September 19, 2018

Statement by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus Ambassador Sotos Zackheos to the the United Nations General Assembly on Terrorism

Mr. President,

I would like at the outset to reiterate my delegation’s profound sorrow and sense of solidarity with the United States, both the Government and its people, at this calamity which befell upon them and to condemn unequivocally these criminal and barbaric acts, which we consider an attack on all humanity. Our sympathy also goes to the families of victims of all the countries whose nationals perished or are missing as a result of this heinous assault against the fundamental principles of civilization.

The 11th of September will go down in history as a day of infamy but also as the day when the international community has been energized to tackle once and for all this scourge from the face of the Planet. To do so, would require a long and sustained effort at all levels: national, regional and international. This multifaceted phenomenon can only be attacked and contained through effective action on many fronts. It is a phenomenon that transcends national borders, religions, cultures and civilizations. That is why it is imperative that it be addressed through a global and multilateral approach. The primary responsibility in the fight against terrorism undeniably lies with the United Nations, which through the Security Council and the General Assembly had immediately responded to the shocking events of 11 September with determination, adopting the relevant resolutions of two weeks ago, and especially Security Council resolution 1373 of last Friday.

The fight against terrorism must unite all humanity and cannot be allowed to fall victim to politicization and ephemeral considerations. Cyprus categorically rejects any such attempt, or any tendency to equate terrorism with the Arab or Muslim world, and in this respect, we commend the outstanding efforts of President Bush to safeguard the culture of tolerance and multiculturalism, which is the cornerstone of American society and the source of its strength.

The Government of Cyprus has aligned itself with the conclusions and plan of action of the extraordinary European Council meeting of 21 September 2001, and my delegation also aligned with the statement earlier in the debate, by H.E. the Permanent Representative of Belgium made on behalf of the European Union.

Cyprus fully shares the view of the European Union and others, for the necessity of a global mobilization against terrorism under the aegis of the United Nations. We also agree with the European Union on the need for the international community to work in tandem, to prevent and solve regional conflicts, such as the situation in the Middle East and Cyprus. The solution of the Cyprus problem will restore stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, usher in a new era of Greco-Turkish relations and thus strengthen the anti-terrorist struggle.

We support the integration of all countries into a fair world system of security, prosperity and development as the condition for a strong community for combating terrorism.

We reaffirm our commitment to join forces with all Governments in the struggle to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. This determination has been explicitly stated at the highest level with the assurance that all practical measures will be taken in cooperation with the international community and the obligations deriving from the relevant international treaties, to which we have acceded. Cyprus has ratified or acceded to nine of the twelve international conventions pertaining to international terrorism, including the three basic conventions related to terrorism, (on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, Against the Taking of Hostages, and the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, Including Diplomatic Agents). Furthermore, it is one of the 44 signatories to the most recent Convention, for the Suppression for the Financing of Terrorism, whose ratification will follow in the very near future.

Cyprus also supports the efforts for a comprehensive convention against terrorism, which would enhance the ability of the international community, to respond more effectively to this ugly phenomenon. We hope that the negotiations currently under way within the context of the United Nations will be soon concluded, so that the General Assembly can take the necessary steps for its realization.

Mr. President,

The terrorist attacks on September 11th were a wake up call to us all. They brought into sharper focus in the most brutal and horrific manner our vulnerability and the indiscriminate nature of terrorism. These events dictated upon all of us the need to review security and recalibrate other measures in existence.

On the part of the Republic of Cyprus there is heightened vigilance and security measures in place. The authorities have, inter alia, implemented additional measures at entry and exit points of the Republic and have generally bolstered security presence. In addition, strict passport scrutiny of all arriving and departing passengers is in place and additional measures concerning the screening of luggage are being taken. Private flights have for the moment been banned.

I wish to inform also that the Council of Ministers approved on September 20th a comprehensive proposal for the establishment of a task force to combat international terrorism, including illegal arms sales and brokerage. This unit will, inter alia, have the authority to investigate upon information and/or suspicion, the activities, books and dealings of companies registered in Cyprus and the assets and accounts of any individual that might be involved in the sponsorship of terrorism, including, for example, illegal arms sales, financial involvement and transshipments. The unit will also have the authority to take any action that might be deemed necessary, such as, freezing of assets and/or accounts, revoking company licenses and confiscating cargoes.

Mr. President,

In the murky world of terrorism, one of our major tasks is that related to its financing, which is something that requires the constant vigilance of all countries, so that their financial institutions will not be allowed to be used by terrorist networks, which are often connected, in one way or another, with international criminal cartels, such as those involved in the drug trade and trafficking of arms. Cyprus, being cognizant of the dangers associated with its status as a major regional financial center, has for many years now, been actively engaged in establishing a strong anti-money laundering regime. According to the US Department of State International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, “the Central Bank has in place a strict regulatory framework aimed at preventing abuses within the offshore sector. The Report furthermore notes the cooperation that exists between Cyprus and the United States, in fighting this growing international phenomenon. Last year the Financial Action Task Force conducted a review on Cyprus’ anti-money laundering regime, against 25 specific criteria. Cyprus was not identified as a non-cooperative country, in the fight against money laundering while it clearly states that “Cyprus has a comprehensive anti-money-laundering system.” I would also like to mention that, despite the size of our offshore banking sector, the OECD Forum for Harmful Tax Practices, in a list of tax havens published in June of last year, did not include Cyprus in that list. Furthermore, the IMF, in its most recent report on its assessment of the Banking Supervision in respect of the offshore sector released in July of this year, commented positively on the situation in Cyprus.

In conclusion, Mr. President, we reiterate the determination of the Republic of Cyprus to support the universal fight against terrorism, which is nothing more than an assault on civilization with the purpose of sowing fear in our collective consciousness. We do so, in the firm belief that, in order to safeguard civilization as we know it, it is imperative to stand shoulder to shoulder in this common struggle.

Thank you, Mr. President.