I would like to begin by extending to you my warmest congratulations on your election as President of the Fifty-Second Session of the United Nations General Assembly. We are certain that your long experience and diplomatic skills will guide us successfully in our work at this Session of the General Assembly.
I would also like to thank your distinguished predecessor, Ambassador Razali Ismail, of Malaysia, for the determined leadership with which he steered our work at the Fifty-First Session.
Our Organization with its universal membership, its comprehensive mandate and broad spectrum of activities, is the only global forum able to pursue and achieve the universal goals we all strive for, namely, a secure and peaceful future, a narrowing of the gap between rich and poor, full respect for human rights, free and equitable trade, the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development.
I am pleased once again to be able to take this opportunity to renew our commitment to the ideals and aims that all of us here share.
This year is a landmark in the reform process of the United Nations because of the active measures taken by the Secretary-General of our Organization to tackle long-standing and deep-rooted issues.
Last July, the Secretary-General presented to us a comprehensive package of reforms designed to help the Organization rationalize and streamline its operations, secure its financial position and refocus itself to meet the changes in the global order, allowing thus the United Nations to fully utilize the strengths and expertise it already possesses.
We, therefore, are particularly pleased to welcome these proposals by the Secretary-General. We hope that by the conclusion of the debate on this issue that will take place in the Plenary during this Session, we shall reach a consensus, thus creating the necessary momentum for their speedy implementation and produce concrete results before we reach the new millennium.
The reforms are introduced at a time when it is generally acknowledged that the High-Level Working Groups mandated by the General Assembly of the United Nations to examine specific issues, from the restructuring and strengthening of the main United Nations Organs, to ensuring a firmer and lasting financing for our Organization, have yet to achieve substantial progress.
From this podium, I have stated before that we subscribe to the need to reform the Security Council so that it is representative of the increase in the membership of the United Nations and to reflect the changes in the post-cold-war world. We consider the need for reforming the Security Council a top priority for it affects directly its capacity to discharge its cardinal responsibility, that of maintaining international peace and security.
We, in this regard, welcome the progress already achieved in the working methods of the Security Council and expect further steps towards transparency and democratization.
A number of proposals were put forward by member-states over the last three years. Further deliberations are required, however, to achieve an agreement that would command the general support of all the membership of the Organization.
An important step in the reform process this year, concerns the work of the Organization in the field of international economic and social cooperation. After three years of hard deliberation the General Assembly adopted its “Agenda for Development” last June.
This is a great step forward because, as the Secretary-General himself states in his report to the Organization “it addresses not only the conventional development issues but also stresses the mutually supportive, though complex, relationships among development, peace, democracy, good governance and human rights”.
Equally important was the convening of the 19th Special Session of the General Assembly, to review the implementation of Agenda 21 – the global plan of action for sustainable development – which was adopted five years ago, at the United Nations Conference on the Environment held in Rio de Janeiro.
I believe that an important part of the future work of this Organization will lie in following up the work done at the major conferences, and reviewing the implementation of the plans and programmes they adopted.
The United Nations of the future must give most urgent priority to the agenda for development. Any modern concept of international peace must recognize that peace, security and development are indivisible.
It is indisputable that one of the major strengths of the United Nations is its universality. It is at once global, regional and locally based. It has achieved great results in all fields of international interaction. Its activities have a tremendous effect on our every day lives. At this juncture I should commend and stress the important role of the Organization for the promotion of the full respect and universal application of Human Rights as well as for the progressive development and codification of international law. In this respect, we fully support the establishment of the International Criminal Court which we have long advocated, and welcome the progress made in the Preparatory Committee and the increased momentum towards its fruition.
Though local and ethnic conflicts still persist seriously affecting the maintenance of international peace and security, the role of the Organization in disarmament for the past twelve months has been marked by great steps. A number of significant conventions have either been concluded or entered into force. In welcoming these achievements we feel we must continue to move ahead for their full and effective implementation.
We must also cherish the Organization’s contribution to development and education, its work against hunger and illiteracy and in short its role in restoring and upholding human dignity.
We believe in the United Nations and its Charter not just as an abstract ideal, but as a functioning, indispensable, concrete entity.
The principles and ideals of the United Nations since our independence and membership to the United Nations form the cornerstone of our foreign policy. We are fully committed to strengthening it by helping it tackle its precarious financial position, streamline and rationalize its operations and exploit to the full its uniqueness and its unrivaled expertise.
