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Hellenes Abroad / Greece

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New York28.04.2010

Thanks very much Martin. I just thought I should say a few words about Cyprus at the outset and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about the subject, I am Alexander Downer the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus. I am in New York all of this week, I’m meeting with the Secretary-General, with the USGs Le Roy and Pascoe and with the Cyprus team at the Secretariat here, I will meet of course with some of the Missions, the P5 Missions and also some other interested parties not least the Republic of Cyprus Mission and others.

This is a good opportunity for me and the United Nations Secretariat more generally, to think where we are at on the Cyprus file and to think about where we are going.

It is our view that there has been good progress made in the negotiation so far. Of course they’ve been going on for a fair while since September the 3rd 2008. But very good progress had been made, there has been a broad measure of agreement on governance and power sharing chapter which is a very complex chapter and on the economy and on the EU matters and we’ve been pleased with the progress that has been made.

Obviously everybody is aware that there has been an election in the north of Cyprus and a change of leadership of the Turkish Cypriots from Mr. Talat to Mr. Eroglu and of course the leadership for the Turkish Cypriots is a matter for the Turkish Cypriots. The Secretary-General and I, have both, spoken to Mr. Eroglu, we’ve spoken of course to Mr. Christofias as well and we have also, the two of us, spoken to Mr. Davutoglu, the Foreign Minister of Turkey in the wake of this election.

It is our view that the process should continue on the basis of what has taken place so far , it’s a point that the Secretary-General has made and a point that I have made , I’ve already said that there’s a good measure of an agreement particularly on the 3 chapters I have mentioned, and we would like to see the process continue forward from there and the two leaders to build on the progress that has been made. As is well known these negotiations that take place are hosted by the UN and they take place on the basis of the UN parameters and in particular the relevant Security Council Resolutions and on the basis of the agreements that Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat as the leaders of their respective communities signed on the 23rd of May and the 1st of July 2008.

So we look forward to the continuation of the negotiations on that basis and we hope that those negotiations can come to a successful conclusion before too long. This isn’t an indefinite process, this is a process that needs to move forward and needs to move forward with a good deal of momentum and I’ve always said that and there’s obviously now a change in the leadership of one of the sides and we don’t want that leading to a slowing in the momentum and we don’t want to see the whole process start of course all over again when so much has been achieved over the past 18 or so months.

Question: When are you going to Cyprus, can you tell us more on when do you think you are going, what do you think you can achieve on Cyprus? Not two years, not ten years but so far forty years there was no progress there?

Downer: It is of course not fair to say that because I think over the last few months there has been a considerable progress, I think it’s fair to say that the negotiations have achieved, if you like, a broad design of what a united Cyprus would look like and under a federal system and as you know the basis of these negotiations is to create a united federal system in Cyprus and I’ve been impressed with what has been achieved, it is taking time there’s no doubt about that, but I have been impressed of what has been achieved and obviously we want to see the negotiations continue as constructively and quickly as possible and this is practical but building on the agreements that have been already reached between the two sides. So as you know we haven’t’ imposed any particular time constraints here. But I’ve always said that this process must have momentum, this process must continue to move forward and it needs to move forward fairly quickly. It can’t just drag on forever, this is not an infinite process and the leaders of the two sides are committed to establishing a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality and a single international personality. That is the basis of the negotiations that is what they’ve been endeavoring to achieve and I hope they will be able to finalize those negotiations before too long.

Question: You have described the progress as considerable and as very good. Does Turkey feel the same way?

Downer: Well you need to ask it (Turkey).

Question: Do they have reservations?

Downer: Both of the leaders, the Cypriot leaders have, of course Mr. Talat has now been replaced, but both Mr. Talat and Mr. Christofias explained their positions some weeks ago when the negotiations were understandably susGreek cookery promoted through MasterChefpended for the duration for the actual election. And to the best of my knowledge Turkey doesn’t offer a different view from the views that were expressed by those leaders. I seem to recall when Mr. Talat made an announcement, rather specific announcement of a number various of agreements that have been reached between him and Mr. Christofias, the Turkish government came out on the same day or the day after and made a supportive statement acknowledging what have been achieved.

Question: Do you think that we are going back to square one?

Downer: well certainly I don’t think there is any virtue in going right back to the beginning again of course, and we have no expectation that will happen just because of a change of leadership of one of the two sides. Our expectation is that these talks will continue from where they left off. And I think is pretty clear from the comments that the two sides have made since the election that is also their view. But by the way so there is no mistake about this, that is very strongly our view that we put 18 months all of us in hard work into these negotiations, a good deal has been achieved and clearly we do not want to waste that time and the agreements that they have been already struck by leadership of the two sides. I will be going back to Cyprus over the weekend so I’ll be there nearly part of next week. I’ll be meeting with Mr. Eroglu and Mr. Christofias and on the basis of those meetings I’ll obviously report to them on the discussions that I’ve had here with the Senior Officials of the United Nations including the Secretary General, I actually haven’t met with him yet I’m seeing him this afternoon. But on the basis of those discussions I’ll talk to them about when we are going to arrange the next meeting which of course is hosted by the United Nations but we would like to see that happen fairly soon. Obviously with the change of leadership amongst the Turkish Cypriots they need to put together their team and brief back their team and have some time to prepare. But we don’t want to be that too much of a delay we want to continue with the negotiation. It is very important that this process which has made very good progress, that the good progress is not wasted and it is very important that the process comes into a conclusion before too long that it doesn’t drag out indefinitely.

