5 April 2004
Special Adviser de Soto Briefs Security Council on Cyprus Settlement; Says Plan Offers Unique Opportuniity for Just, Lasting Peace
Presented by Secretary-General at Bürgenstock Negotiations, Plan Will Be Subject to 24 April Referenda by Greek, Turkish Cypriots
NEW YORK, 2 April (UN Headquarters) -- For the people of Cyprus, the next month was the most critical in the last 30 years, as they decided whether to reunite their country on the basis of Secretary-General Kofi Annans settlement plan, Alvaro de Soto, told the Security Council this afternoon.
Briefing the Council just days after the conclusion of the final negotiations in Bürgenstock, Switzerland, Mr. de Soto, the Secretary-Generals Special Adviser, said, We hope they appreciate what a unique opportunity this is, and that they will seize the chance for a just and lasting peace in Cyprus.
Achieving a Cyprus settlement was a complex task, legally and politically, he stated. The result would be a bicommunal, bizonal, federal system, a State of Cyprus with a single international legal personality, sovereignty and citizenship, based on the principle of political equality between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
He said that the plan to be placed before the people had been finalized, in the last resort, by the Secretary-General, but it was not his invention. What was now before the people was a plan that embodied the key concepts and trade-offs that had emerged from a long process of negotiation.
The 9,000-page text containing the basic settlement plan -- which calls for a federal government composed of two constituent states -- as well as legal formulas and other annexes, will now be voted on by the Greek and Turkish Cypriots in separate, simultaneous referenda on 24 April.
The plan was inevitably a compromise, he said, noting it did not meet all the demands of each side. But the Secretary-General believed it was a fair and balanced plan, and hoped that the people on each side would agree.
The Secretary-General, he added, would soon place before the Council a full report on the negotiations, including a proposal, as provided for in the plan, for a revised United Nations operation in Cyprus.
The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots and, since 1974, has been supervising ceasefire lines, maintaining a buffer zone and undertaking humanitarian activities.
ALVARO DE SOTO, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus, provided background on the recent negotiations, which had resulted in a final settlement plan that will be subject to a referendum on 24 April. The Secretary-General would soon place before the Council a full report on the negotiations, including a proposal, as provided for in the plan, for a revised United Nations operation in Cyprus. He hoped that the Council would be able to act speedily on that proposal, in advance of the referendum date of 24 April. The Secretary-General had asked his Special Adviser to brief the Council orally before returning to Cyprus over the weekend.
He said that the Comprehensive Settlement of the Cyprus Problem consisted of the following appendices: a proposed foundation agreement; proposed constitutions of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot constituent states; a proposed treaty on matters related to the new state of affairs in Cyprus; a draft act of adaptation of the terms of accession of the United Cyprus Republic to the European Union; matters to be submitted to the Security Council for decision; and measures to be taken during April.
The finalized plan would be made available to Council members in electronic format. That could also be found on the United Nations Web site - www.un.org or directly at www.annanplan.org, he said. The text of the Secretary-Generals remarks to the parties on 29 March, when he presented a revision of his plan, and on 31 March, when he presented the finalized version of his plan after further intensive consultations and negotiations, would also be made available.
He said that the plan to be placed before the people had been finalized, in the last resort, by the Secretary-General, but it was not his invention. The role of the United Nations had been to put things in writing where it had been hard for the parties to do so. What was now before the people was a plan that embodied the key concepts and trade-offs that had emerged from a long process of negotiation. The improvements made in it, while not agreed, reflected the material put forward in intensive negotiations that resumed on 19 February.
Those negotiations on the island had occurred at two levels, he said. The first had been at the political level, where the two leaders - the Greek Cypriot leader, Tassos Papadopoulos, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash - had sought to agree on changes to the plan. Regrettably, aside from some secondary points, they had not been able to do so. However, the talks had allowed all of the amendments proposed by the two sides to be aired. The second level had been negotiations by technical representatives of the two sides appointed by the leaders, who had met under United Nations auspices to resolve certain technical issues or to make recommendations to the two leaders.
The output of work at the technical level had been nothing short of extraordinary, he said, and had resulted in: agreed recommendations to the leaders on a flag and anthem for a reunified Cyprus; the completion of 131 federal laws, constitutional laws and cooperation agreements to be in force from the moment the settlement entered into force - those ran to 9,000 pages and were part of the proposed foundation agreement; completion of a list of 1,134 international treaties and instruments to be binding on the United Cyprus Republic, which were also part of the proposed foundation agreement; a package of agreed recommendations to the leaders on economic and financial aspects of implementation of the plan; and progress in the identification of federal buildings, in finalizing a list of federal property, and in preparing for the federal public service to be in place upon entry into force of a settlement.