We are confident that the Organization will be able to harness the forces of change in ways that will benefit us all.
This year the United Nations has been especially active on certain long outstanding issues such as East Timor, the Western Sahara, the Situation in the Middle East and Cyprus.
We welcome the developments on the Question of the Western Sahara and the agreement reached on the implementation of the Settlement plan, under the auspices of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy. These positive achievements, we hope, will move the peace process forward and bring a final settlement to this long drawn-out situation of tension and conflict.
Despite our earlier hopes based on the Peace Agreement, the current events in the Middle East and the worsening situation in the occupied territories is a cause of great concern. As a neighbouring country, we wish to reiterate our support to the efforts for the achievement of peace in the area on the basis of the agreements reached and the relevant United Nations Resolutions.
As to the question of Cyprus, 1997 has been a year of intense diplomatic activity, culminating in face-to-face intercommunal talks under the auspices of the United Nations last July and August in Troutbeck and Glion respectively.
The resumption of the talks was the result of the untiring efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General, encouraged and actively supported by the international community.
The Security Council was closely pursuing the developments on the question of Cyprus whereas nine individual countries appointed Special Representatives on Cyprus. The European Union, through the Special Representative of the Presidency, was also following developments closely.
When invited by Mr. Kofi Annan last June to attend face-to-face talks with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community in Troutbeck and later in Glion, we responded positively and demonstrated our sincere and unwavering commitment to the peace process as the only means of solving the Cyprus question and our will to work for a comprehensive, just and viable solution.
Our will was tested even harder when on the eve of the talks, Turkey and the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, which is not recognized internationally except by Turkey, signed an illegal agreement, purporting to lead to the annexation by Turkey of the area occupied by the Turkish Forces, if the European Union proceeded to accession negotiations with Cyprus. Despite this enormous provocation, we reacted in low tones in order to avoid tension which would affect adversely the climate of the talks.
During the talks we worked hard and co-operated constructively with Mr. Cordovez, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, with the sole aim of breaking the impasse and moving forward to reverse the status quo created and maintained by Turkey since 1974 by the use of force and declared unacceptable by numerous Security Council Resolutions.
In contrast, the response of the other side was completely negative. Despite our constructive attitude, the efforts of Mr. Cordovez and those of other interested countries through their representatives, Mr. Denktash refused to hold any discussions on the substance of the Cyprus problem unless the European Union freezes its plans for accession talks with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, which were in accordance with its decision of 6 March 1995.
Mr. Denktash even threatened that, if the European Union decided to proceed with Cyprus’ application, he would not negotiate at all in the future. It was, therefore, abundantly clear that the other side did not go to the talks with the aim of finding a solution to the problem but in an attempt to impede Cyprus’ European Union accession process.
Any doubts as to the real cause of the failure of the talks to produce results on the substantive aspects of the Cyprus problem were dissolved by the unanimous verdict of the international community pronounced on 20 last August by the President of the Security Council in a statement to the press after the briefing by Mr. Cordovez on the outcome of the talks in Glion.
In the statement our positive attitude and co-operation was commended, whereas the Turkish Cypriot side was blamed for impeding substantive progress by the attempt to bring in preconditions to the table. The same verdict was reached by the European Union, which also rejected any link between the talks and the start of the European Union’s accession negotiations with Cyprus.
It is with great regret that once again in addressing the General Assembly I have to report that no progress has been made towards the solution of the Cyprus problem due to the inflexibility of the Turkish side.
The result of this deliberate inflexibility is the perpetuation of the illegal Turkish occupation of 37% of territory of the Republic by Turkish military forces, the artificial forceful separation of the two communities, the colonization of the occupied area by illegal settlers from Turkey, the refugee problem, the usurpation of the Greek Cypriot properties in the occupied area and the continued blunt violation by the Turkish side of United Nations General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions.
I fully share the disappointment of the Security Council for the absence of progress during the Glion Talks, despite the interest shown by the international community and more particularly by those countries which had their representatives in the wings observing the talks. The clear conclusion, however, to be drawn is that more active involvement of the international community, and in particular those who are in the wings of the talks, is needed if the talks are to produce results.
After the end of the talks, Mr. Denktash and Ankara continued to maintain the same negative attitude.
