Secretary-General’s Press Encounter at the Conference on Cyprus

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, flanked by Greek Cypriot leader, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades, Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Mustafa Akıncı, briefs the press after the first session of the Conference on Cyprus, Palais des Nations. 12 January 2017. UN Photo / Violaine Martin

Geneva, 12 January 2017 – Ladies and gentlemen of the media, thank you very much for your presence.

I want, first of all, to pay tribute to the extraordinary statesmanship, to the courage and to the determination of Mr. [Nicos] Anastasiades and Mr. [Mustafa] Akıncı, who for 20 months have been conducting in a very determined way a dialogue aiming at creating the conditions to allow for Cyprus to be able to be again a country united, living in normal conditions for its people.

And it is only thanks to their work that it was possible to come today to the opening of the Conference that, historically and for the first time, has put around the same table, not only the two protagonists, but also the guarantors: the Republics of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

We had this morning an extremely constructive opening session, followed by a very open debate during lunchtime, a true brainstorming, in which it was possible to identify, not only the very important progress that was made in the negotiations, as taken in the last few days, on the first five chapters, but also to identify the complexity of the problems related to security and guarantees that need to be addressed and resolved.

In that lunch, it was possible to clearly come to the conclusion that we need to find instruments, instruments that allow for the implementation of the settlement that would be achieved in a way that guarantees simultaneously the response to the security concerns of the Turkish Cypriot community and the security concerns of the Greek Cypriot community.

But there is obviously a way to go, work to continue. We will reconvene the Conference today in the late afternoon. You cannot expect miracles or immediate solutions. We are not looking for a quick fix. We are looking for a solid and sustainable solution for the Republic of Cyprus and for the communities of the Republic of Cyprus, and we will be working as long as necessary in order to achieve that goal, with the objective naturally to reach these in the context of the present Conference.

I would like to say very clearly that for the United Nations, our role is to support the parties, in order for them to be able to come to the agreement that is necessary. We do not aim at any protagonism, we have no agenda but the agenda that results from the consensus possible to be established between the parties.

As I said during our lunch, those that deserve the Oscar of the best actor, if this was a competition of cinema, are on my right-hand side and my left-hand side. In the UN, we do not aim at more than to eventually get an Oscar of the best actor in a supporting role. What we really want is to help create the conditions and we were very encouraged by the fact that the European Union has shown total commitment to support this process. And we are also ready in the context of the UN to make, to seize, the Security Council to guarantee, in an effective and strong way, the results that will be possible to achieve in the context of the present Conference.

From now on, you will have to be patient. As I said, we are not here for a quick fix. We are here to work seriously for a solution that is simultaneously a solid and a sustainable solution for Cyprus, for the people of Cyprus. And I believe a solution will be a symbol of hope in a world where so many conflicts are emerging, where so many problems do not seem to come to an end, but where I very much trust the courage, determination and the statesmanship of the two leaders that are here with me today.

Q: Welcome back to Geneva, Mr. Guterres, and congratulations on your new role. What solid proposals were put on the table today, please?

SG: I think that many proposals were put on the table. Time will decide whether they are solid or not. But the question is very simple: we are working hard to have a settlement that addresses the central questions that have been discussed for a long time, in relation to territory, in relation to property, in relation to relations with the European Union, in relation to foreign policy, in relation to all the aspects. Enormous progress was made in all those dossiers. So we are coming very close to what is the settlement, in relation to the creation of a bi-zonal, [bi-communal] federal institution in the Republic of Cyprus. We are coming very close to it. Now, to implement it, we need to find a number of instruments, and what we have now is to work in the definition of those instruments with the objective, the common objective that was identified during the lunch time, that those instruments need to both satisfy the concerns, the security concerns, of the Turkish Cypriot community and the Greek Cypriot community.

We are convinced there is a way to get there. But let’s not forget one thing: this will not be an agreement among leaders – this will be an agreement to be ratified by peoples through referenda. And you know, looking at what is happening in the world, referenda are not an easy challenge. So either we have a clear, solid solution that can be fully endorsed by the parties and fully acceptable for the peoples, or obviously we will not be able to deliver. So again, this will not be a quick fix. We are going to work hard and for the amount of time that is necessary – I presume short amount of time, but amount of time that is necessary – to come to a concrete solution that the two sides, the communities can accept, can feel comfortable with.

Q: Are you planning to extend the talks or the Conference for tomorrow and the following days, and can we expect the highest level of participation in the coming days?

SG: We have planned that the talks will go on as necessary and obviously the participation of other personalities might be justified when and if we develop our work in a way to justify it. Our goal here is not a calendar, our goal here is not, I would say, a vanity fair. Our goal here is to get the necessary results, and to do that, we want to work seriously for the amount of time that is necessary.

Q: Do you expect that the parties will leave Geneva with a breakthrough as regard security and guarantees, or is this just a starting point?

SG: We are at the starting point. This was the first time in which the five parties discussed security and guarantees. We just started. It is my hope that there will be a breakthrough, and I think that is what the people of Cyprus deserve and I think it is also what the world needs today. We are facing so many situations of disasters. We badly need a symbol of hope. I strongly believe that Cyprus can be a symbol of hope of the beginning of 2017 in the world.

Thank you very much.