President Demetris Christofias Determined to Succeed in Solution Effort
Strasbourg, Sep 30 – President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has urged the UN to press on with an agreement that will abolish annual military exercises in and around Cyprus, adding that he also advocates the disengagement of forces, particularly in the Nicosia region.
In his address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Tuesday, the President revealed that during his recent meeting in New York with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, he suggested that the UN chief promote an agreement to abolish the annual military exercises in and around Cyprus.
President Christofias said he has the political will needed to do whatever is necessary to solve the Cyprus problem, acknowledging that the procedure which has started will be difficult.
Outlining his vision to transform the unitary state in Cyprus into a federation, he said the noble struggle he and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have waged in the 80s gives him hope that they can succeed in reaching an agreed solution that will serve the interests of Cypriots and not of foreigners.
The President stressed that no solution is not a solution and warned that “we do not have the luxury to fail” in this latest peace effort, as the absence of a solution will probably lead to permanent partition.
President Christofias also said that Turkey must contribute to the process in a positive way, adding that he expects Ankara to rise to the occasion and fulfill its obligations to the Republic of Cyprus arising from its efforts to join the EU.
Turkey refuses to recognize the legal government of the Republic of Cyprus, which joined the EU in May 2004, and has yet to open its ports and airports to Cypriot flagged vessels and aircraft, as demanded by the EU.
In his address, President Christofias said it is an honor for him to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the first time since he was elected President, in February of this year.
He reiterated that the Republic of Cyprus is firmly committed to the principles and values of the Council of Europe and the European Union, fully appreciates the Council of Europe and recognises the unique role it plays in accomplishing the noble mission that has been assigned to it, adding that the Parliamentary Assembly constitutes the democratic means for promoting the basic principles of the Council of Europe.
He expressed Cyprus’s appreciation “for the active interest the Council of Europe has taken in safeguarding the human rights of Cypriots who have suffered as a result of the Turkish invasion and continuing occupation of a large part of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus by over 40 thousand well-armed Turkish troops” while the National Guard of the Republic of Cyprus has only nine thousand soldiers.
Furthermore, the President said “we deeply appreciate the valuable contribution that the European Court of Human Rights has made to the protection of human rights and basic freedoms of all Cypriots,” stressing that the Court’s judgments must be fully respected and the Committee of Ministers must act so that they are effectively implemented.
President Christofias said that, October 1st, marks “the anniversary of the creation of the independent Republic of Cyprus in 1960, the joint asset of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.” Despite the many difficulties the Cyprus Republic has been through in its history, President Christofias said “its reunification is our vision. A united Cyprus, a functional state with a federal structure where the human rights and freedoms of all Cypriots without exception will be respected, should be our common legacy to our children and grandchildren”.
Unfortunately, he added, “foreign interventions and wrong choices made by certain circles in both communities on the island from the first few years of independence, prevented the development of this homeland for the benefit of all Cypriots.” Foreign interventions in Cyprus’s internal affairs, he added, reached a peak with the military coup of the Greek junta and the Turkish invasion in July – August 1974.
President Christofias said that he has resisted and fought chauvinism and as fighters of the Popular Movement of Cyprus, “I fought alongside the present leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mehmet Ali Talat from the beginning of the ‘80s. This more than anything else gives me hope that we can succeed in finally reaching an agreed solution that will serve the interests of Cypriots and not those of any foreigners,” the President remarked.
He reassured that he remains “committed to the common vision that we worked out together with Mr. Talat and his predecessor, the late Ozker Ozgur, during the ‘90s as leaders of AKEL and the Republican Turkish Party respectively,” explaining that this vision “was expressed in joint decisions and public statements of both communities after meetings between delegations led by the two leaders.”
The vision entails a solution and reunification based on the relevant UN resolutions and the 1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements between the leaders of the two communities under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, he added.