Question: Can we expect when they [inaudible] …

Downer: 71 exactly and then we will be finished. I don’t think so, no I don’t think we look for a specific about the exact number of meetings there would be, I mean will see how it goes. Look my only point is that we had as you quite rightly said 71 meetings over the period of around of 18 months. And we would like the process to come to a conclusion you know, sooner rather than later we do not want this process to become an indefinite process. Because you know if it just drags on indefinitely that constitutes a failure of the process. The process has to come to a conclusion at a certain point. And so, although we haven’t defined that point we would like to encourage the two leaders to really press on with the negotiations. Obviously they are complex negotiations, but many very difficult issues have been agreed on and so there are is still some challenging issues ahead. Not all of them are necessarily time consuming to deal with, some are and some aren’t, it is not necessarily a temporal question, it is apolitical question. And there has to be the political will on both sides to solve the problem. So I mean neither side of course, it’s well understood, can have exactly what they want and that it’s impossible. There has to be a spirit of compromise based on a determination to achieve an agreement. I mean they have to want to achieve an agreement and I think the two sides do want to achieve an agreement. So we will urge them to get back to the negotiating table before long and push the process on as quickly as they reasonably can.

Question: You said that you are going to meet the two leaders in Cyprus next week. Is it going to be your first meeting with Mr. Eroglu because you were the former Foreign Minister of Australia. Have you ever had the chance to talk to him. And also, Eroglu has sent a letter to the UN Secretary General lately, did you ever have the chance to read it and what are your comments about this letter.

Downer: As a Foreign Minister of Australia I say this in all due modesty I didn’t visit Cyprus in that capacity. But I’ve met Mr. Eroglu on quite a few occasions and I had meetings with him in his capacity as a significant figure in the Turkish Cypriot community and I’ve met with him in social functions from time to time as well. I’ve met many times and as far as the letter is concerned I have seen his letter and we look forward to meeting with him next week.

Question: Mr. Christofias has recently asked the Emir of Qatar to somehow get involved in the process. I’m wondering what do you think of that and how this is related to your efforts. I also wanted to ask you how does your office, your mandate relate with the actual UN presence currently under the leadership of Zerihoun. If you could just give us some sense. And also, and I know that you will not like this one but I will just ask you, your firm, bespoke approach, represents China’s largest technology firm which I’m aware that does definitely business in Turkey and it seems to me that it may do business in Cyprus , this is a little unclear…

Downer: I have nothing to do with business in Turkey. I have something to do with work in relation to the national broadband network in Australia. But no business outside Australia.

Question: But is there any firewall or safeguard because if your firm represents a company that triggers some kind of review…

Downer: Nobody would come to our firm, our firm has absolutely nothing to do with business operations in Turkey or in Cyprus or in Greece. We have no involvement with those countries at all. It is an Australian business which focuses on Australia. And we deal with companies operating in Australia. If those companies have interest in some other part of the world that is immaterial to us. They do not come to us to talk about their business operations in Turkey or in Iceland or in Burkina Faso. They come to us to talk about Australia and our company is an Australian company.

Now let’s go back to your other questions…

Question: But with all due respect. This is a question to the UN. Whether your involvement with a company that is doing business in the area that the UN has a presence …There must be some rules …

Downer: I think the Secretary-General to the best of my knowledge has full confidence in my integrity as a human being and has good reason to have. I’ve been Foreign Minister of Australia for 12 years, I have my own private life, I had when I was the Foreign Minister and my private life is mine and it’s private. And it’s mine and it’s private. And I don’t’ allow my private life to, in any way, influence my public duties here in the case of the UN. It doesn’t have any bearing at all on the negotiations between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots and the positions of Turkey and Greece. And it would be impossible to imagine that I could allow the very-very small role, and of course it’s ipso-facto, a very small role that I play in helping to advice clients through the bespoke approach. It would be incomprehensible that that would have any bearing to the Cyprus question. It’s just impossible.

Spokesman: Let me just add two things Matthew. One is that the SG specifically chose Mr. Downer for this role because for his long international experience first point and secondly because of his demonstrated integrity and I don’t think one has to say more than that.

Question: About the question on Qatar?

Downer: I am aware that he (President Christofias) met with the Emir of Qatar but this is obviously a UN process and Mr. Christofias and Mr. Eroglu are well aware of that.

