citizenship.

Since the Secretary-General      departed, Mr. Pascoe and I and others have met with the two teams.  We      have had extensive discussions with them about these issues, concentrating      on those four issues that I have mentioned. I think it is fair to say, and      I am quoting the two sides here, rather than using my own words, but it      certainly reflects the United Nations’ own view, that these discussions      have been positive, productive and vigorous — appropriately vigorous and      certainly positive and productive. From our point of view, the United      Nations is pleased with the way it is going. We like the venue very much.      It is a nice place for the leaders to come to and their teams. I hope they      are being appropriately looked after here and I think they are.

Finally, about the future, well      tonight, we are having a dinner. This is an opportunity to continue      discussions. Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will return. Our expectation      is the Secretary-General will be here for about six hours. He will arrive      at about three-o-clock in the afternoon which is when the session will      begin with the Secretary-General and the leaders. And the Secretary-General      will later host a dinner that will be a working dinner. And that will bring      the meeting here to a conclusion. It is not finally decided yet, but it is      likely that the Secretary-General will talk to you on Tuesday morning      rather than tomorrow night but we will just have to wait and see.

Q: Has the United Nations      submitted proposals to bridge the gaps between the sides?

Alexander Downer : No, we      have not. We are not going to be arbitrators in this process. We have      repeatedly said that. We have said all along we won’t be arbitrators or      mediators in this process. But we are happy to be as helpful as we possibly      can be. We haven’t been submitting bridging proposals.  What we have      been doing is talking to the two sides extensively about the positions they      have as well as discussing the other side’s positions so there is a full      understanding of the positions. But at the end of the day the two sides,      where they make convergences, have to make their own convergences. The      United Nations cannot impose anything on them and we have no intention of      doing so.

Q: Is there any progress on      governance and power-sharing? Has the give-and-take started?

AD : Well, I think I      answered this question in Cyprus before. It is a sort of semantic issue.      Obviously, the leaders look at the different positions. The two sides have      tried to work out ways of navigating through those positions. So, you can      call it what you like. We would try to avoid getting into a semantic      debate. You will understand that I cannot go into details of what they have      been discussing but I have gone into the broader issues of what they      discussed. I did say that the discussions have been positive, productive      and vigorous. They are not just my words, but they are the words used by      the sides themselves. I think they have found it very positive and useful      during the course of today and there is still tomorrow ahead of us. And      part of that discussion has been on the question of the executive. We will      see how it goes through the rest of tonight and tomorrow.

Q: Was the venue chosen with the      purpose of softening the tensions and in order to speed up the process?

AD : The venue was actually      chosen because the Whitney Foundation has a relationship with the United      Nations.  The United Nations and the Secretary-General frequently use      this place for meetings. Indeed, he has been here yesterday and the day      before for a totally unrelated and internal United Nations conference. So      it is a natural place for him to choose and it is very much his own      decision to bring the two leaders here. It was his own personal decision to      bring them here for two days so they can stay overnight and spend plenty of      time exploring ways through some of the core issues. Look, I think it is a      beautiful house and a lovely park around it. It is an environment that      anybody would naturally enough enjoy. The leaders can speak for themselves      but they seem to be happy here. The alternative is to meet in the      Secretary-General’s conference room and that is a gracious but stark      alternative to a place like this. It is a nice place and people are happy      to be here.

Q: Does the United Nations      expect any roadmap after these talks?

AD : What will happen at      the end of the discussions, the Secretary-General will announce.  And      that will be tomorrow night or more likely Tuesday morning.

Q: Can you say that the      discussions are promising so far?

AD : Well, yes, it has been      positive and productive so far. It has been very good. So we will have to      wait and see.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit      about the format?

AD : The Secretary-General      began his meetings with them around the breakfast table. Actually in the      same room after all the breakfast material was cleared away, in a more      formal setting, the Secretary-General had a discussion with them, with the      two leaders sitting side by side and the Secretary-General and his team      sitting opposite them. The leaders had with them their representatives. Mr.      Ozersay and Mr. Iacovou were in the room, note takers and so on. After the      Secretary-General left, Mr. Pascoe and I and our people have gone to see      the leaders.  We spent a good deal of time with Mr. Christofias,      talking about the issues with him. We then spent time in the afternoon with      Mr. Eroglu and his team. And also our United Nations officials, the experts      have been going and talking to the Greek Cypriot and also to the Turkish      Cypriot experts. It has been a good exchange of views throughout the course      of the day.

Q: You were talking in      superlatives about the meeting. Is there anything achieved?  And why      only two days of meetings?

AD : It was initially only      going to be a few hours and then the Secretary-General decided, no, look,      what I really want to do is make something of this, not just have a meeting      as we had in Geneva and before that in New York that lasted for three or      four hours, but [rather] set aside a good deal of time. Obviously for the      Secretary-General of the United Nations, he has many issues to focus on.      And the two leaders have a lot of issues and a lot of work to do. They are      away from home and they obviously don’t want to spend too much time away      from home. So the point I make is, I think it is giving the whole Cyprus      question a pretty good airing spending the two days here, two days here      entirely focused on this issue, not focused on other things. And I don’t      think I would quite interpret what I said as superlative. I said positive,      productive and vigorous. And I think that is a good way of describing it.      The atmosphere has been very positive. The discussions have been      productive. It is vigorous discussion, and that is what you need in this      type of negotiations.

Q: In all previous joint      meetings the Secretary-General would make his statement flanked by the two      leaders. Why is it different this time?

AD : I did not really say      that. We have not worked all that out yet. In Geneva and New York the      Secretary-General read out a statement flanked by the two leaders. So there      is no reason [this time] why he would not be flanked by the two leaders.      That is not an issue. That is a complete non-issue. If they wish to be      there, they would be welcome to be there. Of course they would be. We      honestly have not gotten into that detail yet.  We have not even      thought about that. If they wished to be there with the Secretary-General      they would be entirely welcome, of course they would be.

Q: Why proximity talks now?

AD : Well, we have done      both things.  In a joint meeting with the Secretary-General in the      course of the morning we got to spend something like six hours with the      Secretary-General. We have also mixed that up with separate meetings of Mr.      Pascoe and me with the two sides. And I think there is a mix that seems to      be working pretty well. We are always trying to think of something      different. We are always thinking of creative and constructive ways of      pushing a process forward. We need to fulfill our obligations to the      Security Council.

Q: Do proximity talks imply you      are making bridging proposals?

AD : We are listening to      what they are saying and discussing with them their thoughts. We are having      extensive discussions with them. That is not the same thing as making      bridging proposals.