Twenty-nine years have passed since the Turkish invasion and occupation of the Republic of Cyprus that caused enormous suffering to the people of Cyprus and devastated the country’s infrastructure, both economic and social. Turkey ’s invasion of 1974 and subsequent occupation of almost 40% of the island violated all rules and norms of international law as well as the UN Charter of the United Nations. Despite numerous UN Security Council Resolutions calling for the withdrawal of the occupation forces from the island and the restoration of the territorial integrity and independence of the country, Turkey refuses to this day to comply with these resolutions.
As a result of the Turkish invasion and the artificial division of the island massive human rights violations continue to be committed against all Cypriots. Time has reinforced not weakened the need for the respect and restoration of these rights. In 1974 almost 1/3 of the population of Cyprus became refugees in their own country and after almost 30 years they are still waiting to safely return to their homes and properties. The cultural and religious property of the Greek Cypriots in the northern occupied part is still being destroyed and looted and the Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the occupied area are subjected to humiliation and severe restrictions of their most basic human rights. Turkey in an attempt to change the demographic character of the occupied areas has imported over a hundred thousand Turkish mainland settlers thus forcing the Turkish Cypriots to emigrate for a better future. The tragedy of the relatives of those missing since 1974 remains unresolved as the fate of their beloved ones has yet to be ascertained.
Unfortunately, all efforts by the international community led by successive UN Secretary Generals, to find a political solution to the Cyprus problem and to reunify the country, were persistently obstructed by the Turkish negative attitude to negotiate in good faith, within the parameters defined by the UN Security Council resolutions on Cyprus . Instead the Turkish government and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Denktash have been steadfastly pursuing a policy of creating in Cyprus two independent states despite the fact that this policy is in violation of international law and UN resolutions, which call for the establishment of one federal Cyprus , with one international personality, one citizenship and a single sovereignty.
The same negative Turkish approach was demonstrated during the talks in The Hague of the 11th of March. The failure of these talks both disappointed and frustrated the Greek Cypriot side as well as the overwhelming majority of the Turkish Cypriots who have taken to the streets to demonstrate in favour of the reunification of Cyprus and to protest against the policies of Turkey and of the Turkish Cypriot leadership. It also disappointed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who put great personal involvement in the peace effort as well as all international actors involved in the negotiations. As a consequence, the UN Security Council with Resolution 1475 (2003) squarely put the blame for the failure of the talks on the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Denktash.
The recent easing of restrictions on freedom of movement by the occupying power and Mr. Denktash was a decision taken as a result of the increasing isolation of the Turkish side both internationally and internally due to its negative stance during the negotiations that aimed to achieve a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem. The Cyprus Government as well as the political leadership in Cyprus welcomed the spontaneous, genuine and friendly interactions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in their recent contacts and meetings, which proved that the two communities can live together and cooperate peacefully while they dismissed Mr. Denktash’s claims that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots cannot live together. Freedom of movement is a basic human right of all Cypriot citizens that has been violated by force for almost three decades thus the decision by Mr. Denktash cannot be considered a good will measure. In addition, the unacceptable demand by the occupation regime that Greek Cypriots present their passports in order to cross into the occupied areas is considered a further violation of this right. It also demonstrates that the reasoning behind Mr. Denktash’s act is to promote recognition of the secessionist entity. In this context it should be pointed out that the recent easing of restrictions of the freedom of movement cannot be considered a substitute for a solution of the Cyprus problem; a position also expressed by the UN Secretary General in his report to the Security Council of 27 May 2003 (S/2003/572).
Cyprus has come a long way on its road to recovery from the devastating economic effects of 1974. After great effort on the part of the Government and many sacrifices from its people, the economy has been revived and achieved admirable levels that have made the country one of the leading and most successful new acceding members to the European Union. Despite these advances, however, the facts on the ground remain unchanged and a just and workable political solution is needed now more than ever.
The signing of the Accession Treaty by the Republic of Cyprus on 16 April 2003 , was a landmark event in its recent political history that paves the way for Cyprus and its people to gain their rightful place in Europe . It also presents a true challenge to the Turkish Cypriot leadership to make a decision about the future of its community, whether it will be internationally isolated or choose to return to the negotiating table and solve the Cyprus problem on the basis of the UN resolutions and proposals so that a reunited federal Cyprus can enter the European Union in May 2004.
For the first time in 29 years, there is a glimpse of hope for Cyprus arising from its imminent full membership to the European Union and from the many prospects and opportunities that derive from it which are available to all the people of Cyprus . Prospects for true prosperity, equal participation in all spheres of life and wealth, respect of human rights and of the rights of the individual of all Cypriots are now tangible values that can be safeguarded within the European family.
The Cyprus Government has announced and already began implementing a series of concrete measures for the Turkish Cypriots that aim to help them, as equal citizens of the Republic, to enjoy the benefits that derive from Cyprus ’ membership to the EU.
It is our hope that Turkey will soon realize that coming to terms with the UN Resolutions and the Acquis Communautaire on the Cyprus issue will facilitate its European aspirations. It is also hoped that Turkey will exercise its influence upon the Turkish Cypriot leadership to negotiate within the parameters of the UN peace plan for a permanent and workable solution to the Cyprus problem.
Let us make 2004 the year of a united Cyprus member of the EU and of the restoration of human rights of all Cypriot citizens; Greeks and Turks, Armenians and Latins.