November 24, 2017

Statement by H.E. Mr. Andreas Mavroyiannis Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Cyprus to the Third Committee of the General Assembly on Human rights

Thank you Mr. Chairman,

As this is the first time that my delegation takes the floor, I would like to express to you and to the members of the bureau our congratulations on your election and for the excellent way you are steering our work. I would also like to express appreciation to the Secretary-General for the numerous reports that we have before us, which cover a wide area of human rights issues.

Following the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the international community, with the United Nations system placed at the center of its efforts, managed to shape a strong, universal legal framework for human rights, which we should be committed to respect. Commitment to human rights, however, goes beyond accepting conventions and even beyond ensuring compliance with a set of legal obligations. It requires the unconditional integration of human rights into all aspects of life and human relations at a national, supranational and international level.  The shared vision of a just and peaceful world can only become a reality if our aspirations and commitments are turned into individual, as well as collective, practice.

Regrettably, despite the impressive progress made so far in this field, violations of human rights continue to take place in all regions of the world, debasing human dignity and life and the values we all seek to live by as an international community. All kinds of discrimination, violence, terrorism and conflicts by definition negate human rights and endlessly reproduce the vicious circle of instability, underdevelopment and inequality. Extreme poverty, pandemics and social injustice should not be considered as less significant or pressing challenges directly or indirectly affecting us all.  While authoritarian regimes and other powers continue to oppress individuals, groups and/or peoples, suppress freedoms and liberties and cause suffering and despair, we should also recognize that no country is entirely safe from violations of human rights. We should therefore constantly be cautious and continue to be building appropriate protection mechanisms and remedies at all levels. Indeed, the human being himself, his inherent rights and dignity, are unfortunately far from being in practice the primary and central value of human civilization, throughout the world.  It remains, therefore, imperative to realize the important task that lies ahead, work relentlessly in the right direction and always bear in mind that the impact of the violations of human rights is universal and so must be our reaction.

Mr. Chairman,

Having suffered from grave violations of human rights, as a result of a foreign invasion in 1974 and of the continuing occupation of one third of its territory, Cyprus attaches great significance to the protection and promotion of human rights, and therefore places the human rights agenda among its top priorities. We vigilantly follow developments in the area of human rights throughout the world, and remain committed to international efforts to uphold and defend human rights where in danger. Simultaneously, the Government works hard to incorporate a human rights aspect into all its structures and institutions in the territory under its control in order to ensure equal opportunities and promotion of the rights of all its citizens.

Acknowledging the difficulties faced by those citizens who reside in the occupied areas, the Government of Cyprus has adopted during the last months a generous package of measures, which will give them the opportunity to enjoy the results of its human rights- based policies as well as the benefits of the accession of Cyprus to the European Union.  Unfortunately, the occupation authorities not only prohibit Turkish Cypriots from enjoying these benefits, but also in many occasions suppress their freedom of speech and expression by threatening and intimidating those who dare to challenge Turkey’s policy on Cyprus and support the idea of a reunited Cyprus, free of occupation troops and member of the European Union.

Mr. Chairman,

My Government works hard in alleviating the traumatic consequences of the grave violations of human rights caused by the Turkish invasion and occupation. One of its main tasks is to intensify its efforts towards establishing the fate of all missing persons, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. This is a major issue of a purely humanitarian nature and we rely heavily on the support of the international community as a whole in order to put an end, at last, to the continuing ordeal of so many people.  The positive reaction of many families, both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot, to the Government’s call for cooperation gave a new impetus to this bold step forward. However this end cannot be fully achieved without the cooperation and political will of the Government of Turkey.

The ongoing violations of the rights of the few remaining enclaved persons in the occupied area of Cyprus are yet another issue of primary concern for my Government. The living conditions of these people continue to deteriorate while the occupying regime continues blatantly to refuse the implementation of the 1975 Vienna III Agreement.   The partial easing of restrictions on movement across the shameful and anachronistic dividing line maintained by the military might of the occupying power, much publicized by the Turkish side, has not made life any easier for the enclaved or their relatives. Suffice to mention that the occupation authorities not only forbid the establishment of a secondary school, but also deny those children, that were previously forced to move to the government controlled areas in order to attend secondary education, the right to return permanently to their homes and families when they finish their studies. This practice constitutes yet another example of the long-standing Turkish policy of ethnic cleansing the areas under its control. It should not be overlooked that during the last three decades the Greek Cypriot population in that area, has dwindled down  from 20 thousand in 1975 to only four hundred.

The denial of the right to return applies also to some hundred thousands refugees who, due to the Turkish invasion, were expelled from their properties in 1974. After the partial lifting of restrictions of movement by the occupation regime last April, refugees were able for the first time in 29 years to see their houses and villages.  What the occupation authorities presented as a gesture of good will was in reality yet another confirmation of their blatant violation of the people’s inalienable right to their homes and properties. What the legal owners were able to attest to, upon visiting their properties, is that foreigners, mostly brought in from the Turkish mainland in an attempt to alter the demographic character of the area, arbitrarily take advantage of their property. At the same time Turkey refuses to comply with the relevant decisions of international judicial bodies and to contribute constructively to the achievement of a settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of respect for human rights and of the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.

Mr. Chairman,

Although the protection of human rights is a primary responsibility of the governments, the international community, headed by the United Nations system, bear a major responsibility in monitoring human rights, and in restoring them where violated. It is of paramount importance to be vigilant on the international level and watch over using all appropriate mechanisms. In cases where human rights and fundamental freedoms are violated, the reaction of the international community is expected to be unconditional, uncompromising and non negotiable-for no human suffering should go unnoticed, no oppression should be tolerated and also on the other hand, no conflict or dispute can be settled without taking into consideration human rights. International peace and security must be found, beyond political and geo-strategic considerations, also on respect for and restoration of human rights. No settlement of disputes can survive and be the basis of mutual understanding and cooperation unless all parties, and in particular the small and weak, feel that their rights and dignity are fully ensured.

The settlement of the Cyprus problem, one of the oldest items remaining on the UN agenda is, in its essence, a question of respect and implementation of international human rights norms. We thus rely heavily on the support and determination of the international community to translate their commitment into action and actively support the Secretary General’s mission toward that end.  However no effort will come to any good, if the Republic of Turkey is not willing to heed the call of the international community to withdraw its occupation troops from Cyprus, to end the continuous human rights violations and to give the people of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike, the opportunity to live in conditions of peace and security in a reunited country, member of the European Union.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.