New York.- July 20th 2005 marks the 31st year since Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus in 1974. Against all odds and contrary to the disastrous consequences of the Turkish invasion and continuing occupation, the Government of the Republic and the people of Cyprus, have managed, through an arduous and lengthy struggle, to rebuild Cyprus’ injured economy and to reach admirable levels of social and economic advancement. As a result of this progress and of many years of hard work, on May 1st 2004, Cyprus along with nine other countries, gained its rightful place, as a full member, of the European Union.
Cyprus’ road to Europe was not an easy one. A remarkable effort was carried out under very difficult conditions: thirty seven percent of the island still under Turkish occupation; the issues of refugees, missing persons and the enclaved still unresolved; and the human rights of all Cypriots being violated by Turkey on a daily basis. It was a difficult and bumpy road to Europe but simultaneously a very promising one, both socially and politically. The path to European accession raised hopes amongst Cypriots that it would act as a catalyst for the achievement of the long desired solution of the Cyprus problem. Nevertheless, the longing for the reunification of the island and the restoration of human rights throughout Cyprus, so that a united country could enter the European Union, remains unfulfilled.
Turkey’s own aspiration to become a member of the European Union, reinforced hopes for solution as there was an expectation that Turkey would finally behave as a European country permitting human rights, fundamental freedoms and the respect of democratic principles to prevail in a Cyprus settlement. Not only were those hopes dashed, but a UN settlement plan that did not respond to the minimum requirements and legitimate aspirations of the Greek Cypriot community was put to a referendum in Cyprus on 24 April 2004. The great majority of Greek Cypriots voted “no” to the UN Plan, as they considered it to be imbalanced as it provided for a solution that addressed the geostrategic interests of Turkey rather than the legitimate concerns of the people on the island.
The Greek Cypriot community, true to its beliefs in the ideals of real democracy and respect for individual rights, and of a truly independent country free of foreign hegemony, rejected this proposed settlement. It is incongruous, for one to claim, that the “no vote” of the Greek Cypriots was a “no vote” to a solution of the Cyprus problem, to reunification or to the concept of a federation. The Greek Cypriots, in rejecting the settlement plan were merely expressing their opposition to unacceptable and anachronistic provisions such as: the perpetual stationing of Turkish troops on the island, the continuation of the treaties of guarantees that made Cyprus subject to foreign dependence, the abolition of individual rights for the sake of communal rights and many other weaknesses it contained. Paradoxically, some persons show respect to the democratic will of the Greek Cypriots only in words, while in deeds, they do whatever possible to punish the Greek Cypriots for their vote.
After the 24 April 2004 referenda, certain Turkish acts indicated an increasingly arrogant behaviour on the part of Ankara and an effort by the Turkish Government to create new faits accomplis by intensifying the colonization policy and construction on illegally usurped Greek Cypriot properties in the occupied north. Using as a springboard the Annan plan, which would only partially restore the legal right of displaced persons to return and regain their properties, while it would allow the settlers to continue their stay on such properties, Turkey’s subordinate local administration embarked on a frenzy of unprecedented construction and property sale in the occupied north and the unlawful transfer of a new wave of settlers from Turkey under the pretext that they were construction workers.
However, Turkey, the country that invaded Cyprus and continues to occupy one third of the island in defiance of international law, gets away with impunity while its illegal military presence on the island is not even questioned. Efforts are being undertaken by certain powers through a policy of so-called “ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots”, to change the parameters that constitute the Cyprus problem as one of invasion and occupation. Those who wish for the so-called “upgrading” of the illegal regime in the occupied part of Cyprus, ignore the fact, that an act of aggression by a large foreign power against its smaller neighbour persists for 31 years, keeping Cyprus and its people divided; that the aggressor continues to commit such international crimes as the illegal settlement of the occupied areas, the destruction of religious and cultural heritage of the area under Turkish military control and ethnic cleansing against the Greek Cypriot population of the Karpasia area. It should be noted that the so-called “isolation of the Turkish Cypriots”, is primarily the consequence of the illegal occupation of northern Cyprus and their own refusal to accept international legality, as well as their insistence on promoting their divisive policies. Regrettably, in the course of achieving their separatist goals, the Turkish Cypriot leadership does not hesitate to sacrifice the economic advancement of the Turkish Cypriot community for the sake of achieving its political ends.
The Government of Cyprus has been and continues to remain committed to a solution of the Cyprus problem based on UN Resolutions and High Level Agreements of 1977 and 1979. This objective cannot be reached if the policy of cajoling the perpetrators of the 1974 invasion, while punishing the victims continues. The international community should turn its attention to the substance of the Cyprus problem and demand implementation of UN resolutions and the rules of international law. It should ask Turkey to end its illegal occupation of the island, so that the people of Cyprus can all benefit from Cyprus’ membership in the EU.
Instead of looking into ways of ending the so-called “economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots”, the international community should focus its efforts on convincing Turkey that her continuing illegal presence on the island and her insistence on keeping the Republic of Cyprus its hostage for an eternity, are neither consistent with the accepted rules that govern today’s democratic world or with Turkey’s desire to find a place within the European Union.
The accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union on 1 May 2004 has provided a new and exceptional context for peace and reconciliation. In this regard, the Government of Cyprus amply demonstrated its determination and good will to bring Turkish Cypriots on board and give them the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the European Union. It was the Cyprus Government, on 26 April 2004, at the Meeting of the Council of the European Union that tabled sound proposals for the economic assistance of the Turkish Cypriot community. The Cyprus Government has worked in good faith for the adoption of subsequent conclusions of the Council aimed at facilitating the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging Turkish Cypriot economic development, with particular emphasis on the economic integration of the island and improving contacts between the two communities and with the European Union.
The Government of the Republic of Cyprus will not cease working for a just solution that will free Cyprus from Turkish occupation troops, reunify the island and its people and restore the human rights of all Cypriot citizens, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike. Further measures have been adopted in the fields of demining, military disengagement and the opening of additional crossing points along the ceasefire lines, so as to enhance confidence-building and cooperation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, thus facilitating the goal of the reunification of the island and its people.
It is hoped that the Turkish Government, in view of its European aspirations, will reciprocate the good will shown by the Government of Cyprus and will soon start working towards meeting its obligations emanating from its European candidacy.
The Cyprus Government is committed to do its utmost to create conditions that would allow the resumption of the United Nations Secretary-General’s good offices mission, in order to freely reach a mutual agreement for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem without any artificial time constraints.
In this quest for peace and justice, Cyprus expects the international community to stand by its side.
*** The commentary was prepared by the Press and Information Office of Cyprus in New York.