I would like to extend to you my warmest congratulations on your election as President of the 58th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. We are indeed very happy to see a Minister from a fellow Commonwealth, and also an island State, preside the session. I am sure that your diplomatic skills, experience and grasp of the issues will harmoniously steer our work. I would also like to express our thanks and appreciation to your predecessor Mr. Jan Kavan for the excellent record of his presidency.
This year my country is about to fulfil its most ambitious aspiration, joining the European Union. After having signed the accession treaty in April we expect to become full members along with 9 other acceding countries on 1st May 2004 . But already we are associated to the work of the Union and participate in all meetings and in the life of the new European family of the 25. Hence, Cyprus is represented by the statement of the Italian Presidency of the European Union and fully subscribes to its contents.
Unfortunately the current session is taking place in a heavy and loaded atmosphere. The deadly attack against the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad last month as well as the most recent one, two days ago, continue to fill us with bitterness and indignation. We all share the feeling of a great injustice and of an insult to the organised international community. Once again I wish to express our deep condolences to the victims’ families and our sympathy to those injured. At the same time we should also convey the message that such actions will not deter us from the pursuit of the high ideals of the United Nations and its engagement in Iraq .
From Baghdad to Jakarta , from Russia to India , and back to the heinous attacks of 11 September two years ago, terrorist acts around the globe, serve as a painful reminder that terrorism transcends borders and that it attacks universal values. Freedom, democracy, human rights and humanity itself have to be defended by the international community with persistence and determination. At the same time we should be cautious and ensure that our actions are fully in line with the cherished values we want to uphold. As the threat is unfortunately far from over, a genuine global mobilization, under the aegis of the United Nations, is of the essence if this endeavor is to be successful. Cyprus is playing its part fully in this concerted effort and is also among the countries that have ratified all twelve of the International Conventions pertaining to terrorism. Furthermore it has recently ratified the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel of 1994.
Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has become, and rightly so, a top priority in the world’s agenda. The risk of acquisition of such weapons by terrorist groups highlights even more the gravity and urgency of the issues to be addressed. In this respect, the United Nations have a truly instrumental role to play. Universalization of, and compliance with multilateral treaties related to disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as verification mechanisms and internationally coordinated export controls are essential tools in our efforts. We have repeatedly expressed our genuine commitment to international norms in the field of disarmament and I am happy to report that Cyprus , earlier this year, has ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Ottawa Convention.
The Government of Cyprus, attaches great importance to the international effort against mine proliferation and the clearing of minefields. For this reason it has taken the initiative to clear all minefields in the buffer zone laid by the National Guard immediately after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus . In this regard, I would like to announce today my Government’s decision and firm commitment first: to unilaterally start within the next two months, in cooperation with the United Nations and the financial support of the European Union, demining in the buffer zone and second: to unilaterally proceed with the destruction of an appreciable amount of stockpiled anti-personnel mines during the month of November this year. This is just a first but, I believe, a major step in the implementation of our obligations under the Ottawa Convention.
In Iraq , we have been encouraged by the adoption of resolutions 1483 (2003) and 1500 (2003) and we believe that the international community has proven that it can move beyond the divisions of the past and face the challenges of the future in a new climate of cooperation, for the benefit of the Iraqi people. In fulfilling the task that lies ahead for building a secure, democratic and economically sound Iraq , we should make use of the United Nation’s unique capabilities for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction as well as its rich experience in assisting the political process leading to the establishment of an internationally recognized representative government, exercising the sovereignty of Iraq .
This year again, the situation in the Middle East remains a source of major concern for the region and beyond. The Quartet’s “road map” with the overwhelming international support it enjoys, represents a historic opportunity that should not be missed. Unfortunately in recent days, the international community holds its breath as blind and spiraling violence thwarts the efforts to place and maintain on a solid track this process leading to a settlement. The necessary political will should be demonstrated by both sides at all levels and be matched with persistent action on the ground, in the right direction. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our longstanding position for a just settlement, in accordance with international law, UN Resolutions and the agreements reached between the parties, which will put an end to the occupation and realize the aspirations of the Palestinian people for the establishment of an independent state, living side by side with Israel, in peace and security. Cyprus , a country of the region, with traditionally close relations with both parties, stands ready to assist in every way possible.
The realization of the Charter’s vision of a just, peaceful and prosperous world remains inextricably linked with the commitment to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in full conformity with their universal, indivisible and interdependent nature.
Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, great progress has been made in the direction of promoting human rights worldwide; as a result, we all now share a common vision of a world of justice and equality. The promotion of human rights, however, goes well beyond ensuring respect of a theoretical legal construct. It involves the determination of taking specific, practical steps towards turning our vision into tangible results.
