October 18, 2018

Statement by the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus Mr. Alexander Downer to the press after his briefing to the Security Council at the UN Headquarters

Downer: I wanted to say that I have briefed the Security Council today, and at the request of the Security Council in the wake of the Greentree meeting and so I was able to told them what I have thought the issues were, where is the progress that has been made, where are the problems and give them a bit of a look ahead into, what would be done in Cyprus over the next few weeks and finally in Greentree again and what are the prospects. So we had a discussion about that, they asked a series of questions and I gave them some answers and as good some explanations as I could. Nothing very dramatic happened though.

Question: Are they enthusiastic about the result of the Greentree negotiations?

Downer: Well I mean they have asked me to brief them on the results of the Greentree. I mean of course the two sides go around and put their own interpretations on what happened at Greentree and that isn’t always easy in peace talks, but we do our best to try to just give an objective analysis of how we see it, I mean there was progress made in Greentree, there is still difficult issues to be resolved,so it’s a combination of things. So we were pleased that there was progress made, both sides made a real effort, but there is still work to be done, otherwise we wouldn’t be going on with the process in Cyprus and coming back to Greentree again in January. That is a demonstration of the fact that there is still work to be done, and that work will be done. The two leaders think they can make an agreement and I think that Secretary-General was encouraged to hear that and I am sure the Security-Council was pleased to hear that as well.

Question: Secretary Downer I think there is a slide or larger change in methodology from now until Greentree, some people talk about “shuttle diplomacy.” Why do you think, if this is the case, is going to be more helpful?

Downer: Well let me make a couple of points. First of all, no one as I said to the Security-Council, no one can want this agreement more than the Cypriots do. And this is their agreement not our agreement.  So we can’t want it more than they do. All we can do is help. And what we try to do is help constructively and if there is a better way of conductive meetings then they want our help with that, well then we are happy to go along with that. We did do a combination of face-to-face meetings and proximity talks, as they sometimes called at Greentree.  I suppose we will use the reasonably constructive process from Greentree to carry us forward, that is certainly when I am in Cyprus I’ll spend a lot of time separately with the two sides as well as of course the two sides coming together in a traditional meetings between the leaders. There is not too much has science in all of these, I mean I just think it’s useful for the United Nations to talk to the sides separately as well for the two sides to talk face-to-face with each other because ultimately they must make agreements face-to-face, they are not going to make agreement separately. And ultimately it’s their agreement; I mean it’s not ours. You know sometimes you look at the mediator and there is a sort of suggestion we might trying to force an agreement on them, and we are not trying to do that at all, we are trying to be helpful to the two sides and they have to make the agreement themselves. I mean ultimately both sides have to be happy with the agreement they’ve made.

Question:  And finally, the Secretary-General and you today you were talking about some progress made in Greentree, but the things that were announced either separately by the leaders or by the United Nations were things agreed either in the intensive talks from September until they came here, or even with Talat, some of the chapters. What is the progress that has been made in Greentree?

Downer:  Well I am not going to go into the details and I’m not talking about anything that it has been progress in Greentree, wasn’t progress as it has been made in previous times and we never said anything of this sort. We said on the basis of what was discussed in Greentree that there was some good progress. And we were pleased that the progress was made and the two sides made a big effort there. But it also was agreed not to lay all of these on the table, you know publicly. So that is I think, it’s a difficulty of course of in terms of the public wanting to know, particularly the media wanting to know, what was agreed and you know what progress was made on the one hand and on the other hand you know bearing in mind is a very sensitive and difficult talks you have to take that into account as well.

Question: Is the Secretary-General will write a report about this Greentree talks?

Downer:  No, I don’t think he will, there is of course got to be a report and that is for the UNFICYP resolution, and so I suppose work has been done on that by the UNFICYP people. But we are not going to do a separate Good Offices report between now and the next Greentree meeting.

Question: Do you think that there is a need for a more vigorous role for the UN in these talks between the two sides?

Downer:  No, I think the role of the UN is working well. I think it’s important to have some perspective here. I mean these negotiations off and on between the two sides in Cyprus have been going on for decades. Why? Because it’s difficult to find a solution. I mean they put together over the last three years a great number of convergences, they have made some real progress. I think the worst you can say about of this, this is taking a very long time, It has taken a long time, and longer than many would have hope.  But they have nevertheless put together many convergences. They still have some issues to resolve, but look the way we have done at is that we’ve changed our methodology from time to time over the last three years and I’ve been discussing that of what happened in Greentree. But I think the way that the UN has played its hand it’s probably the right way, you know the UN can’t want this agreement more than the two sides want it, so ultimately it’s got to be their agreement not the UN’s agreement.

Question: Is there a need for any other third party to mediate rather than the United Nations?

Downer: I don’t think that’s likely to work, no I think it has to be the UN, it has to be UN process.

Question:  I think it’s a following of that. They are some critics, and it sounds like that you don’t agree with them, they say at some point the UN’s involvement in a lack of progress sort of almost undermines some of the credibility of the UN, or Ban Ki-moon, that there be a time to say like enough is enough, here is a deadline if nothing happens, we are out of here. Do you share that view, what do you think of it?

Downer: What I think is that there might be a point; I’m not predicting this will happen but there might be a point in the future where it has to be accepted that there is just endless deadlock on the issues that are left. You wouldn’t want to throw away all these that have been agreed though but in some areas a great deal has been agreed.  And there are some divergences left and they have to be turned into convergences, I mean, theoretically we’ve reached a point where there was a complete deadlock and then the Secretary-General would have to report back to the Security Council that there was a deadlock and there wouldn’t be, what can the Security Council then do to get resolve the deadlock, it’s an interesting question. But we haven’t reached that point. The process, I think, it’s fair to say has been slower than we had expected three years ago. But it has been steady, it’s been interrupted from time to time by issues that have been beyond the control of  the negotiations, if I can put that way, by extraneous issues, the Turkish Cypriot leader changed. How far through the process that’s obviously let to some delay because the new leader had to get into the shuttle and so on. But this is taking longer that we would like but it’s a process so, when we asked the leader this at Greentree that they can succeed they both agreed, they can succeed.

Question: There are statements back and forth between Turkey itself and Cyprus about maritime boundaries. Does it have any impact, I guess, on your work on the discussions between the two parties?

Downer: Well it hasn’t had an impact within the negotiations themselves but it has had an impact on public opinion of course.