December 14, 2017

Address by the Foreign Minister of Cyprus Dr. Ioannis Kasoulides to the 55th Session of the UN General Assembly

Mr. President,

I would like to extend my warmest congratulations on your well-deserved election as President of the 55th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. I am certain that your considerable experience and diplomatic skills will guide the work of this Session to a successful conclusion.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to your distinguished predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Namibia, for the exceptional manner in which he has presided over the 54th Session of the General Assembly.

Mr. President,

Earlier this month, in this very hall an unprecedented gathering of Heads of State took place, an event that has, through the final declaration, given a new impetus for an enhanced international cooperation, to tackle an array of international problems. The Millennium Assembly has expressed the strong will of the peoples of this planet for common action so that humanity can proceed with the construction of a better world.

Mr. President,

Cyprus reaffirms its commitment to the United Nations Organization, which we have always considered and continue to do so, as the foundation around which the international community can pursue the lofty goals of peace, security, justice and the respect of human rights and social and economic development on a global level.

We, thus, fully support the continuing efforts for the reform of the Organization, including its principal organs, so that it will be able to successfully face the many international challenges. For, as all living organisms are constantly evolving in order to adapt and survive in an ever-changing environment, so does the United Nations need to always have the necessary structures and means that will make it as effective as possible.

Mr. President,

Cyprus welcomes the efforts of the United Nations in the area of disarmament and we are particularly pleased at the successful conclusion earlier this year of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Process. We would like to congratulate the Russian Federation for the recent ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the START II Treaty. We consider the expansion of the regime of nuclear-free zones, including one in our region of the Mediterranean, as an important component in our goal toward a nuclear-free world.

The illicit trafficking of small arms is an issue of grave concern. We are fully supportive of international efforts in this direction and consider more effective action to eliminate this phenomenon, an imperative need of our increasingly interdependent world. The cost to human lives, the economies and the social fabric of many societies of our inaction in putting an end to this, is simply unacceptable.

Mr. President,

In countless reports of the United Nations and its specialized agencies the concern regarding the continuing degradation of the environment and the imperative need for global policies in the pursuit of sustainable development is made evident. The effects of overpopulation and unregulated development will undoubtedly create new pressures on the environment in this new century. Small island states facing vulnerabilities such as global warming, rising water level and the increasing scarcity of water resources, are particularly concerned in this area. We are particularly pleased with the organization in Cyprus next January of the Workshop on Energy for Sustainable Development, a capacity Development Initiative for AOSIS. We expect this Workshop to have a substantive input to CSD9.

The effects of globalization were extensively discussed by world leaders in the Millennium Assembly. I would therefore limit myself in this statement to only one aspect of the whole question of the impact of globalization which we consider as a major problem, which we all have an obligation to address. The eradication of poverty is undeniably one of the major challenges that the international community faces. It is imperative that new and imaginative policies to attack the problem be developed, with the member-states of the United Nations and the major international financial institutions working in close cooperation on this issue. Debt relief should be a central part of these efforts.

Mr. President,

The progress achieved since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted more than half a century ago, has been considerable. The international regime of human rights instruments has been continually expanding and constitutes the axis around which the international community and national governments are judged, regarding their dedication and actions in the protection of human rights. The United Nations have been at the forefront of these new winds of hope for humankind. Human rights today encompass a variety of topics. We are very pleased at the successful conclusion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Women and the Follow-up Conference on Social Development, which were held earlier this year in New York and Geneva, respectively. We look forward to the upcoming World Conference on Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and the Special Session of the General Assembly On Children to continue on this path.

Mr. President,

One of the areas of particular concern to Cyprus is the increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons throughout the world. Cyprus has herself experienced the tragic consequences of mass, displacement and ethnic cleansing. The vast number of displaced populations, more than twenty-two million, according to UNHCR, are women and children, who are particularly vulnerable to gross violations of their human rights. We strongly believe that the international community has an obligation to more forcefully secure the right of return of these refugees to their places of residence.

Cyprus welcomes the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon in accordance with resolution 425 of the Security Council. We would like to consider this as a harbinger to the achievement of a comprehensive solution to the Middle East Question. Despite the temporary setback in the. Israeli Palestinian negotiations for a final status, we believe that the process can and should move forward, so that peace, stability and prosperity will finally be established in this long-tormented region. Cyprus supports the implementation of relevant resolutions of the Security Council in this respect.

Cyprus fully supports Security Council resolution 1244 and calls for the full respect of the human rights of all Kossovars, irrespective of their origin, as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states in the region. We also commend the European Union for its considerable initiatives and support for the economic and political stabilization of South Eastern Europe.

We have been encouraged by the positive climate following the June meeting between the North and South Korean leaders. We express our support for further measures for reconciliation, stability and cooperation in the Korean Peninsula. We have been heartened by the prospect of reunification and the termination of the division in this sensitive region.

