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Embassy News

2002-01-27 02:58:00



Mr. Chairman,
Let me begin by thanking you for convening this important meeting devoted to terrorism, in the enlarged European Conference format. In addition, I would like to pay tribute to the Belgian Presidency for the initiatives it has taken in the wake of the terrorist acts on September 11th, which we have all unreservedly condemned. The Conclusions and Plan of Action agreed at the extraordinary European Council on September 21st, form a succinct blueprint for steps to be taken in our common fight against international terrorism to which Cyprus has aligned itself with.

Mr. Chairman, Colleagues,
Terrorism did not begin with the attacks on United States on September 11th 2001. What is clear, however, is that the sheer unprecedented scale of those repulsive and barbaric acts that caused so much death and destruction crossed a line in the sand and have had a profound effect on the human consciousness. No cause can justify, in any way, the acts of mass murder that were an assault not only against the United States but on our core moral values. They were an assault against those fundamental values that we zealously guard: democracy; human rights; freedom and the rule of law.

Terrorism and the serious threat it poses to international peace and security has been catapulted to the top of the international agenda. Our meeting today is clear evidence of our serious concern and recognition of the need for collective action to tackle a phenomenon that transcends borders, religion, cultures and civilization.

Indeed, the attacks and our reaction are landmarks in time. The one depicting the warped nature of viciousness and hatred and the other a sharp wake-up call to us all. The gauntlet has been thrown down and individually and collectively we have a responsibility to pick up the challenge with resolve, determination and zero tolerance. Now is the moment to galvanize this strong impulse into a sustained global and multilateral campaign to fight international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. A global mobilization against terrorism spearheaded in the United Nations has gained added urgency and in this regard we support the proposal by India for a United Nations Convention against international terrorism.

We have all been rudely jolted into bringing into sharper focus the measures we have in place in combating terrorism, both as regards security measures as well in identifying those who finance terrorism and the methods that individuals and organizations use to hide their real intent. In Cyprus, we have been reviewing our security measures and recalibrating these to take into account the situation that has developed.

We fully recognize also the decisive factor of chocking and cutting off the funding of terrorism if our efforts are to be truly effective. Last week, the Council of Ministers tabled before Parliament a Bill that includes the ratification of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. Furthermore, it introduces tough new internal criminal laws and penalties against those who commit, instigate or are in any way involved in the commission of offences related to terrorism and its financing. The Bill also creates an anti-terrorism unit that will be able to investigate and take action, including the freezing of assets of any individuals or organizations involved in terrorist activities and its sponsorship. We also firmly believe that if our efforts against the common threat of international terrorism are to succeed, international cooperation is a sine qua non. On the part of Cyprus, we will continue to work closely with other Governments and encourage this cooperation in all fields.

Mr. Chairman, Colleagues,
Our fight is against terrorists and terrorism and not against culture or religion or between cultures and religions. Cyprus, therefore, wholeheartedly endorses the statement made at the extraordinary European Council, rejecting "any equation of groups of fanatical terrorists with the Arab or Muslim world". Those responsible for the mass murder on September 11th, no more espouse the teachings of Islam than Timothy McVie espoused the teachings of Christianity when he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. We are, however, becoming increasingly concerned with the religious and cultural polarization that is developing and the portrayal by extremist factions that the military action in progress against those who perpetrated the attacks on September 11th is an attack on Afghanistan and the Muslim world in general. We welcome, therefore, the repeated statements by President Bush and European leaders that focus on terrorists, their organizations and those who sponsor them. However, the underlying current is there for all to see.

Allow me to make some observations from the vantage point of Cyprus as a European bi-communal country, which has the closest proximity to the Muslim/Arab world and to Israel and is the frontline state between Europe and the Middle East. An important recognition is that the perpetuation of the Palestinian issue and the Middle East conflict serves those extremist elements that find fertile ground to promote their warped positions. We fully agree, therefore, with the European Union on the need to prevent and solve regional conflicts and importantly, at this time, to kick start efforts to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East. We support therefore the recent statements of President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and others in favor of a Palestinian State, which, I believe, will create the conditions for true peace and security among the countries of the region.

Solving other regional problems including the Cyprus problem, will strengthen the cohesion of the international coalition in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Chairman,
Combating terrorism requires a multifaceted approach. We must focus also on those issues which breed distrust and allow extremist tendencies to gain a foothold. In this, we must pay particular attention to addressing nationalistic, racist or xenophobic undercurrents, which find fertile ground among those who wish to promote a polarization of cultures or religions. Similarly, we agree with the European Union that the integration of all countries into a fair world system of security, prosperity and improved development is the condition for a strong and sustainable community for combating terrorism.

Concluding, Mr. Chairman, let me reiterate that there can be no room for being neutral in the fight against terrorism to which Cyprus has committed itself to playing its part in the global coalition and campaign.

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