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Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' press conference at the Conference on Cyprus (Geneva, 12 January 2017)

Friday, 13 January 2017

N. KOTZIAS: I wanted to say good evening to you. We have not finished yet. I would like to brief you on where we stand since this morning.

First of all, I think we had good discussions, and what we want there to be -- that is, a just, functional settlement of the Cyprus issue -- is always within the range of what is feasible.

This morning I had an extensive meeting with the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Anastasiades. Afterwards, I met with the leadership of the European Union, briefly with Mr. Juncker and in greater depth with Mrs. Mogherini. I also saw, together with Alternate Minister Katrougalos, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Mr. Johnson, and the British delegation. Subsequently, we had the opening of the conference, when we each made a speech, which I think you have received. There was also a luncheon in which the two communities, the EU, the UN and the three guarantor powers participated. Following the luncheon, we had a separate meeting between the guarantor powers, and then we had a bilateral meeting with the UN itself. At 18:30 we will have the second part of the conference for today. That is, eight meetings will be held in all.

I think that this evening we will have an announcement, which will say that steps were taken in a positive direction for promoting the settlement of the Cyprus issue. I think it is likely -- based on what the discussions so far have shown -- that we will have confirmation of our agreement in principle on the creation of a team of experts, who will prepare a list of questions based on which -- and again, I say this is likely, as this remains to be confirmed in the second part of the discussion -- there will be a meeting of the Foreign Ministers on 23 January. The head of the Greek negotiating team is Ambassador D. Paraskevopoulos, the Secretary General of our Ministry and the head of our diplomats.

During the discussions we had, we heard a lot of ideas, there were disagreements. The central problem being raised for discussion, and on which there is not a convergence of views, is certainly the matter of guarantees, of rights of intervention, and of security.

We believe -- and I think rightly so -- that the system of guarantees must be eliminated. We could agree on the creation -- this is one possibility -- of an international team for monitoring and drawing up, under the UN Security Council, reports on the progress of the implementation of the decisions. It is obvious that our side does not want rights of intervention and wants the withdrawal of the army. Regarding the withdrawal of the army, we want, first of all, the flow to be continuous, a large withdrawal the first week, if not from the first day, and afterwards a continuous withdrawal. There should be a specific deadline. We don't want to see a willingness for a restructuring that will cause other types of configurations -- for example, you know that there are those thinking about bases. We also proposed -- and I talked about this with the OSCE Chairmanship that expired on 31 December -- that there be, under the umbrella of the UN, a special team for precisely recording the size of the Turkish army and the arms it has-- as well as of the Hellenic Force in Cyprus (ELDYK), as we have no objection. And we want this team subsequently -- the OSCE has extensive experience, as does the UN -- to record the flow of the withdrawal of armed forces.

I think we had a creative discussion. Yesterday, for the first time, as you know, maps were put on the negotiating table between the two communities. We had seen maps before, but those were UN initiatives and proposals from Annan, while now we had maps from the two communities, and for the first time there was a combined discussion among the guarantor powers, because we have talked bilaterally with Turkey and with Britain. For some time now -- since April 2015 -- we have been trying to organize this discussion, although many wanted to avoid it, to put it off.

Some believed that along the way the nexus "guarantees, rights of intervention, military" would be lost. We had seen this in previous negotiations, during which the Greek side was not insistent -- rather, there was, let's say, a passive acceptance that these issues will remain or will simply be limited. I think that it is a positive step and a lesson for Greek diplomacy that we have initiated in many areas -- and one of these is Cyprus -- a long-term diplomacy supported -- and I want to thank them publicly -- not just by our diplomats, experts and the legal experts who did excellent work, but also by exceptional scientists. As you know, we have with us five professors of international law, who are helping our work a great deal and will continue, voluntarily -- I want to underscore the voluntary nature of their work -- because at this time in Greece, in the midst of the crisis, there are people who care for the country, who are voluntarily putting their knowledge and time at the disposal of the Foreign Ministry, and we are very proud of this.

As for the issue itself, we set the agenda, and the core of the agenda, of what we discussed here, are the issues we raised in April 2015, when I came out of my meeting with the then Secretary-General of the UN. I remind you that at that time there was this question from a Turkish reporter: "We, Turkey, are in a hurry to resolve the Cyprus issue -- you are not in a hurry," and the response was, "if you are in a hurry, pack up and leave."

So, from that discussion, many thought it was overbold to raise the issue of the guarantees. There were very many who believed that such an agenda could not be set, as happened in the 2002-2004 negotiations, as well as in discussions carried out from 2008 to 2009. I think that the lesson is the importance of scientific documentation and firmness on a demand. I'm not saying we won, but it has been put on the agenda. As we say in political science, "it was put on the agenda for the talks," and in fact I would say that this is the main topic, both today and, provided we continue, tomorrow and in the discussions on the 23rd of the month. This means that we made the reminder today, as well, that the Cyprus problem is not just a matter of the relations between the two communities, but, above all, a matter of the occupation of Cyprus and illegal intervention in Cyprus.

I say this because we are dealing with the issues connected with our northern neighbours, Skopje and Albania, in the same way, as we have long-term strategies and we have put issues on the agenda. We succeeded in putting the confidence-building measures on the agenda, as the Greek government, and we want to resolve the problems that were dormant, because dormant problems accrue additional problems, they don't settle issues. Provided we have the will and knowledge, we must turn Greek diplomacy even more towards planning for the future. I will give you a very small example. As you know, for reasons of economy we closed our Embassies in New Zealand and Sudan, but I am pleased to say that we have the Presidential Decree for opening a new Embassy in Singapore, which is the centre of the emerging world, of new technologies, of new conditions. We closed a number of Embassies in Europe and we opened only one, which is the Consulate in Erbil, which historically constitutes an element of our geostrategic policy. We are trying to look at issues more in the long term, strategically. I must tell you that the Ministry, in spite of any problems we have -- you know I have sent 91 cases to the prosecutor -- continues to be such a gem, a credit to the country, with personnel which is highly educated and has a strong sense of responsibility.

That's all for now. At 18:30 we will continue regarding the phrasing of the Announcement that we have said will come out, as well as regarding the technical team and its dates -- whether they will be confirmed or there will be some amendments.