Speech of Charis Karamanos, member of the C.C. of AKEL, to the “Solidarity with the Cypriot people” meeting at the “AVANTE” Festival
“AVANTE” Festival of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP)
6th September 2015, Seixal, Portugal
We would like first of all to express AKEL’s gratitude for your solidarity in organizing today’s “Solidarity with the people of Cyprus” meeting within the framework of the “AVANTE!” Festival – an act of solidarity that once again demonstrates the excellent fraternal relations existing between our two Parties, between AKEL and the Portuguese Communist Party PCP, as well as for your Party’s long-standing consistent interest with regards the struggle of the people of Cyprus for peace and the reunification of our island.
I must also point out that every year many visitors to the Festival, passing by AKEL’s stand here at the International Centre, surprise us in a very positive way with their knowledge of the Cyprus problem. This illustrates furthermore the mature level of understanding of the Cyprus problem in the consciousness of the party membership of PCP, which of course is the result of the work done by the Portuguese Communist Party and its newspaper “AVANTE!” within the framework of the principles of international solidarity.
Your participation and contribution today in this solidarity meeting sends an important message to the people of Cyprus. As you know, Cyprus and our people have suffered the consequences of the aggression of NATO imperialism, Turkey’s expansionism and of fascism, both from Greece and Cyprus. These forces led to the occupation of a large part of our country by Turkey. Our small island has unfortunately never experienced full independence and freedom. It has always been a victim of threats issued by the mighty of the earth. Every now and then they were using or cooperating with a section of the local ruling class, as well as with the nationalist and chauvinist circles on the Island for the implementation of their evil plans.
Permit me first to make a brief overview of the history of Cyprus.
Cyprus – a small island in a geostrategic position at the heart of Middle East– has remained through the centuries the target of various empires, foreign rulers, colonialists and imperialists. In 1878 Cyprus become a British colony after almost 400 years under the yoke of the Ottoman Empire. The British had tried to divide the people of Cyprus and ensure the sovereignty of their hegemony on the island. The provocative role of imperialism, together with the role of Greek and Turkish nationalism – who worked in parallel – was essentially the recipe that created the Cyprus problem.
Of course, within Cypriot society itself, there was an alternative force that aimed to unite the people of Cyprus in a united front against the British and bourgeois establishment of the time. This force was the Communist Party of Cyprus – which was founded in 1926 – and its successor, AKEL, the Progressive Party of the Working People founded in 1941. Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots rallied their forces in common anti-colonial and class struggles under the leadership of AKEL and the class-based trade unions of the Left. These struggles were mass in character in the decades of 1940 and ’50 and faced the brutal force unleashed by the British colonialists and the bourgeois establishment, such as the extreme right and the Church of Cyprus.
In 1955 the anti-colonial struggle took the form of an armed struggle. AKEL back then advocated the waging of a mass political struggle. Despite the heroic sacrifice of many young Cypriots, the armed struggle led Cyprus to a dangerous impasse. Those deadlocks were exploited by British imperialism in the context of their ongoing efforts to impose a solution that would serve their own interests. This is also demonstrated in the Zurich-London agreements with which Cyprus had acquired its independence. These agreements provided for foreign troops and bases on our island and imposed a constitution which did not contribute towards promoting and ensuring harmonious relations between the two communities.
The Republic of Cyprus was born in August 1960, and at a very early stage it faced immense difficulties and adverse conditions. The expansionist aims of Ankara and NATO’s plans to transform Cyprus into an unsinkable aircraft carrier of the Alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean threatened the very existence of the independent Republic of Cyprus.
Inside the country, considerable forces, both within the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot community did not believe in independence. They saw it as a transitional stage, one side supporting Enosis (the Union of Cyprus with Greece) and the other our country’s partition. Intercommunal clashes broke out in December 1963 that further entangled Cyprus into a struggle for its very survival.
The period between the years 1964-1974 was a decade of struggles for the independence and unity of the Republic. The failure of the enemies of Cyprus to dissolve the independence of the Republic of Cyprus, led foreign powers to pursue a policy that would undermine Cyprus also from within. The junta of Athens and the local extreme right proved to be willing partners to these plans.
The Americans and NATO had never renounced the goal of the subjugation of Cyprus to their service. They incited and cultivated confrontations and clashes between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots without any difficulty at all. In the Greek Cypriot community, nationalism and chauvinism saw the independence of Cyprus as a stepping stone for Enosis. Inside the Turkish Cypriot community independence was viewed as a stepping stone to Cyprus’ partition. Those forces that had targeted Cyprus began to subsequently offer their services as…”intermediaries”.
Cyprus suffered from the results of the fascist coup d’état executed on the 15th July 1974. It suffered from the NATO interventions, including the invasion and occupation by Turkey of half of our homeland. That is to say, history and the experience that exists regarding the consequences of this action also demonstrate the need for an anti-fascist struggle. The crime of treason, the coup d’état of the Greek junta and EOKA B which drowned our people in bloodshed, was not some “stupid action” or the outcome of “national division”. The crime committed was premeditated and preplanned.
