Speech by the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL A.Kyprianou at the meeting with foreign Ambassadors
Wednesday, 4th March 2020
On behalf of the Central Committee of AKEL, I would like to welcome you all to our annual meeting which has now become a custom. I want to thank you for honoring us with your presence. I promise you that we will, always with sincerity and respect, outline our positions and views on all the important issues of concern to Cyprus, the wider region, the European Union and the world as a whole.
Meeting and exchanging views with you is even more important for us in today’s conditions; critical and dangerous conditions which are developing in and around Cyprus recently. The tension in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey’s illegal drillings in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus, the planned colonalisation of the enclosed city of Famagusta in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions and the stagnation surrounding the Cyprus problem have created an extremely dangerous situation. In attempting to make sense of this situation, I will focus on three aspects which I consider as very important.
Firstly. The Cyprus problem has now been interconnected with the energy and other important issues of the Eastern Mediterranean. The discovery of significant hydrocarbon deposits in the eastern Mediterranean basin, in conjunction with the instability that exists in the global energy market, has opened up huge prospects for the region, but also harbors enormous dangers. One of the major energy competitions of our era is developing in the Eastern Mediterranean. Its outcome will to a large extent determine the global energy balance for decades to come.
In the effort to make use of the natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean we need to take into account two important aspects. On the one hand, the extremely complex technical characteristics of pumping and transport. On the other hand, the fragile regional situation and the relations between the region’s states. This is an arena where huge conflicts are being provoked that harbor dangers for the wider region. It is worth stressing that the importance of the Eastern Mediterranean is also determined by the fact that it has always represented a key link in global maritime trade and in the transportation of oil. Furthermore, to the region’s pending problems of the past – such as the Middle East, the Cyprus and Kurdish problem – new ones have been added, such as the war in Syria and civil war in Libya. These are problems in which foreign interventions are making the situation worse. These interventions are also linked with ongoing geopolitical and energy competitions, which are accompanied by a drastic and dangerous militarization of the entire region.
The second aspect is the escalation of Turkey’s provocative and aggressive actions against the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus. Unfortunately, in its quest to assume a hegemonic role in the region, Turkey is expanding its aggression in Syria, Libya and Greece. As far as Cyprus is concerned, Turkey is proceeding to drillings in the territorial waters and EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus, even in delimitated and licensed blocks. It is also harassing licensed companies from proceeding to drillings. Regrettably, Turkey’s provocative actions have not encountered the required reaction of the part of the international community. It has unfortunately been proved that the Trilateral cooperations of the Republic of Cyprus with its neighbouring countries and the involvement of foreign energy company giants did not shield the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus.
As far as the measures approved by the EU against Turkey is concerned, they do not correspond to the magnitude of Turkey’s provocative actions. Worst of all, neither can they halt, nor drive Turkey to take moves to reach an understanding with the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey’s geopolitical size which enables it to negotiate with the East and the West simultaneously, its capacity as a member of NATO, the extensive Euro-Turkish trade ties, the far-reaching arms trade and Turkey’s blackmailing on the Refugee issue form some of the elements of its web of interests. Unfortunately, these interests are far greater than the interests that Cyprus can serve. Taking into account that the contemporary world operates on the basis of interests, this is a parameter that we cannot ignore.
Permit me however make it quite clear that as AKEL we will never bow to the interests of anyone. At the same time however, neither can or should we ignore how the modern world operates. We are obliged to bear this in mind when formulating our tactics.
A third fact is the situation as it is evolving on the Cyprus problem. This year 46 years will have elapsed since the occupation and division of Cyprus and our people. The passage of time generates fait accompli on the ground. It alters the demographic composition. The occupied territories are changing culturally, while an attempt is underway to enhance Turkey’s political and economic control (over the Turkish Cypriot community). At the same time, there is an attempt to cultivate religious fanaticism, with all the negative consequences this can cause. Worst of all is the consolidation of the division in the minds of Cypriots themselves, which feeds and is fed by discussions about a two-state solution or confederation, a development that would be catastrophic if it were to ever become the official goal of the solution.