There was a barrage of threatening statements against Cyprus in direct violation of international law, and in particular the United Nations resolutions on Cyprus, which, inter alia, call for the respect of the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus and the withdrawal of all foreign troops.
The Turkish side continues to threaten to annex to Turkey the territory of the Republic occupied by Turkish forces if the European Union commences accession negotiations with Cyprus and to use force against the Republic of Cyprus to prevent the implementation of the agreement to buy and install in Cyprus the S-300 defensive ground-to-air missile system.
Last year we pledged before this august body our commitment to do everything in our power to help the Secretary-General of our Organization to succeed in his renewed efforts in the search for a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem. I believe that we have honoured our pledge to the full. I wish to reiterate our commitment to continue our constructive attitude, despite our disappointment.
However, I wish to make it abandantly clear, that we cannot and that we will not relinquish our inalienable right to defend our country and to decide about our armaments. As long as the Turkish threat emanating from the continued aggression and occupation of 37% of the territory of the Republic exists, we have not only the right but also the duty to provide for the security of the people of Cyprus. We will not tie our hands behind our backs and allow the Turkish Air Force to bomb our towns and villages at will, as it has done in the past without the ability to defend ourselves.
Our forces, never again, if need be, will take the battle field, without adequate protection from air attacks by the Turkish Air Force.
During the talks in Glion, in an attempt to assist the peace process, I proposed to Mr. Denktash that both leaders should make a declaration denouncing the use of force as a means of solving the Cyprus problem, to agree to work for a specific programme of reduction of military forces and equipment and a programme of demilitarization of the island and for limitation of importation of arms.
I believe that my proposal, if accepted by the other side, may open the way for substantive progress towards a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question and the restoration of the respect of the human rights of the people of Cyprus which have been grossly violated for the last 23 years.
To my Turkish Cypriot compatriots I wish to say this. Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriots have to live in Cyprus for centuries to come. We must live as friends and as citizens of a bicommunal, bizonal federal republic, respecting each other’s ethnic origin, traditions, culture and religion and the equal political status of our respective communities. We must also be citizens of the European Union. This will give us greater security and prosperity, both for our respective communities and for Cyprus, our country.
The question of Cyprus has been on the agenda of the United Nations for too long. A momentum has been created for the solution of the Cyprus problem as a result of the renewed efforts of the United Nations, strongly supported by the international community.
Let us not miss this opportunity.
It is clear by now where the attention of the Security Council and the international community should be focused. It should use all the means in its power to persuade the Turkish side to abandon its intransigent position.
Let me assure, once again, this august body of the commitment of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to continue to work with the Secretary-General in his efforts to find a solution based on a State of Cyprus with a single sovereignty and international personality and a single citizenship, with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded and comprising two politically equal communities, as described in the relevant Security Council resolutions, in a bicommunal and bizonal federation, and that such settlement must exclude union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession.
At this point I wish to express the gratitude of the Government and the people of Cyprus to all those countries who have been assisting and supporting the Secretary-General’s efforts.
Before I conclude, allow me, Mr. President, to refer to a matter which is of great importance to my Government. This is the issue of the missing persons in Cyprus.
My Government considers this issue as purely humanitarian whose solution is long overdue. All efforts should be exerted so that the legitimate rights of the families to be informed in a convincing and conclusive manner about the fate of their loved ones, are fully respected by all concerned. This also includes the right for a decent burial of the missing persons who are proved to be dead.
In this spirit, I recently had two meetings in Cyprus with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot Community Mr. Rauf Denktash. Certain steps were agreed in the presence of the Resident Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General which we believe will contribute towards the desired progress in the efforts to solve this humanitarian problem.
The hope and expectation of all, especially the relatives of the missing persons, is the implementation of what was agreed in a true spirit of humanitarian principles and practice.
However, the agreement I made with the Turkish Cypriot Leader Mr. Denktash will prove of little use if the third Member of the Committee on Missing Persons is not appointed. It also is my earnest view that the work of the Committee on Missing Persons will be greatly assisted and expedited if experienced investigators are appointed to assist it in its task.
In conclusion, may I, Mr. President, reassure this august Assembly – and indeed the World Community – of my country’s dedication to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, as well as emphasize our determination to spare no effort in working, in concert with other Nations, for the prevalence of justice, peace, progress and stability in the volatile region of our part in the world.
Thank you Mr. President.