Speech of Ali Gule, former President of the Turkish Cypriot Revolutionary Trade Unions Federation of DEV-IS
25th February 2015, European Parliament, Brussels
I welcome today’s event and convey our warm militant greetings to all the Cypriots struggling for the reunification of our country, but also to all the friends of Cyprus who are with us in our efforts.
Our country’s history is unfortunately riddled with blood and tears. Our island which has lived through problems, grief, invasions and occupations at every period of its troubled history, is again facing in the beginning of the 21st century various difficulties and problems. The imperialist foreign powers for the sake of their own interests, using the extreme nationalist and chauvinist elements, for years put one community against the other in conflict and divided our island. Innocent compatriots of ours from both communities have been murdered or are missing as a result of these conflicts. Even today joint committees are investigating and unearthing the remains of the missing persons of both communities. This is a great tragedy. However, instead of this tragedy teaching a lesson, the division of our island is continuing, turning Cyprus to a large extent into a heavily militarized area. The division of Cyprus has become like a quicksand for both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, to which they are sinking.
The Turkish Cypriots continue to live in conditions that keep them cut off from the world and international developments. The continuous flow of population from Turkey is altering the demographic structure of the island and renders the Turkish Cypriots a minority. Turkey’s economic and political penetration is strengthening its military presence on the island. Big capital of Turkey considers the northern part of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot community as an arena for promoting investment and extracting profits. Privatizations and the selling-off of public property are continuing, along with the policy of “Islamisation” being promoted by the government of Ankara. This whole situation is creating a reality that is threatening the very existence and character of the Turkish Cypriot community itself.
Today, my friends, working people on both sides of the barbed wire of division in Cyprus are suffering from the negative consequences of the neoliberal policies of austerity and privatization being imposed on the one hand by Turkey and on the one other by the European Union together with the IMF. We need to fight together against these policies. However, the division of our island is raising big obstacles to this struggle. Despite these adverse conditions, we, the working people are continuing to struggle together to attain our common goals, in particular with the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO), but also with other trade unions within the framework of the All-Cyprus Trade Union Forum.
The natural wealth that has been discovered around Cyprus offers a significant opportunity for the future and prosperity of all Cypriots, as well as for developing cooperation between the countries of our region. However, the fact that this wealth has been turned into an instrument of conflict instead of being used as an instrument of compromise, especially at a time when talks are underway for a federal solution, has led to a deadlock in the inter-communal talks that are continuing in Cyprus under the auspices of the UN. This state of affairs undermines the existing lack of mistrust between the two communities and is poisoning the relations between them. Our duty – as forces defending the reunification of Cyprus under a federal roof – is to struggle so that this natural wealth brings peace, friendship and cooperation instead of conflict to our country. We believe that this issue must be settled according to the principles of International Law instead of the displaying of military might. For the talks to resume we call on Turkey, re-examining its decision, to withdraw the NAVTEX and “Barbaros” vessel, and as a result the two sides should return immediately to the table of the talks.
The leaders of the two communities, Mr. Eroglu and Mr. Anastasiades, must continue the talks from where the two previous leaders, Mehmet Ali Talat and Demetris Christofias, had left them. More specifically, on the issue of natural gas the Talat-Christofias convergences are recorded by the United Nations; convergences that clarify that with the solution of the Cyprus problem the maritime zones and natural resources will constitute a federal competency. That is to say, the natural resources would belong to all Cypriots and the revenues from their exploitation will be allocated proportionally to the two communities.
At this point I would like to welcome the proposals that have been tabled to overcome the impasse, including the utilization of these Talat-Christofias convergences and the commitment that the rights of the Turkish Cypriots with regards the exploitation of natural gas will be fully safeguarded. These proposals send a message of peace and cooperation and to Turkey itself, who will benefit from the solution of the Cyprus problem and the development of energy cooperation between all the countries of our region in conditions of security and stability. However, there is no reason whatsoever to allow time to pass by waiting until the day the revenues from natural gas will commence, which may happen in 5 or 10 years. It would be a tragedy if we were to sit around waiting until then for the solution of the Cyprus problem.
At this point I would like to refer to the issue of the enclosed area of the city of Famagusta, a ghost town since 1974. We need to utilise the proposal providing for the return to the United Nations of this region and the restoration of the city and its medieval walled city of Famagusta, which represents a common heritage of both communities, and the return of its lawful inhabitants. This proposal also provides for the opening and operation of the port of Famagusta, under the supervision of the European Union. The restoration of the city will significantly help the Turkish Cypriot community. In addition, the opening of the port of Famagusta will have a positive impact on the Turkish Cypriot economy and Turkish Cypriots will be able to conduct direct trade through the port. The Greek Cypriot community will also benefit from the restoration of the city and the return of its lawful inhabitants in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 550. From the implementation of this proposal, besides the benefits this will offer to the two communities in Cyprus, Turkey itself will also gain and an overall positive influence will also contribute positively towards its accession negotiations with the European Union. This proposal, which is beneficial to all, is a proposal that could serve as a substantive Confidence Building Measure and contribute to the negotiation procedure by giving it a new impetus.
The time that passes without the Cyprus problem being solved is to the detriment of all Cypriots. The situation of a non-solution of the Cyprus problem contributes to the development and strengthening of trends promoting division in both communities. This is a situation that can lead our island in the future to new sufferings and tragedies. Our island is not able to withstand any new tensions and conflicts. We need to convey the following message to all, both within and outside Cyprus: The solution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of the UN resolutions and the High-Level Agreements has never been more urgent. The status quo and the division of our island will never be accepted by us.
Of course there are differences on aspects of the Cyprus problem and before us we have some way to go until we solve them. However we share the same goal and vision. And this vision is the vision of a just, peaceful, viable and agreed solution to the Cyprus problem; a solution that will safeguard the human and community rights for all Cypriots. A solution that will reunite Cyprus and its people on the basis of a bizonal and bicommunal federation with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship, a single international personality with political equality of the two communities as set out in the relevant UN Resolutions. Our vision is a solution that will make our common country free and independent, free from barbed wires, armies and foreign guardians. Only such a solution will ensure the existence of both communities, who will be co-owners and co-managers of the common federal state which will function on the basis of political equality.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that we – as forces expressing the people of labour, progress and social justice – have an additional task: to strive to ensure that the rich resources of our country will be in the hands of our people and not in the hands of foreign or local rich capital owners. The natural wealth must be under the ownership and management of the state. Furthermore, it must be used with respect to the environment and the interests of the future generations.
I thank you all warmly for giving us this opportunity.
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