UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon instituted substantive discussions on four core issues of the Cyprus talks, namely governance and power-sharing, the issue of property, the issue of territory and the issue of citizenship during a meeting he had on Sunday with Cyprus President Demetris Chritofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu at Greentree Estate, in Manhasset, New York on Long Island, UN Secretary General Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer has said.
After the meeting, which lasted two hours, Downer, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe and other UN officials met with the leaders of the two communities and had extensive discussions concerning the four issues. Downer said that the UN have not been submitting bridging proposals but have been 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, noting that it is the two sides that have to make their own convergences. “The United Nations cannot impose anything on them and we have no intention of doing so,” he stressed.
“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,“ Donwer noted.
He added that “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,” he noted.
Downer noted that 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.
Discussions continued over dinner on Sunday evening. Donwer said that on Monday 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,” he noted, adding that the Secretary General will talk to the media on Tuesday morning.
Asked if the UN submitted proposals to bridge the gaps between the sides, Downer said they 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,” he noted.
Asked why proximity talks are taking place now, Downer said that “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.”
Asked if proximity talks imply that the UN is making bridging proposals, Downer said that “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.”
Responding to a question if there is any progress on governance and power-sharing and whether the give-and-take started, Downer said that “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,” he said.
He noted that “we would try to avoid getting into a semantic debate” noting that he cannot go into details of what they have been discussing.
“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,” Donwer added.
Asked if the UN expect any roadmap after these talks, Downer said that the Secretary General will announce what will happen at the end of the discussions.
Asked if the discussions have been promising, Downer stated that “it has been positive and productive so far. It has been very good.”
Regarding the format of the talks, Downer said that the Secretary-General began his meetings with them around the breakfast table. Afterwards the meeting continued 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 Kudret Ozersay and George 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,” Donwer said.
Responding to another question, the UN official said that the Secretary General 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,” he said, adding that “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”.
According to information, speaking at the beginning of the talks, UN Secretary General asked the two leaders to make a genuine effort to overcome substantive obstacles on fundamental chapters, while President Christofias noted that intensive talks in Cyprus have not yielded the expected results. On his part Eroglu insisted that meetings between the two leaders can be concluded by the end of the year and then hold a give and take process during a five-party conference.
A Greek Cypriot source has said that the Greek Cypriot side has explicitly outlined its positions and assessments as regards the course of the talks.