The developments that are being set in motion with regards Famagusta are also very negative. Turkey, together with the cooperation of Messrs. Tatar and Ozersay, are promoting the colonalisation of the enclosed city of Famagusta. Famagusta is a special case. Prior to 1974, it witnessed very big development. It was the commercial and tourist centre not only of Cyprus. The second phase of the Turkish invasion in August 1974, after the bombings, resulted in 37,000 Greek Cypriot inhabitants of Famagusta being forced to flee it. The occupying army looted and subsequently closed off the enclosed area, which until 1974 was the centre of the city. Since then the city has been deserted. It became a “ghost town”.
However, according to the High-Level Agreement between President Kyprianou and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in May 1979, the return of the city of Famagusta to its legal inhabitants is not interconnected with the overall solution of the Cyprus problem, but should be a priority. This was confirmed by two Resolutions of the UN Security Council itself, namely Resolution 550 in 1984 and 789 in 1992. The Security Council also denounced any attempt to colonise the city. Nevertheless, not only was the city of Famagusta not returned, but all the proposals submitted in the past by the Greek Cypriot side were rejected by Turkey.
Famagusta has another crucial peculiarity, since it constitutes a core issue of the territorial aspect of the Cyprus problem. The return of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants under Greek Cypriot administration, within the framework of the significant territorial adjustments that the solution of the Cyprus problem must provide for, was something that was included in every plan for a solution discussed to date. This is a “red line” for all Greek Cypriots. A solution without the return of Famagusta under Greek Cypriot administration is inconceivable. All of this explains why the actions being planned by Ankara and Messrs. Tatar and Ozersay to open the city under the administration of the occupying power are so provocative. If such an action were to go ahead, it will mean the definitive destruction of the prospects for a solution to the Cyprus problem with all the chain-reaction consequences this would have for Cyprus and the entire region. I cannot, of course, but express our satisfaction that these actions are also provoking the reaction of a large section of the Turkish Cypriots, by the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Akinci, opposition parties, trade union organisations, movements and activists.
AKEL has already taken a number of initiatives towards the United Nations and European institutions to save Famagusta from the colonisation. Our actions complement those taken by the Government. The appeal we address to you as well is that you contribute so that the effort to save Famagusta undertaken by states and international organizations receives your support so that we can avoid a new illegal action from being committed and to keep the hope of the reunification of Cyprus alive.
All of this, of course, is the result of the situation that was created after the collapse at Crans Montana and the prolonged absence of negotiations on the Cyprus problem. The indications about the future are very worrying. Turkey is stepping up its aggressive actions in the EEZ and in Famagusta. The international community, unfortunately, is reacting in a very lukewarm manner. Some in the international community are promoting arrangements that will transform the pseudo-state from an illegal formation to an unrecognised entity. At the same time, the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) is encountering difficulties every time.
What is our position on all these developments and what do we propose to overcome the problems and open up the prospects for a solution?
How do we solve it in a way that will first and foremost serve Cyprus and its people?
How do we find solutions that benefit and serve the peoples of our neighborhood, the cause of peace and cooperation?
I shall try to outline as briefly as possible our Party’s position on both the energy issue and the Cyprus problem.
Our position is that the exploitation of the Eastern Mediterranean’s natural wealth can and must proceed on the basis of specific goals and parameters. As far as Cyprus is concerned, it should act as an incentive and lever for the solution of the Cyprus problem. More broadly, it should be utilized to the benefit of the peoples according to a planning that considers each country’s natural wealth as the property of its people and that views energy as a public social commodity. The region’s natural wealth should become a factor of peace and regional cooperation, without exclusions and not turn into a factor of tension and militarization. It should be based on the respect of international law, maritime law and the inalienable sovereign rights that arise for each state. For some, this may sound like romantic sloganeering. However, as AKEL we believe that this is completely feasible if the region’s governments realize and serve their people’s real interests. This is precisely what we are proposing – a realistic and mutually beneficial way forward – for the future of our country, Cyprus.
Turkey, as the occupying power, had and has the primary responsibility for the fact that the Cyprus problem remains unresolved. In addition, its actions in the Cypriot EEZ and Eastern Mediterranean, but also in Famagusta, violate international law and the UN Law of the Sea. They undermine peace and security throughout the region.
