Press Releases

                                                                                        29 April 2004

    In Briefing to Security Council on Cyprus, Under-Secretary-General Cites Need for Accurate Assessment of Situation, Appropriate Recommendations

    NEW YORK, 28 April (UN Headquarters) -- While the results of last Saturday’s vote in Cyprus on the Secretary-General’s plan that would have reunited the Turkish and Greek sides of the island were disappointing, the United Nations had come closer than ever before to resolving one of the most delicate and complex conflicts on its agenda, Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council this morning.  That achievement must be preserved, pending, one hoped, a fundamental re-evaluation on the Greek Cypriot side.  What mattered was to arrive at a careful and accurate assessment of the full implications for the United Nations of last Saturday’s outcome and to make appropriate recommendations.

    Briefing the Council on the latest developments in Cyprus, Mr. Prendergast added that time was needed “for the dust to settle” from the outcome of the simultaneous referenda among the Greek and Turkish Cypriots on 24 April.  The full implications of the outcome of the public vote on the proposal might take a while to become apparent.

    He said the Foundation Agreement had not been approved in the referenda:  in the Greek Cypriot referendum, 24.17 per cent of votes had been cast in its favour, with 75.83 per cent against.  In the Turkish Cypriot referendum, the result was 64.91 per cent in favour, and 35.01 per cent against.  Since the plan required approval by each side, the Foundation Agreement would not enter into force.

    The Secretary-General respected the outcome of the referenda, he said.  At the same time, he regretted that a unique and historic opportunity to resolve the Cyprus problem had been missed.  It meant that the objective of the Secretary-General’s efforts over the past four and a half years to reunite Cyprus in time for its accession to the European Union on 1 May had not been achieved. The Secretary-General remained convinced that the plan represented a fair, viable and carefully balanced compromise -- one that met the minimum requirements of all concerned.  It conformed with long-agreed parameters for a solution with the Security Council’s vision for a settlement.  In resolution 1475, the Council had given its full support to the Secretary-General’s carefully balanced plan as a “unique basis for further negotiations”.

    He recalled that following the finalization of the Foundation Agreement in Burgenstock on 31 March, the parties had returned to Cyprus and prepared for the conduct of the referenda.  At the same time, with active assistance of the United Nations, the parties had continued work in a number of areas, including making technical corrigenda to the plan, as well as finalizing work related to future federal property, federal government buildings and the entire structure of the proposed federal government.  Those efforts had continued up until the last day.

    On 7 April, he said, Tassos Papadopoulos, the Greek Cypriot leader, in an address to the nation, had called on Greek Cypriots to reject the Secretary-General’s plan -- indeed, to “send a resounding no” to it.  The reasons given by Mr. Papadopoulos were wide-ranging and far-reaching.  His rejection of the plan meant that he had joined company with Rauf Denktash -- the leader of Turkish Cypriots -- who had also given wide-ranging and far-reaching reasons to reject the plan.  Paradoxically, each leader had claimed that the plan, as finalized, threatened the security and safety of his people and gave in to all the key demands of the other side.

    He said there had been a number of political leaders on each side, including Mehmet Ali Talat on the Turkish Cypriot side and two immediate predecessors of  Mr. Papadopoulos, Glafcos Clerides and George Vassiliou, who stood in favour of reunifying Cyprus in accordance with the Secretary-General’s plan.  However, one of the main political parties on the Greek Cypriot side, the traditionally pro-solution AKEL party, led by Dimitris Christofias, had called for a postponement of the referendum to give more time to explain the plan to the people and to seek certain clarifications and assurances.

    In that connection, he recalled that the Secretary-General had reported to the Council in writing on 16 April, asking it to take decision as foreseen in the plan, including on security issues.  Following the outcome of the consideration of the matter by the Council, AKEL had called for a “soft no” vote, but expressed hope that it would, in due time, translate into a significant “yes” vote in a second referendum on the plan.

    He said that now was not the time to go into details about what information had or had not been made available to the people during the referendum campaign, to elaborate on unfounded concerns generated about job security for public servants in the proposed new structures, or to comment on the issue of access to the media by international figures from the United Nations and the European Union who had been ready to explain the plan and the commitment of the international community.

    The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, had briefed the Council on 2 April on the package of improvement made to the plan during the finalization process, he added.  Contrary to claims made during the campaign, changes had been made to meet, to the extent possible, core concerns of both sides, and those changes were within the parameters of the plan.  It had been widely accepted by pro-solution forces on both sides that the final version of the plan had been significantly improved, while its overall balance had been preserved.

    The result of the referendum by the Greek Cypriot electorate, one that had been strongly encouraged by Mr. Papadopoulos, raised serious questions, he said.  The Secretary-General hoped that the Greek Cypriot community would, nevertheless, arrive at a different view after a profound and sober assessment of their decision and its potential consequences.

    The Secretary-General applauded the Turkish Cypriots, who had approved the plan notwithstanding the significant sacrifices that it entailed for many of them, Mr. Prendergast continued.  In arriving at that decision, they had been no doubt encouraged by the strong leadership of Mehmet Ali Talat and the clear and unequivocal backing of a “yes” vote by the Government of Turkey.  The Secretary-General regretted that the Turkish Cypriots would not equally enjoy the benefits of the European Union membership as of 1 May and hoped that ways would be found to ease the plight in which people found themselves through no fault of their own.  He welcomed recent steps by the European Union in that direction.

    For his part, the Secretary-General had begun to give careful thought to the implications of the results, he said.  The Secretary-General would want to send a detailed written report to the Council in due course.  It would then be for the Council to consider the implications of the point that had now been reached.

    The meeting started at 10:42 a.m. and was adjourned at 10:55 a.m.

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