He said that the progress made at the technical level, however, could not disguise the fact that, at the political level, the two sides had been unable to reach agreement. After direct meetings yielded little progress, Mr. de Soto had suggested a change in format, and had begun shuttling between the leaders beginning on 15 March. That had not yielded significant progress either. He would not go into the reasons why, but he believed he should record the fact that each side had expressed great frustration at the lack of progress on the island and believed that the other side was largely to blame for it.
As the date for completion of the first phase approached, the Secretary-General invited the leaders to move to a location off the island that lent itself to the second phase, he noted. That location was Bürgenstock, a hotel complex in the outskirts of Lucerne, Switzerland. Mr. Denktash announced that he would not travel to Bürgenstock, but in writing he had given Mehmet Ali Talat and Serdar Denktash full powers to negotiate in Bürgenstock on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot side.
He recalled that the talks in Bürgenstock began on 24 March and, as agreed on 13 February in New York, Greece and Turkey had been present in order to lend their collaboration in a concentrated effort to agree on a finalized text by 29 March. Greece and Turkey had been represented by their Foreign Ministers. Due to a difference of view between the parties on the appropriate format, however, it had been difficult to arrange direct meetings either of the two parties, or of the two parties together with the guarantors. Thus, negotiations in Bürgenstock had taken on a more informal character, with the United Nations engaging in consultations with the parties in an effort to broker areas of understanding.
Since the Bürgenstock process had been designed to achieve agreement, if possible, by 29 March, the United Nations sent to the parties on 25 March a proposed framework which, had agreement on substance been reached, would have enabled the parties to sign an agreement, he went on. That had been sent to the parties for their consideration, comment and negotiation, but in no way had implied that signatures were required. As agreed on 13 February, should agreement not be possible, the Secretary-General would finalize the plan.
The Secretary-General arrived in Bürgenstock on 28 March, as did the Greek Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis, and the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arrive on 29 March, he said. On 29 March, the Secretary-General presented a fully revised text for consideration by the parties. In it, he sought to address the key concerns that had been expressed by the two sides in the negotiations, while maintaining the overall balance of the plan.
Mr. de Soto said that, while not precluding the possibility that the parties might yet reach agreement, the process, from this point onwards, moved to the third phase of the effort envisaged in the 13 February agreement, in which the text would be finalized by the Secretary-General. He wished to do so in the closest collaboration with all concerned - hence, the consultations with the parties over the next 48 hours in the run-up to the presentation of a final text on 31 March.
Summarizing the main improvements to the plan, Mr. de Soto said that, by far, the most important change related to the question of reinstatement of property to people who had been dispossessed. The revised scheme was fairer, simpler, and more certain. That would increase the amount of land reinstated to dispossessed owners and that would also increase significantly the number of displaced and dispossessed persons who would be reinstated to some of their property. At the same time, it would give more certainty to current users.
He said that certain non-discriminatory restrictions on the acquisition of property in the Turkish Cypriot State would be permissible, but only for a transitional period.
The plan was also revised in the way that it dealt with two issues that were distinct, but related, he said. That referred to the question of residency by persons from one constituent state in the other constituent state, and the question of the establishment of residency by Greek and Turkish nationals in Cyprus.
He said that those transitional limitations had not been designed to divide Cypriots. Those had been designed to prevent either side from being overrun by unrestricted establishment of residence, unrestricted immigration, or unlimited property purchases in a transitional period, and to ensure that the identify of Cyprus and its constituent states was maintained. There were no permanent derogations from the acquis communautaire.
The workings of the federal government had also been revised in three important respects, he continued. First, the long transitional periods foreseen in the previous plan had been replaced by a much shorter period, with full elections to be held at the federal and constituent state level, along with European Union elections, on 13 June. Second, the structure of the Presidential Council had been altered, with nine members rather than six, and with provision for two persons not hailing from the same constituent state to rotate in the office of the President and the Vice-President in three 20-month periods over the 60-month term of the Presidential Council.
Third, voting for the Senate would be on the basis of mother tongue, rather than on the basis of internal citizenship status, to ensure that political equality could not be undermined over time. A number of improvements had been made regarding the economic and financial aspects of the plan, largely based on the agreed recommendations of experts from each side in the technical committees.
The map in the plan had not changed, he continued. But an important new element had been introduced, which would be of direct interest to the Security Council. It was envisaged that, in the last months of each phased handover of territory, the supervision by the United Nations of the activities relating to the transfer of areas subject to territorial adjustment shall be enhanced in the relevant areas. New details of measures to assist in relocation of persons who must move as a result of territorial adjustment had been introduced into the plan.