Furthermore, we cannot accept the Turkish side’s proposal for the co-management of natural gas before the solution of the Cyprus problem. This will act as a disincentive. As regards the concerns expressed by the Turkish Cypriot side that the Greek Cypriots are unilaterally proceeding to the exploitation of natural wealth, I will point out that the revenues from the natural gas will be generated only after several years. That is to say, when we will be in a position to make use of it and given that we will have previously covered the costs of the energy company giants involved which amount to hundreds of millions of Euros.
Towards this end, we have decided to establish a fund where the revenues from the Natural Gas will be deposited. No one will be able to disburse money from the Fund before the solution of the Cyprus problem.
Nor can Turkey’s recent proposal for a moratorium in drillings until the solution of the Cyprus problem be accepted, not only because the lawful exercise of sovereign rights cannot be equated with Turkey’s illegal drillings. We consider that if the preconditions for the resumption of negotiations are created, which will be focused on reaching a speedy solution, a way to overcome these problems will be found.
At the same time, AKEL is not just saying what it rejects and denounces. We consciously choose to stress that there is another way as well to pursue. Namely, the path that can lead to mutually beneficial solutions based on principles; the path to peace and cooperation, which safeguards the rights of all Cypriots. The path that can contribute to ensuring stability and co-operation throughout the region. This path has – in our view – a major and crucial point: the solution of the Cyprus problem. It responds to the legitimate concerns of everyone, given that it will include the Christofias-Talat agreement on maritime zones, natural resources and the sharing of federal revenues.
On this basis, the EEZ and natural resources will constitute a federal competence. This means that natural gas belongs to both communities who will co-manage it in the Central Government. This allays the concerns of the Turkish Cypriots.
The solution also allays the concerns of the Greek Cypriots. We all know that the most secure way to make use of the natural gas is to solve our problems with Turkey. The fact that, on the basis of this convergence, maritime zones, including the EEZ and natural resources, will constitute a competence of the central federal state, confirms the single sovereignty, unity and single international personality of the united Cyprus Republic, something which is a long standing concern of the Greek Cypriot community. If we also take into account that the natural gas on the basis of the relevant convergence recorded will be included in the federal revenues, the distribution of which has virtually already been agreed upon, it becomes clear that this is a mutually beneficial convergence, of crucial importance for all that is happening.
Finally, the solution of the Cyprus problem on the agreed basis and framework can also be beneficial for Turkey too. We know that Turkey is seeking to secure a position on the region’s energy map. This role cannot be attained by pursuing the logic of military imposition and the law of the mighty, to the detriment of the interests of neighbouring states. Turkey will assume this position if it respects international law and the Law of the Sea, and provided that it resolves its differences with its neighbouring states, including the problem of the occupation and division of Cyprus. If Turkey contributes towards a solution based on principles and respects international law, our relations will be normalised. AKEL has stated that provided that Turkey consents to a solution of the Cyprus problem on the agreed basis and framework, we would support the exploration and discussion based on economic viability criteria, options that may then exist for mutually beneficial energy cooperation with it. This is not an issue of the Cyprus problem, but AKEL’s view – which we proposed to President Anastasiades too – is that this should have been declared politically by our side and addressed to Turkey itself.
As for the issue of the delimitation of the EEZ between Cyprus and Turkey, this is an issue that obviously can only be discussed after the solution of the Cyprus problem. It does not appear that it can be a subject of the negotiations on the Cyprus problem or be resolved before the solution. This is because Turkey will never agree to discuss with the Republic of Cyprus before the solution, as it does not recognize it. A commitment that with the solution a dialogue will begin to achieve an agreement on the issue of the EEZ will be very helpful for a successful conclusion of the negotiations on the Cyprus problem. In any case, however, our view is that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is the tool that can provide just and lawful solutions to any difference and dispute. The solution of the Cyprus problem also answers at least some of the issues in the Eastern Mediterranean, as it will enable dialogue and the prospect of promoting cooperation between all the region’s countries without any exclusions.
AKEL’s position is that all this cannot be achieved neither by escalating tension, nor by militarization, or by cultivating illusions about alliances that will reverse the balance of forces and that these alliance will supposedly isolate Turkey. On the contrary, this can only be achieved through dialogue. Dialogue and negotiations are the path that our side since 1974, correctly in our view, unanimously decided to pursue in the struggle to end the occupation and division. Dialogue and negotiations are also the way which the Law of the Sea provides for the delimitation of maritime zones between neighbouring states and provided that there is no conclusion, it provides for a recourse to an international tribunal body. Dialogue and negotiation is the procedure that the entire international community also proposes to us. We are not talking about a dialogue that would mean capitulating or consenting to Turkey’s illegal and illogical claims, but rather a dialogue to find mutually beneficial solutions and in accordance with international law.
