November 25, 2017

Statement by the Representative of Cyprus Ambassador Constantine Moushoutas at the Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly – Bethlehem 2000

Mr. President,

This is our third participation in the General Debate of the item “Bethlehem 2000”.

As we have stated before, we consider the inscription of this item in the agenda of the General Assembly and the commemoration of this historic event a most opportune and useful step from the historic and religious point of view. We commend again the UN Committee on Palestinian Rights for having promoted the idea and for inscribing the item in Plenary.

Bethlehem, Palestine is geographically very close to Cyprus and even closer spiritually. Situated as we are in the crossroads of the Mediterranean we have participated in the programmed millennium events, which we view also as part of our contribution to the peace process.

The dignified celebrations of the birth of Jesus, the Christmas Market in the City of Nativity, the Festivals, concerts and street parades were attended by thousands of people from many countries and by a number of Heads of State and Government. His Holiness Pope Paul II and other spiritual leaders, including our own Patriarch Bartholomew, contributed to the spirituality and universality of the project aiming at the bolstering of the understanding among the different cultures and religions. It is our ardent wish that the spirituality which prevailed only a few weeks ago may guide our endeavours to peace and to the solution of problems during these critical times.

We had welcomed the peace process and the progress achieved in the Middle East and deeply regret the very recent bloodshed and loss of life. We are pleased to hear that the peace process may start again and we hope that it will produce positive results. To this end, no effort should be spared in the direction of a just and viable solution, based on the United Nations resolutions. Cyprus is directly affected by any development in the region, whether it is conflict or peace. We live with the vision of a free and peaceful island, without occupation troops and barbed wires, hoping that a success in our area will have its beneficial effect on us also.

The very recent tragic events of violence must not be allowed to push the peace process off track. We agree with the Security Council call on the parties for the end to the violence and for the immediate resumption of negotiations within the Middle East process. We deplore the use of force and the resultant loss of life. In light of these sad developments special care must be taken for the security of the thousands of expected tourists and visitors in Bethlehem. Their free and safe movement and unhindered access to the holy places of the city must continue and the security and safety of the faithful of all religions must be of primary concern. The holy land, as we said before, must be just that: Holy. A place of harmony, peace and hope.

Bethlehem 2000 is undoubtedly an enormous world undertaking seeking to restore the religious and historical sites of the city, which have been negatively affected by years of conflict. We reiterate, therefore, our support to these historic events and commend the Palestinian authorities, the UNDP, UNESCO and other UN organizations, as well as the donor countries for doing what needs to be done for the final success of this global undertaking.

Thank you, Mr. President.