Important refinements had been made regarding security, he said, in at least three respects. First, the provisions relating to troop withdrawal had been altered. Under the previous plan, 6,000 Greek and Turkish troops were permitted to remain in Cyprus, on the proviso that all would leave should Turkey accede to the European Union. The revised plan provided for 6,000 to drop to 3,000 in 2011. It further provided for the 3,000 to drop in 2018, or upon Turkeys European Union accession, whichever was earlier, to the 950 Greek troops and 650 Turkish troops permitted under the 1960 Treaty of Alliance, and for three yearly reviews of troop levels thereafter with a view to total withdrawal by mutual consent.
Second, the role of the Monitoring Committee envisaged under the plan had been strengthened, with the parties undertaking to act on its recommendations. Third, the mandate of the United Nations operation had been strengthened, not only to provide for the assumption of territorial responsibility for agreed areas and time periods prior to transfer of territory, without prejudice to local administrations of the population, but also to provide for the United Nations to monitor political developments and provide advice and good offices as required.
During April, a number of steps had to be taken, he said. The parties needed to work together to finalize plans for federal buildings, property and personnel. They must each hand over to the Secretary-General lists of persons who would be citizens of the United Cyprus Republic upon entry into force, in accordance with the plan. And they must provide for mechanisms to identify the members of the transitional government to take office for two months after entry into force.
The guarantor powers must confirm to the Secretary-General and each other in writing, no later than 7 April 2004, that they agreed to the Foundation Agreement being submitted to separate simultaneous referenda, and that upon its approval and completion of their internal ratification procedures, they would sign, no later than 29 April, the treaty provided for in the plan. The Secretary-General would, in accordance with the plan, submit to the Council a detailed proposal for a revised United Nations operation in Cyprus, with the hope that the Council would act prior to the referenda, conditional upon their approval.
Finally, the European Union was organizing a preparatory meeting on 15 April for a donors conference that would take place after reunification. The United Nations urged donors to participate in that conference and be prepared to commit the resources necessary to give Cypriots the confidence that the implementation of the plan would receive strong international support.
Should the plan be approved on 24 April on each side, it would not enter into force until 29 April, and only after Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom, as guarantors, had completed all internal procedures necessary to sign into force on 29 April the treaty provided in the plan. That revised mode of entry into force of the settlement was designed to ensure that the guarantors were legally committed to their obligations under it.
The European Union would also have to act quickly to accommodate the terms of the settlement and make way for a united Cyprus to accede to the European Union two days later, on 1 May. The European Commissioner for Enlargement, who was at Bürgenstock, had confirmed that the European Commission was committed to submitting the Act of Adaptation of the terms of accession of the United Cyprus Republic to the European Union, which was provided for in the plan, for consideration by the Council of the European Union prior to 24 April, and for its adoption after the successful outcome of the separate simultaneous referenda before 1 May. Furthermore, the Commission was also committed to bringing about a final outcome, without delay, which would result in the adaptation of primary law and ensure legal certainty and security within the European Union legal system for all concerned.
As is obvious, achieving a Cyprus settlement is a complex task - legally and politically, he stated. But there were certain points that should not be lost sight of. First, the process had been conducted in full conformity with the mandate provided to the Secretary-General by the Security Council. The product of the work was a bicommunal, bizonal, federal system, a State of Cyprus with a single international legal personality, sovereignty and citizenship. It was based on the principle of political equality between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Second, he continued, the plan was based on respect for international law and individual human rights. In that regard, a majority of Greek Cypriots who were displaced would be able to return to their homes and have their properties reinstated under Greek Cypriot administration. All others would either receive reinstatement of their property, or full and effective compensation, or a combination of both.
Third, the long-term objective of the plan was the demilitarization of Cyprus, he said. In that regard, all troops in excess of those permitted by the 1960 Treaty of Alliance would withdraw from Cyprus over time and, thereafter, the small number of troops remaining would be subject to regular review with a view to total withdrawal by mutual consent.
The plan was inevitably a compromise, he stated. It did not meet all the demands of each side. But the Secretary-General believed it was a fair and balanced plan, and he hoped that, as they considered it, the people on each side would agree. The United Nations would be doing its best to make available to the public in Cyprus information about the plan.
For the people of Cyprus, the next month was the most critical in the last 30 years, he said. They would have the democratic right to decide whether to reunite their country on the basis that had been suggested. The United Nations was proud to have been able to work with their leaders to give them that opportunity. We hope they appreciate what a unique opportunity this is, and that they will seize the chance for a just and lasting peace in Cyprus.
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