December 6, 2022

Statement by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus Ambassador Sotos Zackheos to the 20th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem

Mr. President,

My delegation, as an associate member of the European Union, has already aligned itself with the statement of H.E. the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. John Prescott on behalf of the European Union. I would like, however, to take this opportunity to briefly address a number of issues which the delegation of Cyprus considers to be of particular interest.

First and foremost, I would like to pay tribute to the efforts of the United Nations Organization as a whole and most particularly those of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP). The UNDCP has provided the leadership required on an international level to pursue a large array of policies that aim at comprehensively dealing with the various aspects of the World Drug Problem.

The Twentieth Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on drugs, and the documents which are about to be adopted, are expected to register, on one hand, the will of the international community at the threshold of the third millennium, to confront the drug problem and on the other to provide the impetus for a sustained action whose central component is effective co-operation on various levels – international, national and local.

The efforts of the international community, however, will not lead to the desired results unless we face up to the root causes of the problem. Poverty and socio-economic imbalances, unemployment, lack of opportunities in education and the alienation so often prevalent in urban society must be urgently addressed to preclude the slide into the abyss of drug abuse. Effective action to reduce consumption of drugs must be combined with efforts on an international level to reduce the production of crops. Alternative development and crop substitution should be actively assisted together with programs of rehabilitation and social reintegration for drug addicts. It is also imperative that police and judicial cooperation be steadily enhanced to pursue those profiting from the sales of narcotics.

Although my country, Cyprus, is a relatively drug-free society the specter of the infiltration of drugs into our culture, hangs like a Damocles sword over us. That is why Cyprus has already in place a national policy to combat drugs with an information campaign that drives home the message that drugs constitute a mortal danger. We are determined to confront the issue before it becomes a problem. To that effect a national committee for the prevention of trafficking and use of illicit drugs was established with the purpose of coordinating and providing consultations in matters of prevention and information.

As a major transshipment point in the eastern Mediterranean at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia we are cognizant of the fact that drug shipments to Europe could attempt to use Cyprus. That is why the Government in cooperation with other countries, that have a vested interest in intercepting the flow of drugs into Europe, is actively pursuing a policy of customs controls. A vital component of this policy is a system of liaison officers from 13 countries, stationed in Cyprus, working closely with the Cypriot police and custom agents with a view to thwarting attempts at using Cyprus for transshipments to Europe.

Another area in which Cyprus is pursuing a preemptive policy in order to safeguard against the possible use of our country by the drug cartels, is that of money laundering, an area in which the UNDCP and many governments are focusing their efforts in order to counter the world drug problem. The efforts of my Government have received international recognition. As stated in a recent US State Department Report “The Cyprus government was extremely active in 1997 in its efforts to implement provisions of its 1996 anti-money-laundering legislation”. Similarly the Report of UNDCP dated 29 May 1998 points out “Cyprus has strengthened its regulatory framework and increased its capacity for financial monitoring”. These references do justice to my Government’s concerted efforts, including the establishment of a unit for combating money laundering, and they testify to our desire to prevent the use of Cyprus’ extensive financial service sector from laundering money derived from illegal activities. The example of Cyprus proves that with determination and cooperation a flourishing offshore center, like ours, can be at the forefront of international efforts for combating drugs and money laundering.

Cyprus which is a law abiding state, respecting its international obligations has ratified all major United Nations Conventions on drug use and trafficking including the landmark 1988 Vienna Convention. Unfortunately however, the Government of the Republic is prevented from honoring its obligations throughout its territory as a result of the forced division of the island. In the area currently outside the control of my Government serious criminal activity is reported.

No nation, large or small, rich or poor, is immune to the dangers posed by the spread of drugs. Our efforts can only bear fruit through perseverance and the effective co-operation of the International community which must display its determination and must never relent. This Special Session of the General Assembly as exemplified by the presence of so many Heads of State is a historic opportunity to move the process forward. I am certain that with the combined efforts of all nations this menace to mankind will eventually dissipate.

Thank you Mr. President.