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2002-01-19 20:15:50

JUNE 12TH 1999

Dear Members and friends of the Jacksonville Jaycees

It gives me great pleasure and I am deeply honored for the opportunity you gave me to speak today before such a distinguished audience. The noble goals of the Jaycees are praiseworthy and I congratulate you for your achievements throughout the years in bringing young people together in friendship and cooperation for the benefit of developing the individual and for the service of the community at large.

For the next few minutes I shall elaborate on the theme, "Lessons from the Kosovo Conflict for Resolution of the Cyprus Problem".

I shall start with the premise that not all situations and conflicts are equal. Countries are different, history is different, circumstances that lead to conflicts are different. The only factors, though, that remain constant in any conflict is first the human suffering that is universal in character and second the need for international law and international legality to remain the focus and basis of all efforts for the solution of conflicts.

People in conflict areas and especially women and children, suffer atrocities and violations of their basic human rights and freedoms, especially if policies of ethnic cleansing are employed as a weapon of war. Uprooting of people from their homes, indiscriminate killings of civilians, rapes, disappearances are some of these abhorrent methods that have reportedly been used in Kosovo and have been employed in Cyprus in 1974.

The particulars of the Kosovo tragedy of ethnic cleansing are known to all of us because we have seen them in recent weeks and continue to see them on our TV screens. Thousands of people loaded in buses or on foot crossing the borders into neighboring countries in complete misery and pain. Destitute, homeless, dispossessed, hurt in their human dignity and honor, now living in tents and temporary shelters in foreign lands.

For us in Cyprus, these pictures are all too familiar. 25 years ago, 200,000 Greek Cypriots were evicted from their homes by the Turkish army during the two phases of the invasion in July and August 1974, that resulted in the occupation of 37 percent of the territory of Cyprus and the forcible division of the country and the people.

Many of them fled out of fear and horror following the brutal conduct of the Turkish troops, or as a result of the indiscriminate bombing by the Turkish airforce. Most of them were forcibly expelled, being driven in buses beyond the cease fire line, many of them after being held for several days or months into detention centers by the Turkish army. Thousands of families were separated for considerable time ranging from several days to more than a year.

Killings of civilians were committed on a large scale, 1618 persons disappeared ( including four American citizens) and their fate has not yet been ascertained; women of all ages from 12 to 71 fell victims to wholesale and repeated rapes, committed by Turkish soldiers. All these atrocities were fully documented by the European Commission of Human Rights in its reports following the three interstate applications of the Government of Cyprus against the Government of Turkey in 1974, 1975 and 1977.

Turkey was found responsible by the European Commission and by the European Court of Human Rights, for violating numerous articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, by not allowing the return of the Greek Cypriot refugees to their homes, by the separation of families, by deprivation of liberty, deprivation of life, ill-treatment, deprivation of possessions and discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin and religion.

I referred in some extend to those tragic events not because I want to indulge in the past, but rather in order to show the different standards applied by the international community to the humanitarian tragedy in Cyprus compared to its response in the case of Kosovo.

A quarter of a century later, the refugees of Cyprus continue to be prevented by the Turkish army from returning to their homes, despite the adoption of numerous resolutions by the United Nations calling for their immediate return in conditions of safety.

A quarter of a century later, the island and the people remain forcibly divided on ethnic criteria. A small defenseless island, of the size of Connecticut, has been cut literally into two by the use of force and the military might of a powerful NATO country, with a standing army that far exceeds the population of the island.

To realize the magnitude of the trauma and pain inflicted it should be noted that the displaced Greek Cypriots made up one third of the population of the island and eighty percent of the population of the occupied area. Translated into United States population terms it would involve 90 million people becoming homeless overnight.

In a matter of a few hours these people were forcibly alienated from everything they cherish as their own. Their ancestral homes, their properties, the social fabric of their villages or towns, their roots and cultural bonds with the past.

For a quarter of a century Turkey maintains 35,000 troops in the occupied area, hundreds of tanks and other sophisticated weapons. Such a small area is so saturated by the Turkish military presence that the UN Secretary General has characterized that area as one of the most densely militarized in the world. And this despite repeated United Nations resolutions calling for the immediate withdrawal of all the Turkish occupation troops.

