July 20th 2004 marks the 30th year since Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus in 1974. Against all odds and contrary to the disastrous consequences of the Turkish invasion and continuing occupation, the Government of the Republic and the people of Cyprus , have managed, through a lengthy and colossal struggle, to rebuild Cyprus ’ injured economy and to reach admirable levels of social and economic advancement. As a result of this progress and of many years of hard work, on May 1st 2004 , Cyprus along with nine other countries, achieved its rightful place, as a full member, of the European Union.
Cyprus ’ road to Europe was not an easy one. A remarkable effort was carried out under very difficult conditions: thirty seven percent of the island under Turkish occupation; the issues of refugees, missing persons and the enclaved still unresolved; and the human rights of all Cypriots being violated by Turkey on a daily basis. It was a long and bumpy road to Europe but simultaneously a very promising one, both socially and politically. The path to accession raised hopes that it would act as a catalyst for the long desired solution of the Cyprus problem, the reunification of the island and the restoration of human rights throughout Cyprus, so that a united country could enter the European Union. Turkey’s own aspiration to become a member of the European Union, reinforced hopes for solution as the expectation was that Turkey would finally behave as a European country permitting human rights, fundamental freedoms and the respect of democratic principles to prevail in a Cyprus settlement. Not only were those hopes dashed, but a UN settlement plan that did not respond to the minimum requirements and legitimate aspirations of the Greek Cypriot community was put to a referendum in Cyprus on 24 April 2004 . The great majority of Greek Cypriots voted “no” to the UN Plan as they considered it to be imbalanced and one that addressed the geostrategic interests of Turkey rather than the legitimate concerns of the people on the island.
The Greek Cypriot community, true to its beliefs and ideals of real democracy and respect for individual rights, a truly independent country free of foreign hegemony, rejected the proposed settlement. It is incongruous, for one to claim, that the “no vote” of the Greek Cypriots was a “no vote” to a solution of the Cyprus problem, to reunification or to the concept of a federation. The Greek Cypriots in rejecting the settlement plan were merely expressing their opposition to unacceptable and anachronistic provisions such as: the perpetual stationing of Turkish troops on the island, the continuation of the treaties of guarantees that made Cyprus subject to foreign dependence, the abolition of individual rights for the sake of communal rights and many other weaknesses it contained. Paradoxically, some appear to show respect to the democratic will of the Greek Cypriots only in words, while in deeds, they do whatever possible to punish the Greek Cypriots for their vote.
Meanwhile, Turkey , the country that invaded Cyprus and which continues to occupy one third of the island in defiance of international law, gets away with impunity while its illegal military presence on the island is not even questioned. Efforts are being made by certain powers through a policy of so-called “ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots”, to change the parameters that constitute the Cyprus problem as one of invasion and occupation. Those who wish for the so-called “upgrading” of the illegal regime in the occupied part of Cyprus, ignore the fact, that an act of aggression by a large foreign power against its smaller neighbour persists for 30 years keeping Cyprus and its people divided; that the aggressor continues to commit such international crimes as the illegal settlement of the occupied areas, the destruction of religious and cultural heritage of the area under Turkish military control and ethnic cleansing against the Greek Cypriot population of the Karpasia area. It should be noted that the so-called “isolation of the Turkish Cypriots” is primarily the consequence of the illegal occupation of northern Cyprus and their own refusal to accept international legality, as well as their insistence on promoting their divisive policies. Regrettably, in the course of achieving their separatist goals, the Turkish Cypriot leadership does not hesitate to sacrifice the economic advancement of the Turkish Cypriot community for the sake of achieving its political ends.
The Government of Cyprus has been and continues to remain committed to a solution of the Cyprus problem based on UN Resolutions and High Level Agreements of 1977 and 1979. This objective cannot be reached if the policy of cajoling the perpetrators of the 1974 invasion while punishing the victims continues. The international community should turn its attention to the substance of the Cyprus problem and demand implementation of UN resolutions and the rules of international law. It should ask Turkey to end its illegal occupation of the island so that the people of Cyprus can enjoy as a whole the benefits of Cyprus membership in the EU.
Instead of looking into ways of how to end the so-called “economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots”, the international community should focus its efforts in convincing Turkey that her continuing illegal presence on the island and her insistence on keeping the Republic of Cyprus its hostage for an eternity, are neither consistent with the accepted rules that govern today’s democratic world or with Turkey’s desire to find a place within the European Union.
The Government of the Republic of Cyprus will not cease working for a just solution that will free Cyprus from the Turkish occupation troops, will reunify the island and its people and restore the human rights of all Cypriot citizens, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike.
In this quest for justice Cyprus expects the international community to stand by its side.