The Republic of Cyprus, still witnessing serious violations of human rights within its territory by foreign armed forces, places human rights at the very top of its agenda. While working hard for the promotion and protection of human rights of all its citizens under the harsh circumstances imposed by the invasion and occupation of a significant part of its territory, Cyprus never loses sight of the universal dimension of human rights and remains active and resolutely watches over the protection of human rights throughout the world. It reaffirms its full support of the Secretary General’s efforts to integrate human rights into the whole range of UN activities and reiterates its commitment to working closely with UN partners towards their universal implementation.
We still strive in Cyprus for establishing the fate of all those missing, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, since the Turkish invasion of 1974. This is a major issue of a purely humanitarian character and we seek the support of the international community as a whole in order to put an end, at last, to the continuing ordeal of so many families. For this to happen, the cooperation and political will of the Republic of Turkey are absolutely necessary.
Furthermore, the rights of the few remaining enclaved persons in the occupied part of Cyprus continue to be violated. The rights of the refugees are also still being denied, whilst our people face new faits accomplis by the occupation army, as is the case of the advance of the Turkish Army in the area of Strovilia. With the assistance of the international community we are, nevertheless, resolved to persevere for the implementation of international conventions and for the restoration of the human rights of all Cypriots.
Protection for human rights and eradication of poverty and inequality, as encapsulated in the Millennium goals and the commitments undertaken in the Summits of Monterrey and Johannesburg, constitute mutually dependent steps toward the global vision of sustainable development. Cyprus remains strongly committed to these principles, and as a new member of the EU and emerging donor country, though a small one, is determined to spare no effort in meeting its obligations for development assistance to countries in need.
In view of the new challenges that the United Nations is required to face, Cyprus strongly supports the Secretary General’s UN reform objectives, which aim at adapting the internal structures and culture of the organization to new expectations. It therefore welcomes the work done on strengthening the management and administration, as well as streamlining the budget of the UN. It also attaches great importance to the improvement of the inter-governmental structure and processes of the UN and the revitalization of the General Assembly, as essential elements of the reform process, whose aim is to bring about a stronger UN system that will be able to effectively pursue the priorities adopted in the United Nations Millennium Declaration.
We certainly need effectiveness but we cannot separate it from legitimacy. In Cyprus we know, from our own experience, both the importance of legitimacy and the need for effectiveness. We have been facing the catastrophic results of aggression and we have been struggling for more than 29 years for the solution of the problem created by the invasion and occupation of the northern part of our country by Turkey. Despite all efforts Turkish intransigence has not been curbed and their defiance of numerous Resolutions of the General Assembly and of the Security Council continues unabated. Such an attitude constitutes not only unacceptable behavior in international relations but is also completely anachronistic and incomprehensible to any rational thought. Furthermore it is at variance with the will and the wish of the overwhelming majority of the Turkish Cypriots themselves who are persistently asking for a solution and participation in the accession of Cyprus to the European Union. We continue as far as we are concerned to do our best to bring them on board and we have embarked on an ambitious policy in order to enhance their standard of living and allow them to fully enjoy rights and benefits that they are entitled to as Cypriots.
In Cyprus, we faced adversity for so many years and we survived. Hence, we know that we have to persevere. We still believe in the United Nations, we are grateful for its interest and involvement and I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere thanks to the Secretary-General for his tireless efforts within the framework of his Good Offices Mission for Cyprus, entrusted to him by the Security Council. I would like also to praise the work of his Special Adviser, Mr. Alvaro de Soto and all members of his team, of his Assistant Special Representative and the U.N. Mission as well as to the U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus and to the contributing countries. I believe that it is appropriate to mention this here at this stage because as you all know, the continuing and longstanding Turkish intransigence has a few months ago thwarted what was probably the strongest ever initiative of the United Nations for finding a solution in Cyprus.
We understand and share the bitterness and the disappointment of all involved for the failure but as I said before we should not give up. We always counted on U.N. support and involvement and we will continue to do so. We are always ready whenever the Secretary-General invites us to engage in serious negotiations on the basis of his plan in order to reach a settlement as soon as possible, in conformity with relevant United Nations Resolutions. We hope that soon it will be possible for the other side to realize that they have to return to the negotiating table, cooperate constructively with the Secretary-General and demonstrate the necessary political will to yield a settlement.
A solution is urgently needed in Cyprus. A functional and viable solution that will embrace all Cypriots and will allow our country to take its stride and assume fully its place and role within the European family. A united Cyprus in a united Europe thriving and navigating along with its partners towards a secure and prosperous future and working hand in hand with all other members of the international community for the promotion of universal values.
Thank you Mr. President.