November 23, 2017

Statement by Cyprus Foreign Minister to International Meeting in Support of Middle East Peace Process

Addressing the two-day international meeting, convened by the UN Palestinian Rights Committe, in Nicosia, Cyprus Foreign Minister, Ioannis Kasoulides said the most important lesson that could be drawn from the recent upsurge of violence was the impact of security concerns on the peace process, and the realization that without political negotiations offering the prospect of an end to the occupation and the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian State, the hopes for a secure Middle East were dim and distant.

He urged Israel to withdraw from the areas occupied by its troops earlier this month and to desist from extra judicial executions, attacks on medical and humanitarian institutions and personnel and settlement activities. He expressed full sympathy to President Yasser Arafat, and called on Israel to lift the siege of the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Ramallah. The solution of the Middle East problem would bring stability to the region, ensure normal relations and end the violence.

 

The text of the Minister’s speech follows below:

“I would like to welcome all of you to Cyprus, on the occasion of this International Meeting in support of Middle East Peace, which comes at a crucial juncture in the long and tortuous history of this most explosive regional conflict. We are particularly pleased at the presence today of so many distinguished members of the international community and sincerely hope that this meeting will contribute in its own way toward the eventual establishment of peace in our region.

The Question of Palestine has dominated the international agenda for as long as one remembers. It is an on-going conflict that has cost immeasurable suffering to millions of people and has created an almost permanent situation of instability, whose repercussions extend far beyond the region of the Middle East.

Cyprus, as a neighbouring state with long and strong bonds of friendship to the people of Palestine and Israel, is particularly pained by this seemingly never-ending cycle of violence that has tormented the two peoples over the years. The violence that we have witnessed since September of 2000 has surpassed even the most dire predictions, following the euphoria that a final solution could be achieved after the major breakthrough of the Madrid Conference and subsequent agreements signed on the principle of Land for Peace.

The most important lesson that can be drawn from the recent upsurge of violence in this conflict is the impact of security concerns on the peace process, and at the same time the realisation of the irrefutable fact that without political negotiations offering the prospect for an end to the unacceptable situation of occupation and the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian state, the prospects of a secure Middle East are dim and distant.

The challenge for the parties to the conflict is to find the necessary political courage and go beyond hatred to look for ways to achieve both aims. The international community should also stay engaged and find the appropriate means, as warranted by the situation and the behaviour of the parties, to put an end to the bloodshed and to the return to the negotiating table. For History, will judge harshly both parties directly concerned, as well as, all of us, if we fail to act, and to act now.

Cyprus’ long-held position on the solution of the Question of Palestine has been consistent and in line with international law. We strongly support the immediate implementation of resolutions 1397, 1402 and 1403 of the Security Council and the non-selective and comprehensive implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet Plan. We furthermore fully support the efforts of the Quartet – the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia – and especially the current effort of the US Secretary of State, Mr. Colin Powell, to bring the two parties together and pursue a peaceful solution to the conflict.

We urge Israel to withdraw from the areas occupied by its troops earlier this month and to desist from any actions such as extrajudicial executions, attacks on medical and humanitarian institutions and personnel, the settlement activities which are a clear violation of international law, to fully respect international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions and to accept the dispatch of an international force with extended powers to reflect the new situation on the ground. We furthermore call for respect and protection of all religious sites. Equally we condemn unequivocally any form of terrorism for which we find no justification, and urge for an immediate end of this practice.

We express full sympathy to President Yasser Arafat, whom we consider the legitimate leader and elected representative of the Palestinian People, with a vital role to play in the peace process. We call upon Israel to lift the siege of the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Ramallah and restore his freedom of movement.

We welcome the resolution of the Arab League Meeting in Beirut and we reiterate our support for a just and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, based on resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) of the Security Council. A solution which will put an end to the occupation of Arab lands and to the plight of the Palestinian people, ensuring the fulfillment of their legitimate rights, including their right to an independent state. The solution of the Middle East problem will bring stability to this sensitive region of the world, will ensure normal relations, the safety and security of all countries of the region, including Israel, and will put an end to violence, strengthening the forces of moderation and cooperation.”