UN Headquarters, 14 July 1997

As you know the Secretary-General when he assumed his functions decided that he was writing to the two leaders of the two communities to try to revitalize this process. At the same time the Secretary-General told me and he said it at the opening of the talks that he did not want to continue to report failure to the Security Council and missed opportunities. So, he and I decided that although the positions of these people are very well known, although they have been discussing this matter for more than thirty years what was perhaps needed was a new approach to the negotiations. A new technique, new mechanics, new modalities. You cannot change the issues but you can change the way in which you work towards an agreement. And this is what we are trying to do.

We have suggested that instead of trying to work out as they were trying before - a kind of a preview agreement which would then be turned into the legal instruments which would constitute the comprehensive settlement - they should take a short-cut and go straight to the legal instruments. The positions are very well known, they have been discussed as I said for more than thirty years and obviously they can sit and try to work out in a single text, the constitution, whatever additional agreements on territorial aspects and on displaced persons and on security and so on, whatever they have been discussing for this last thirty years. It is not easy to change, When people are used to a particular system of negotiation it is very difficult for somebody to say now we want you to do something else.

I explained to them what the advantages would be. In essence the advantages are two. First that this will be if we have a sustained process as we call it. It will be also an incremental process. Like in any negotiation they would start to deal with certain things trying to reach an agreement, then go forward. In the old system they used to come to New York, or to Vienna or wherever they went and they always started from zero and were trying to reach an agreement on everything and they ended up agreeing on nothing. Now it is going to be an incremental process where they draft a number of things, they agree on a number of things so that when they come back they get from there. That is already recorded although the real package is that nothing would be finally agreed until everything is agreed. But there will be certain things which will be dealt with as they work and as they will move forward.

It is not easy as I said to switch, certainly for two people who have been doing something for more than thirty years. It is as if I asked suddenly to change your ways of performing your professional duties. And of course one cannot overlook the fact that there some historical elements, historical grievances, historical difficulties that keep coming back and this is in the nature of this kind of negotiation but sometimes interferes with the procedure because people tend to deal with these things in great detail instead of concentrating on the issues at hand.

I am not an expert on Cyprus but I can tell you that I found the atmosphere excellent. And people who are "Cyprustologists" tell me that the discussions were unprecedented in their cordiality. We had meetings of a different nature and different formats. I met with them in formal meetings with advisers, I met them in private, we had discussions with separately with one and the other - like proximity talks as you know I am an expert on that but I don't like them too much - they also met themselves. They had breakfast together, they had lunch together, they went to sort of walks in the woods.

There is some doubt as to the degree of commitment of these people to reach an agreement. I don't know about that. But I can tell you that what I saw there was real good faith, good will, a commitment to negotiate. They both told me jointly and separately that Cyprus might be destroyed if they didn't reach an agreement. They both seemed to be conscious of that. I don't know if they feel the urgency, we will see that in the future. There is commitment to an agreement. I want to dispel any notion that they are not interested in an agreement. They are interested in an agreement and they cooperated fully with me in my effort to change the approach and to adopt a new procedure. I think they understand the advantages of that. I am not sure whether they are going to agree on everything. The defining moment will come at the next meeting.

I wanted them to discuss with me the suggestions that we have made, the ideas that the Secretary-General had about a sustained process and to take as clear a notion of what that would mean back home. So that when they come back we can discuss it in greater detail. As I say, they have taken home some suggestions about the modalities for the sustained process which will start after the elections in Cyprus. They have taken suggestions regarding the political as well as the institutional, juridical framework within this process is going to be conducted.

The atmosphere was so good that they themselves decided without any suggestion from me and without any kind of indication that this was something that we would welcome, they decided to have a meeting themselves in Nicosia. When they started these meetings they had not met for three years, more than three years. And they told me that it was politically very sensitive for them in Nicosia to be seen meeting together. But they are going to meet between now and our next round to discuss humanitarian questions as they call it. As you know in this kind of situation there are all kinds of measures of good will and confidence that they can be considered. So they are going to be discussing those things. And I have the feeling that this is going to help also in organizing this process.

I have stressed this morning in the Security Council that so far the Security Council itself and many members of the International Community have given us enormous support, there is enormous interest. This why a lot of people say that there is more interest on the outside than on the interlocutors. This is not true. But it is true that there is considerable interest in a number of countries, in the International Community as a whole in seeing this thing forward. They were (Security Council) very pleased this morning when I reported that we had started in a very good atmosphere with very good feelings.

In principle it has been agreed, but this is subject to confirmation, that we are going to resume these talks on the 11th of August in Switzerland. That will be the defining moment because this is when they will come with reactions, more specific reactions. Obviously they discussed with me the suggestions. We discussed thoroughly what it meant and so on but now it is the time that when they will come with specific reactions and we will try to have some kind of an understanding about the initiation and the process that we suggested.

As I said we have not suggested any because we can't, anything concerning the issues themselves, we have suggested that they change their modus operandi. Sometimes that is the key to a solution.

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