We also take very seriously into account something else. We know that every kind of conflict, confrontation and even bloody dispute, ends up to a table of dialogue. It is therefore of utmost importance when that time comes no new negative fait accompli should be added to our homeland’s detriment. That a crisis and an incident that will be painful for everyone but certainly more so for the side that is not powerful militarily should not have mediated.
For all these reasons, AKEL is adamant that what takes precedence is the resumption of the talks on the Cyprus problem from the point where they had remained at Crans Montana, on the basis of the 2014 Joint Declaration, the convergences that had been recorded up to Crans Montana and the Guterres Framework of 30th June. As AKEL, we insisted that the informal document for the implementation of the agreement should also have been part of the basis for conducting the negotiations.
It may indeed be the case that until the vote in the occupied territories it may not be possible for developments to proceed towards the resumption of negotiations, but according to appeals repeated by the UN Secretary General recently, there is no time to lose. This period must be used to prepare the negotiations and improve the atmosphere. Initiatives should be undertaken to explain to citizens the benefits of reunification. All that has been agreed so far and the provisions of the sought solution should be analysed. This should have been done anyway. At this given stage, however, it is even more imperative to reverse the climate and express our determination to move towards a solution. The solution cannot but provide that Turkey – its troops and guarantees – will leave our island and that free, we will be the masters of our homeland. There can be no solution other than the one on the basis of bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality and with political equality of the two communities as set out in the relevant UN resolutions. The solution is the only way for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to be optimistic about their future and the future of their children.
The second point that AKEL is adamant on is the content of partnerships in the region. The development of Cyprus’ relations with all the region’s states, regional cooperation based on principles, mutually beneficial initiatives, the respect for peace and international law is not only welcomed, but imperative too. Besides, this was also the reason why the government of Demetris Christofias laid the foundations for these cooperations, which of course yielded tangible results. For example, the project currently being implemented as part of Cyprus’ cooperation with the countries in the region is the EuroAsia Interconnector (the interconnection of the electricity energy networks of Greece, Cyprus and Israel through the world’s longest underwater power supply) which is a project that was elaborated and promoted by the Christofias government.
Where, of course, we disagree with is the militarization of energy cooperation and subordination of Cyprus’ foreign policy to dogmas that incorporate our homeland in geopolitical camps and arcs. This policy involves Cyprus in dangerous plans for the region. It harms our relations with precious and traditional friends. We disagree with the doctrine of transforming Cyprus into an “advanced outpost of the West” not because we believe that Cyprus must be integrated into another geopolitical camp, but because it must not join any camp. It mustn’t follow any logic whatsoever that wants our island to be turned into an arena for foreign armies to conduct military exercises or into an aggressive launching pad for waging raids. The cultivation of ideological obsessions about creating an anti-Turkish arc with powerful “allies” may be pleasing to the ears of certain forces and circles on the island, but the truth is that it conceals enormous dangers, a new cycle of insecurity and – as it is already being demonstrated – many illusions.
The insecurity that the Cypriot people justifiably feel will not be overcome by further militarization. Our security is peace. For Cyprus and the Cypriots, peace means first and foremost the reunification of the island and its people, the withdrawal of all foreign armies and demilitarization.
In a region and in an era of competitions and tension, a free and reunited Cyprus will emerge as living proof that two communities with a different language, ethnicity, religion and a painful historical legacy are coexisting harmoniously in their common homeland and are co-managing their common state. Two communities that – as a one people and one country – will enhance our strengths and boost our country’s dynamics and prospects. Cyprus, one of the most militarized parts of the world, will be free from armies, landmines, armaments, barbed wires of division and check points and will become an example of peace and security in the Eastern Mediterranean. This is not just a vision. It is an immediate strategic goal which serves Cyprus and its people, serves peace and opens up avenues of cooperation that are now unthinkable.
With these thoughts in mind, I would like to thank you once again for your presence here. I am at your disposal for a fruitful and constructive discussion.
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