Lobby for Cyprus is the voice of Greek Cypriot refugees based in the UK…
Thank you for giving me the opportunity once again, to address this very important gathering on behalf of Lobby for Cyprus.
I would like to congratulate the team at PSEKA / CEH: Philip Christopher, Andrew Athens, Andy and Mike Manatos for bringing us together and staging what I'm sure will be another successful conference.
Distinguished guests, Mr Ambassador, Government Spokesman, Mayors from Cyprus, delegates from around the world – I bring you greetings from my colleagues in the UK.
Lobby for Cyprus is the voice of Greek Cypriot refugees based in the UK.
We are independent, non-party-political, we are made up of individuals and refugee organisations, who came together to campaign for a genuinely reunited Cyprus.
We call for the
• Removal of Turkish troops
• Repatriation of Turkish colonists
• and the right of refugees to return.
These demands are consistent with UN resolutions that condemn the occupation, ethnic cleansing and colonisation of Cyprus by Turkey – which is what the Cyprus issue is about.
We argue that: whatever the solution to the Cyprus issue is, the refugees must have the right to return and reclaim their homes and properties.
We organise campaigns targeted at the UK government, Members of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament, other decision-makers, and in particular the UK media.
We organise seminars and debates on various themes. Recent seminars were on:
• the discovery of hydrocarbons in Cyprus,
• the refugee perspective
• and most recently at the Houses of Parliament, we held a seminar entitled 'Famagusta: Turning a tragedy into an opportunity'. On Friday morning we will be making a presentation on this and we look forward to seeing you there. The Mayor of Famagusta will also be available to answer questions.
We prepare monthly campaign actions to encourage and assist our members and supporters to take actions on important issues.
We are very active on online social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. If as a community we do not embrace these networking sites we will leave behind the younger generation.
Here in Washington DC, almost 50 years ago, Dr Martin Luther King campaigned for civil rights, equality and the dismantling of racial segregation. Is it not ironic that today, in the 21st century, Cyprus is forced to negotiate a solution that will actually erect the walls of apartheid?
We fear the legalised partition of Cyprus as envisioned by Turkey, under the guise of a 'federation' – but in reality a ‘confederation’ with two distinct zones based purely on racial grounds – a Greek zone and a Turkish zone.
Surely such a concept is frozen in the past. Cyprus does not consist of just 'two communities' – it is a modern, multi-ethnic melting pot, just like many EU states or indeed the USA. In December two-thousand eleven, the Cyprus Mail reported on the population census in the free areas of Cyprus.
More than 21 per cent is neither Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot. How can we pursue a solution that does not take into account one fifth of the population?
Does it really make sense to divide a state along ethnic lines when it is actually a multi-ethnic society? Would this be acceptable in other countries throughout the world? Would this be acceptable in the UK or the US? Of course not.
Or is the international community merely attempting to appease Turkey and in the process dismantle the Republic of Cyprus?
As we are all aware, recent negotiations to solve the Cyprus issue have been unsuccessful.
Could it be that we are looking for a solution that has no place in the 21st century?
It seems that the UN and British backed approach has failed. It is time for new thinking.
We call for an EU solution – one that allows the free movement of EU citizens across Cyprus – a solution that does not discriminate against any Cypriot and their rights to ownership of property on racial grounds.
We support the Cyprus government and its efforts but of course, Cyprus negotiates under the constant provocation and intransigence of Turkey.
Since we last met one year ago at this conference, Turkey has threatened to:
• permanently annex the occupied area
• colonise the fenced-off area of Famagusta
• disrupt Cyprus's presidency of the EU on 1st July
• and prevent Cyprus from exercising its right to explore its own natural resources.
Turkey has tried to impose its own criteria, not only on Cyprus but on Israel and other countries in the region – against the tenets of international law. The United States and the UK have been very clear in supporting Cyprus' right to explore its own energy resources.
Indeed, Turkey is acting as a colonial power. This is why we have always referred to the Turkish nationals sent to occupied Cypus as colonists, not settlers. After all, these people, were sent to alter the demographic composition of the island, in violation of the Geneva convention.
One statistic that demonstrates the extent and scale of the human rights violations inflicted on Cyprus and its people is the following: according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, Cyprus has the highest number of internally displaced people as a percentage of population than any other country in the world.
Let me quote the words of Turkish foreign minister Davutoglu:
“Even if there was not one single Muslim Turk over there (in Cyprus), Turkey would have to maintain a Cyprus question.”
The Turkish Cypriots have been used as a strategic minority by Turkey to justify its illegal invasion and occupation. All Cypriots – including the Turkish Cypriots would prosper in a genuinely reunited Cyprus rather than in a province of Turkey. Demonstrations last year in the occupied area illustrate how many Turkish Cypriots are speaking out against Turkey and its policies in Cyprus.
Cyprus should be the common homeland of all its peoples and we will not accept the anachronism of apartheid or segregation in Europe.
I thank you all for your tireless work in fighting for the just cause of human rights in Cyprus.
I hope to learn more about your important work and to have an exchange of ideas with many of you.
We believe our work speaks for itself. We have examples here of our material if you wish to find out more.
Finally, I would like to close with the words of our dear friend Kyriacos Christodoulou, the founder and inspiration of Lobby for Cyprus who sadly passed away a year ago, almost to the day:
“We will continue our struggle, with vigour and determination, for as long as Cyprus remains under Turkish occupation.”