Q: Few days ago and repeatedly Mr. Talat said quite few things about Eroglu and the effect his election will have in the negotiations. You said you read already his letter, Eroglu letter to the SG where he mentions one of the agreements but he omits the others. So what do you think the Eroglu effect will be in the negotiations, he already said he is going to re-visit every chapter in everything? How the effect is and what is the message you send?

A: My message, well look we will know more when we get to the negotiating table, but my message is a quite simple message really, and that is these negotiations have made considerable progress over the last 18 or so months. And we want the negotiations not only to continue but to build on the progress that has been made; now these negotiations are held under UN parameters, on the basis rather of UN parameters. These are negotiations that not just held under UN parameters but are based on an agreement that was reached between the two sides on the 23rd of May and the 1st of July in 2008. And we look forward to the negotiations continuing on that basis and coming to a successful conclusion. But what was said by people you know during an election campaign, well I spent many, many, I spent nearly 24 years as a politician and I’ve seen many in elections come and go. And so, I mean I just sort of, what was said during the election was said during the election let’s just see what happens.

Question: (Apostolis) You said there is significant progress, the leaders said so, but we don’t know what this progress is, we have never seen the actual agreements of the parties. Does the SG intend to record somehow this progress made to stay there and for everybody to know what progress has been made?

Downer: It’s not for us to publish documents against the wishes of the leaders. I mean you will appreciate to put this into some reasonable historical context. During the last
meetings of Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat, there was some discussion of whether they would make some joint statement and what would be in the joint statement and you would be aware of the joint statement that I read out in Nicosia and over and above that it’s important to remember this, that Mr. Talat did release some details of points of agreement that had been reached between the two sides. But these negotiations have always been private negotiations, I mean obviously in our presence with millions of points of agreement, there is documentation about that and it’s not really our role to publicize that in a way that might not help with the negotiations.

Question: The election results clearly indicate that the people of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus were not satisfied with Mr. Talat’s government, mainly because of the isolation problem. Will you bring this problem to the attention of the P5 during you meetings or with the SG?

Downer: Well the solution to the different grievances, I mean that is obviously a very common grievance expressed by Turkish Cypriots and the solution to various grievances in Cyprus lies very much in the successful resolution of these negotiations. And all will be solved if these negotiations are concluded successfully. And the suspension of the north of Cyprus’ full membership and its participation in the European community will be lifted and the north of Cyprus will fully participate in the European Union and the life and the affairs of the European Union and the difficulties economically that they have, will be resolved and through the ending of embargos and constraints on and them to be able to trade and deal with the rest of the world. All of those things will be solved with the successful conclusion of these negotiations. And the key, the key to all of these lies and the key to the future of the people of Cyprus whether they are Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots lies in the successful conclusion of the negotiations.

Question: But this is a continuing process, we don’t really know when…

Downer: Well you must be hoping to finish really soon.

Question: But until then the isolation continues, and people are not very happy.

Downer: I’m sure that’s a view expressed by many and I’ve heard that view expressed we wouldn’t set ourselves as analysts of these views. I would only make the observation that the problem will be well and truly solved by the successful conclusion of these negotiations. If the negotiations fail then I am not sure how that issue could be possible addressed. That will not be a matter for us. But if they fail it would be a mightily a difficult problem to address, if they succeed it would be automatically addressed and then problems will be resolved.

Question: Do you expect the negotiations to start in May sir?

Downer: I think that we’ve got a real possibility that that will happen –I think this is the way I put it to you. But let me speak to the leaders first and work out in my discussions with them what would be a good time to resume the negotiations. As I’ve said, be reasonable about this. Obviously Mr. Eroglu needs to put his team together, they need to brief themselves up-presumably they know a great deal about what has been happening so far. There is word that they will continue with some of the people from the previous Talat-led team on their team so that continuity remain and there is complete knowledge about what has happened in the negotiations up until now but we’ll see. Understandably they need to organize themselves and prepare their briefings and work out how they exactly want to approach the negotiations. I mean they have been focused on an election campaign and that’s now finished so now they need to focus on how they are going to take all this forward.

Downer: [answering a previous question about Mr. Zerihoun]. Mr. Zerihoun is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and to simplify it , he runs UNFICYP and I run the good offices and he is my Deputy for the purposes of the good offices and it’s an arrangement that worked incredibly well. It’s been a very satisfactory arrangement. When I’m not there, and I know you are very interested in this, I only do this job part time, Mr. Zerihoun has filled in for me with great professionalism and when I am there he nevertheless comes to the leaders’ meetings and obviously we cooperate with each other very closely. And UNFICYP provides a lot of back up resources for the good offices, you know they do a lot of our accounting and travel and all that sort of things. So it’s an arrangement that worked incredibly well and I’ve been very happy with the arrangement and very happy with him and he is a very good friend and we enjoy playing golf together sometimes over the weekends.

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Hellenes Abroad / Greece

Voices & visions Melbourne, 09.02.2012