Mr. President,

Cyprus fully supports the process for the establishment of an international criminal court and has been one of the original signatories of the Rome Statute. We look forward to further progress in the work of the Preparatory Commission for the Establishment of an International Criminal Court and welcome the results of its last session regarding the consensus reached on the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and The Elements of Crime. Our support stems from our firm belief that if we are to live in a world where justice and international legality prevail, then impunity for abhorrent crimes against humanity should end immediately. Cyprus, a victim herself of such crimes, knows very well the bitter truth of impunity.

Mr. President,

For the last twenty-six years the General Assembly includes in its agenda the question of Cyprus. Decisions by this Assembly and in particular Resolution 3212, as well as successive Security Council Resolutions, call for the restoration of the territorial integrity, unity, independence of the Republic of Cyprus and the withdrawal of the Turkish troops and settlers from an independent country, member of the United Nations, which has been invaded in 1974 and whose territory, 37% of it, is under the Turkish occupation army.

An attempt has been made from this rostrum to give a different version and interpretation of the one upheld and understood by this General Assembly and by the Security Council. When one talks about the events of 1963, one should not forget the armed insurgency against the legal Government of the Republic and the deliberate decision of the Turkish Cypriot leadership to withdraw its representatives from Parliament and the organs of the Government, in order to pave the way for the present de facto division of the island.

Furthermore, it is well known and confirmed by the three reports of the European Commission of Human Rights, following state recourses by the Republic of Cyprus against Turkey, that ethnic cleansing occurred in Cyprus in 1974 with the violent uprooting of 1/3 of the Cypriot population from their homes and their expulsion from the areas which are now under Turkish occupation. This is a classic example of a creation of faits accomplis through the use of force.

Enough has already been said about history and many recriminations were leveled by one side against the other. We have said, time and again, to our Turkish Cypriot compatriots and we repeat this to the Government of Turkey, that it is high time we looked to the future. A future bright and prosperous for all Cypriots permeated by a spirit of reconciliation, in a peaceful and reunited Cyprus, member of the European Union, in which all Cypriots would live in conditions of peace, prosperity and the full protection of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We want a future without occupation armies, without barbed wires of division and without human suffering. Indeed, how can one seriously claim that the Turkish massive military force which invaded and continues to occupy 37% of Cypriot territory for the last 26 years is “a force of pacification or liberation? Had these forces been “‘pacification or liberation troops” as Turkey tries to portray them, would the Security Council, which represents the collective wisdom of the international community, call repeatedly for their withdrawal? Moreover, how can anyone, speaking before this august body, describe United Nations Resolutions and their call to uphold and adhere to international law as romantic descriptions and unrealistic assessments?

One further point that I would like to make is the reference to the so-called “realities” in Cyprus. We have been asked to accept, if we want to find a solution, these so-called realities on the ground. These realities are, of course, the result of the Turkish invasion and its dire consequences on the people of Cyprus. One such stark reality reflecting the ultimate aims of Turkey in Cyprus is the presence of 98,000 Turkish mainland settlers in the occupied areas. Another reality is the mass emigration of our fellow Turkish Cypriots from the occupied areas and the constant threat posed by the 36,000 Turkish occupation troops stationed on the island. This threat is real and manifests itself from time to time through provocative actions on the ground. Such is the case of the Turkish advance in Strovilia, following the adoption last June, of a resolution by the Security Council renewing the mandate of UNFICYP. This illegal action has been described by the United Nations Secretary-General as a “clear violation of the status quo”. The inability of the Organization to return the situation to the status quo ante tarnishes its image and credibility. Could one imagine the consequences for international relations, when nations are forced to accept solutions based on faits accomplis created and sustained through the use of military force and unilateral acts? Can we allow such a precedent to pave the way for the disintegration of so many countries around the globe? What, indeed, would be the consequences for small states in this kind of “international order”, where international law is selectively applied and the will of the mighty reigns supreme?

The one and only reality, Mr. President, is the imperative need for peace and reconciliation in Cyprus, through a mutually acceptable solution within the parameters of United Nations Resolutions. We are currently engaged in the fourth round of proximity talks. We have come to these talks with flexibility and with the political will to reach a solution as prescribed by this Organization. We appeal to the Turkish side to seize the moment and capitalize on the current favorable environment in order to reach a comprehensive settlement. Such a settlement will be based on Security Council resolutions, which call for a bi-zonal, bi-communal Federal Republic of Cyprus, with a single sovereignty, citizenship and international personality, comprising two politically equal communities, as described by Security Council resolution 750 of 1992. The Turkish side must realize that a solution must be mutually acceptable, based on international law and must not insist on imposing its will and on a solution based on faits accomplis.

Our common aim should be a solution that would be honorable and something to be cherished by the future generations of all Cypriots, Greek and Turkish alike, to which our utmost purpose is to bequeath a better place to live in harmony, tolerance and cooperation.

Thank you, Mr. President.