July 17, 2018

Remarks by H.E. Mr. Minas Hadjimichael Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the UN at a joint event of the Permanent Mission of Cyprus to the UN and the Foreign Press Association

It is a great pleasure to be here with you this afternoon, in such distinguished company, to launch the book “International Aggression and Violation of Human Rights-The Case of Turkey in Cyprus” by Professor Van Coufoudakis”. In fact it is a double pleasure for me, first because once again we have you, the members of the Foreign Press Association here with us at the Cyprus House and second because in a moment we will all have the privilege to listen to Professor Coufoudakis, a very distinguished scholar who has long studied in depth the Cyprus problem as well as the whole Eastern Mediterranean area. Professor Coufoudakis very deservedly can be considered as one of the most authoritative voices with regard to issues of our region.

Allow me at first to say that the publication of this book could not have been more timely. As you know this year marked the 60 th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Cyprus as well as Turkey are signatories. The Universal Declaration is the foundation of international human rights law, the first universal statement on the basic principles of inalienable human rights, and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. Turkey has clear obligations under international law that unfortunately fails to fulfill.

From the first day of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly and the UN Commission of Human Rights have all dealt with the Cyprus problem adopting a series of resolutions and decisions that expressed concerns about human rights violations in Cyprus and called for their respect and restoration. Such concerns regarded the plight of the refugees and calls for their safe return to their homes and properties, the ascertainment of the fate of the missing persons, respect of the basic freedoms and liberties of the enclaved Greek Cypriots who were those that had opted to stay behind after Turkey occupied a third of the island. Allow me in a parenthesis to say that those people numbered at about 20,000 the first year of the invasion. Today there remain less than 500 hundred of them. Other concerns included in the UN resolutions were the destruction of the cultural and religious heritage in occupied Cyprus and the change of the demographic composition of that part. There were calls not to alter its demographic character by injecting in it foreign elements. Turkey has in the course of 35 years implanted in the northern part of Cyprus some 200,000 settlers from Anatolia , more than twice the number of the indigenous T/C, who still live there.

All these calls have thus far been ignored by Turkey which refuses to implement the UN Security Council Resolutions on Cyprus .

But as we all know political expediency and convenience reign over human rights, justice and fairness. 35 years after the Turkish invasion, Turkey not only escapes with impunity but ironically as of last January holds a seat at the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member of that very body that condemned her and which is expected to uphold the principles of international law and UN Charter. In this regard one shouldn’t be surprised that today Turkey projects itself in the international arena as a world stabilizing power assuming a mediating role for peace in the Middle East, in Iraq, in Central Asia and elsewhere. The irony is increased by the fact that more than 100 binding resolutions on Cyprus have been adopted by the UN Security Council only to be blatantly defied by Turkey .

Regretfully, dear friends, this is the world we live in. Double standards and injustice characterize very often international relations driven by narrow national interests. This does not mean however that we must be silent, or, what is more, be kept silent. On the contrary we have a double duty to speak out and condemn all perpetrators and violators of human rights and fundamental freedoms. This is our defense against oblivion and our only hope that by not forgetting there will come the moment when the perpetrator will be held accountable for the crimes it committed. Professor Coufoudakis without fear or passion speaks very extensively and in the most convincing way about all these questions in his new book while he elaborates specifically on the case of Cyprus . And he does so by offering a thorough analysis of the human rights violations by Turkey in Cyprus based on facts and on objective criteria such as the various international human rights instruments and decisions of international human rights bodies. He maintains that human rights should not be compromised by political expediency and therefore argues that no solution to the Cyprus problem can be found unless it is based on the respect of human rights for all Cypriots, Greeks and Turks alike.

In closing let me read the following brief excerpt from the book:

“ Cyprus became a EU member in 2004, while Turkey is in accession talks with the EU. This presents an opportunity, for the first time in recent years, to bring about a settlement of the perpetuated Cyprus problem. A settlement based on the restoration of human rights, on European law, and on the principles of Article VI of the EU founding treaty, will protect the rights of all Cypriots, Greek and Turkish alike.

Failure to take advantage of this opportunity will once again place realpolitic considerations above the rule of law, democracy, and human rights in post-Cold war Europe . This will undermine the progress made in Europe in the field of human rights over the last fifty years, will not contribute to stability in the eastern Mediterranean , and will undermine the moral and legal stature, let alone the legitimacy, of European institutions.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I urge all and every one of you to read this book. Its truth has a genuine appeal to so many people around the world in different but similar to Cyprus situations.

Finally let me extend our thanks and appreciation to the Foreign Press Association for their cooperation in organizing this event.