December 18, 2017

Security Council Open Debate – Statement delivered by the Government Spokesman, Mr. Nikos Christodoulides

Security Council Open Debate on “The victims of attacks and abuses on ethnic or religious ground in the Middle East” in connection with the agenda item “The situation in the Middle East”

United Nations, 27 March 2015Security Council Meeting on The victims of attacks and abuses on ethnic or religious grounds in the Middle East

Mr. President,

At the outset, I wish to congratulate France for its timely initiative to organize this open debate focusing on the open wound of “attacks and abuses on ethnic or religious ground in the Middle East.” Cyprus aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union, and would like to add the following from a national angle.

Around a century ago, poet Constantine Cavafy, who lived in Alexandria Egypt, in his poem “Going Back Home for Greece” wrote of:

“Our seas, the waters of Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt, the beloved waters of our home countries”

And went on to say that

“We must not be ashamed of the Syrian and Egyptian blood in our veins; we should really honor it, take pride in it”.

I have cited this Mr. President, only as one of the many examples of the cultural richness of the Middle East, a birth place of great civilizations and religions, and an area of spiritual fermentation and fertilization. This mosaic has been the product of thousands of years of coexistence and conflict in an area that had always been the bone of contention between regional and international powers.

Today we are yet again experiencing tremendous turmoil in the Middle East. This debate is an opportunity to reflect upon the root causes of this unrest. In order to do so, we must avoid the trap of confining ourselves to the developments in a specific region. Ethnic and religious clashes are nowadays a source or a pretext for nearly every conflict around the world. It is also being invoked as the ideological basis of terrorism, intolerance, discrimination, racism and all forms of hatred. If this scourge is not tackled decisively, if it remains unaddressed, it will soon have such spill-over effect that will render the whole situation as entirely out of control.

These times demand courageous measures by all States individually, as well by the international community collectively. All that we are witnessing in the wider region of the Middle East, particularly following the emergence of ISIS/Daech and the perpetration of its untold atrocities cannot leave us indifferent or passive.

As the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year, it is evident that long term oppression, intolerance and lack of inclusiveness have cultivated the ground for growing terrorism. The incomprehensible violence caused by ISIL/Da’esh and other terrorist groups, as well as the different militias, has created a huge humanitarian crisis. It is vital that the international community sends clear and strong messages condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the organizers, financiers and sponsors of acts of terrorism.

In Iraq, although the situation seems to be getting under control there is still a lot that needs to be done. ISIL/Da’esh can only be defeated if there is political unity and a common fight against terrorism.  Cyprus believes that addressing the security and political crisis in the country is key for its stability but also for regional safety and security.

The recent horrific and brutal acts of terrorism in Libya have showcased, once again, that terrorism knows no borders. We have witnessed how destructive ISIL is in Iraq and Syria, and unfortunately it has found fertile ground in the growing post-revolution political instability in Libya. The gravity of the situation in Libya must prompt action in support of the political process in that country. To restore stability, a political solution to the Libyan crisis is a sine qua non.

Mr. President,

The problem of religious persecution is most pronounced in parts of the Middle East in the current turbulent times, and especially in places where conflict is raging and extremist terrorist groups are active.

A resolute stance for the principle of religious freedom everywhere is extremely important. Religious belief is fundamental to many human identities. Freedom of faith must be defended, irrespective of whether the attacks come from totalitarian atheist regimes or theocracies. For the faithful, what they believe about God is inseparable from what they understand about human beings. But God’s rights must never be allowed to trample on human rights.

Mr. President,

Cyprus aligns itself with European, International and regional partners in the collective effort to respond to the current challenges. Cyprus is contributing decisively in the international effort to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons. We have aligned ourselves with the international coalition against terrorism and we have been active in promoting actions aiming at protecting the ancient communities and the religious and ethnic minorities of the Middle East. Our long tradition as a constructive and stabilizing factor in the region is acknowledged by all.

It is our duty towards humanity and our shared values to steadfastly adopt a more proactive political involvement, so as to save future generations from the plague of bare hatred. For us, it is also a historical responsibility towards our ancestors and the beloved waters of our homelands.

Thank you Mr. President.