For a quarter of a century Turkey has been importing thousands of mainland settlers to the occupied area with the sole aim of changing the demographic structure of the country, while the Turkish Cypriots are continuing to emigrate in the thousands, seeking to escape from the unacceptable conditions prevailing in the occupied area and better opportunities in foreign lands.

For a quarter of a century Turkey has pursued a policy of cultural cleansing by plundering the cultural heritage of that area, destroying a civilization that had lasted for more that 9000 years.

The purpose of such policies was to create two ethnically and culturally cleansed areas, one of which would be a homogeneous Turkish populated area that has never existed in the centuries old history of the island.

For a quarter of a century the two communities, consisting of 82 percent Greek Cypriots and 18 percent Turkish Cypriots that have lived peacefully together for four hundred years, remain forcibly separated. It is tragic to realize that Greek and Turkish Cypriot youth up to the age of 25 have never met people from the other community. And they share the same homeland, the same way that they should also share the same future, the same prospects for a better life in peace.

I tried in these few minutes to show you the unacceptable and untenable nature of the status quo in Cyprus. I tried to show the senselessness of the division. Speaking to an audience from a country with such a diversity of ethnic, cultural and racial background that has succeeded to hold and prosper together in a free and whole America, I feel that my words in favor of unity and cooperation in diversity, in a free and whole Cyprus rather than a forcibly divided country, should be well received.

Cyprus cannot remain the only exception to the rule that it is only natural for people from different ethnic or racial or religious backgrounds to live together. It is only natural that they can coexist and cooperate in their common homeland. This is the case in the United States. This is the case in Europe. This is the case being pursued now for Kosovo.

The United States' and other countries' position concerning Kosovo is that the Kosovar refugees should be able to return back to their homes and have full autonomy within the borders of Yugoslavia and live in Kosovo with the Serb population. As it is unnatural and unachronistic to keep people forcibly divided in Kosovo, because they happen to be of a different ethnic or religious background , it is similarly unnatural and anachronistic to tolerate the occupation and forcible division of Cyprus on ethnic criteria. The refugees of Cyprus should therefore also be able to return back to their homes in conditions of safety,, as demanded by UN resolutions.

The territorial integrity of Yugoslavia must be safeguarded as well as its internationally recognized borders, the same way that the territorial integrity of Cyprus must be safeguarded. The international community has already categorically rejected the attempted secession of the occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus and any solution to the problem has to respect that very principle.

The international community supports the withdrawal of all the Serb forces from Kosovo and the presence of an international force there to secure the return of the refugees and the implementation of the agreement that has already been reached.

Similarly in Cyprus, we have long proposed the demilitarization of the Republic of Cyprus with the withdrawal of the Turkish occupation troops, the disbanding of the National Guard, the handing in of all the weapons to the United Nations and the establishment of an international force to guarantee the implementation of the agreement that will be reached.

In both Kosovo and Cyprus policies of ethnic cleansing were shamefully pursued. The international community should equally condemn both as unacceptable and intolerable practices.

Turkey has ignored over the years numerous resolutions adopted by the United Nations. And she has ignored them with impunity. Such a defiant attitude, if tolerated would set a dangerous precedent, because no country has the right to claim special grounds for putting itself beyond the rules of international law.

If Turkey, because of perceived strategic or other interests evades this rule, then "might is right" will prevail and lawlessness and aggression will then be the rule and the fate of small countries will especially be in jeopardy.

Since the framework for a solution in Cyprus already exists in the numerous resolutions adopted by the United Nations, what is urgently needed and what would really constitute the only prospect for a solution in Cyprus and peace building, is for the necessary influence to be exerted on Turkey to end the forcible division of the island and to comply with the international community's decisions.

As we are approaching the dawn of a new millennium, we should send a loud and clear message to all those who can help bring about the necessary changes, that the shameful and anachronistic policies of ethnic cleansing can no longer be tolerated in any part of the world. Such policies should not be allowed to shatter our hopes and expectations for a new era, for a more just and humane world order in the new millennium.

Other more intractable problems around the globe have seen their way to a solution. The people of Cyprus deserve to have the same opportunity to see their children's future in peace, prosperity and security in a reunited, demilitarized country, member of the European Union.

This is our dream and our vision for the new millennium, which I put today before you.

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