The fascist coup was subsequently followed by the Turkish invasion on 20th July 1974. To date, 40,000 Turkish troops are still occupying 37% of the territory of Cyprus, whilst 170,000 people – namely one third of the population – were forced to become refugees in their own homeland. Around 40,000 Turkish Cypriots were forced by Turkey to move to the northern occupied part of the island, thus completing the separation of the Cypriot people. Fundamental freedoms and human rights are still being violated. An on-going attempt is being implemented to change the demographic structure of the island through the mass colonization of the occupied areas by Turkish settlers from Turkey. It is estimated that the number of settlers is more than the number of Turkish Cypriots living in the occupied territories. At the same time the illegal usurpation of Greek Cypriot properties in the occupied areas makes the property issue one of the burning and most complex problems for whatever solution will ultimately be agreed.
The intercommunal clashes of 1963-64 and the 1974 Turkish invasion left behind 2,000 Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons. In recent years, enormous progress has been achieved as a result of the work done by the Committee on Missing Persons and the two communities working together to collect information on the fate of the missing persons, and proceed with exhumations and identifications of DNA. This gradually enables their families to bury their loved ones and heal a huge wound.
Today Forty years later, we have one obligation and duty towards so much blood spilled: the vindication of Cyprus, the reunification of our country and people. To make this feasible, we should all draw lessons from the events that took place.
At this point we should stress the fact that one very important moment in the intercommunal negotiations conducted that followed in the years after 1974 were the convergences and the Joint Communiqués agreed during the Presidency of Demetris Christofias and AKEL (2008-2013). In particular during the years 2008-2010 and the talks between Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, three of the six chapters of the Cyprus problem had virtually been agreed. At the same time the Joint Communiqués that had been concluded set out for the first time so clearly the precise basis of the solution.
Today, we believe that the new negotiation procedure underway must be based on these very important convergences so that it can be speedily concluded faster and be based on a viable context. Furthermore, we stress the importance of this effort, which began with the assumption by Mr. Akinci of the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community, to have preconditions for a successful outcome. President Anastasiades has to negotiate with consistency to principles, collectivity and seriousness in order to bring before the people an agreed solution; a solution to demilitarize Cyprus, abolish the guarantees and exclude any rights of intervention by foreign powers; a solution that will reunite the territory, the people, institutions and economy under a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality as described in the UN texts; a solution providing for a federation with a single sovereignty, a single international personality and a single citizenship.
From the beginning, we called on President Anastasiades to build on the convergences achieved during the Christofias administration and proceed to talks, focusing on the key pending issues. We did so regardless of any political cost. After many hesitations and regressions that had their own costs, President Anastasiades has recently started utilizing these convergences too. This has resulted in mobility being observed on the Cyprus problem. AKEL stresses once again that we support the procedure of the talks; that it will try to make its own contribution to it by submitting its own ideas and proposals in order to finally liberate and reunify our long-suffering island.
AKEL believes that Mustafa Akinci is both willing and able to cooperate on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem. If we can arrive within range of an agreement on these issues, then we will make Turkey face up to its responsibilities. Everyone knows that the issues of security, the withdrawal of the occupation troops and settlers, but also on the territorial issue, Turkey is the one that decides. It is Turkey that must concede so that we can reach an agreement. If we reach an agreement on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem then we will see if Turkey is ready to do so. However, we have a duty and an obligation towards those who sacrificed their lives for this country to devote all our efforts for the vindication of our homeland; to march on this path to the very end. We will do so, even if this path is difficult and uphill.
Today, as AKEL we are working together with the other peace-loving forces on the Island to create the dynamic for a solution, however not any solution though. We are struggling for a solution that will liberate us from the occupation; reunite the island on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation; lead to a united single state with a single sovereignty, a single international personality and a single citizenship. We are fighting for a solution without guarantees, without rights of intervention and foreign armies; for a solution based on the relevant UN resolutions, the High-Level Agreements of 1977 and 1979, based on International and European Law; for a solution that will serve the people of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and the cause of peace in the region. To achieve a solution we are seeking to utilize international interest not because we have any illusions that the imperialist circles are interested in a solution as we perceive it.
The solution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of principles remains for AKEL our primary goal.
No class struggle opens up a perspective and brings prosperity for our people in general as long as the national problem remains unresolved.
For sure, the coming months will be very important for Cyprus. Anyone who is able to exert influence on the Turkish side to comply with its obligations towards the EU and Cyprus must do so. The solidarity of our friends with our own struggle for the reunification of our country and people is today more indispensable than ever.
I conclude by expressing once again our deep heartfelt appreciation to PCP for the organization of this event and I thank each and everyone one of you for your participation.
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