26 January, 2007
The UN has apologized for ''a slip of the tongue'' by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, when he referred to "two countries" in Cyprus, during a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday.
The apology came following oral representations by Cyprus' Permanent Mission at the UN, an official Press and Information Office press release, issued here on Thursday, said.
"Following a relevant demarche by the Cyprus Mission at the UN as soon as the Secretary General's remark were made, the Deputy Spokesman at the UN Farhan Haq apologized and said the reference was a slip of the tongue," the press release said, adding that Haq explained that "the Secretary General meant to say 'two communities'."
The text of the Secretary General's comments was rectified within minutes of its issue, and was posted on his website.
The office of the spokeswoman of the Secretary General explained that it was normal practice within the UN to rectify such errors.
The exact transcript as this was posted on the website is as follows:
"Brussels, Belgium, 24 January 2007 - Secretary - General's press encounter with President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barosso (unofficial transcript)
Q: What about Cyprus? Is the Cyprus question still a priority for you and can we count on the initiative of you and the United Nations about Cyprus?
SG: There was continued effort by the United Nations, including my predecessor, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He put forward his own proposals in 2004. Unfortunately, this proposal was not accepted by the two parties. Now, last year, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari, had a meeting with the leaders of the two sides, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and there was an agreement between the two leaders. It is important that the two leaders and the two [communities] should implement this agreement which was agreed last year. I will ensure to encourage them as well as to ensure the implementation of this agreement, which has been agreed between the leaders. It is very important to implement what has been agreed," the press release in Nicosia said.
Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. The illegal Turkish Cypriot regime in northern Turkish occupied Cyprus has been described by the UN as ''legally invalid''. The UN has called on all states not to recognise any other state in Cyprus than the Republic of Cyprus and not to facilitate the regime. No country barring Turkey does.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon apologized personally to CyprusΤ Foreign Minister George Lillikas for what he himself has described "a slip of the tongue", when he referred to "two countries" in Cyprus during a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday.
The brief but good encounter took place on the sidelines of the international donors' conference on Lebanon, which took place in Paris on Thursday.
According to sources, the Secretary General approached the Foreign Minister and personally apologised for the "slip of the tongue", he made in his remarks in Brussels Wednesday.
Ban, the sources have said, has asked not to give any political or other significance to this unfortunate expression.
Lillikas said, during the brief conversation with the Secretary General, that it was understood right from the start that the reference to ''two countries'' was a slip of the tongue.
Source: Athens News Agency