In his speech, President Christofias declared his faith in his “Cypriot identity that has evolved from centuries of living together and which we must foster and promote. I am a Greek Cypriot and proud of my roots and identity, but equally I fully respect Mr. Talat’s right to be different and proud of his roots and his identity.”
Referring to the “new intense effort to solve the Cyprus problem,” which began on September 3rd, aimed at overcoming past deadlocks and achieving progress that will lead to the reunification of Cyprus under mutually agreed terms, and to the withdrawal of all foreign troops after 34 years of division and foreign occupation, President Christofias said the talks are taking place under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General in the framework of his Good Offices Mission.
The UN Secretary-General’s Good Offices Mission entails negotiations between the leaders of the two communities, of whose outcome all Cypriots shall have ownership, said the President, adding, that “the role of the Secretary-General and the international community is to provide help and support. Good Offices do not mean arbitration. Nor do they mean mediation” and noted that recent experience has shown that any imported plans that do not serve the interests of Cypriots, will be rejected by the Cypriot people.
The framework for a solution outlined by the relevant resolutions foresees a bizonal, bicommunal federation with a single identity, a single indivisible sovereignty and a single nationality, said Christofias, adding that federal institutions will embody the principle of political equality as laid out by the relevant UN resolutions.
He also pointed out that a bizonal, bicommunal federation is the only agreed basis for a solution since 1977 and was recently reaffirmed by the leaders of the two communities, remarking that “this represents a compromise, in actual fact the only possible compromise, on whose foundations a new political arrangement can be built”.
President Christofias reassured the PACE that he has “the political will needed to do whatever is necessary to solve this problem” and that he is supported in this statement by his actions during the Popular Movement in Cyprus and the fact that he is a refugee himself.
In his speech, the Cypriot President referred to certain specific suggestions he had made which “will improve the climate surrounding the negotiations and will increase their chances of succeeding.”
He said that during his “meeting with the UN Secretary-General in New York last week, I suggested that he promote an agreement to abolish the annual military exercises that are held each autumn in and around Cyprus. I refer specifically to the Nikiforos exercise, carried out by the Cyprus National Guard, and the Toros exercise, carried out by the Turkish military forces in Cyprus.”
In addition, “I propose that measures of military de-escalation also be agreed upon and implemented, such as the disengagement of forces, particularly in the Nicosia region, including the full demilitarization of the old town of Nicosia within the Venetian walls, the designation of a Demilitarized Zone, and other measures,” the President added.
The President said that there is also the issue of the implementation of confidence building measures already agreed with Talat but unfortunately, ''they have yet to be implemented.''
We are fully aware that the procedure that has started will be difficult, Christofias said, pledging however that on his part “we will work as hard as we possibly can and spare no effort to ensure it has a successful outcome. We do not have the luxury to fail. No solution is not a solution, as some people claim. On the contrary, the lack of a solution, with the problem still pending, will probably lead to the permanent partition of the island, which is the worst possible outcome for both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.”
President Christofias said “I believe that we can and that we must succeed,” noting that “the will of the Cypriot people for a solution is essential.” However, he added, “it is not in itself, sufficient. Turkey, too, must contribute to the process in a positive way. Turkey maintains over 40,000 troops and tens of thousands of colonists in Cyprus and can undoubtedly determine the outcome of the issues being discussed. We believe that the solution should and will benefit everyone. It will allow all Cypriots - Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots - to live and work together in an independent prosperous country within the family of the European Union, without the presence of foreign troops and illegal settlers, in conditions of safety and where everyone’s identity and rights will be respected. It will also give an impetus to Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union of which Cyprus is already a full member.”
Concluding, the President said “we expect that Turkey will rise to the occasion and fulfill its obligations to the Republic of Cyprus arising from its efforts to join the EU. In this way Turkey will contribute positively to the efforts to find a solution that will respect the basic principles of International Law, the principles and values of the European Union and of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
President Christofias’s speech in its entirety is available below: