Remarks by Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Christodoulides at the 36th Annual Cyprus and Hellenic Leadership Conference "Strengthening US-Cyprus Relations in the Face of Turkish Intransigence" (commemorating the somber 47th anniversary of Turkey’s illegal invasion and continued occupation of Cyprus)
20 July 2021 (via Zoom)
Esteemed fellow speakers,
Let me start by thanking each and every one of you for your participation at today’s commemorative event, on the somber anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion.
Above all, thank you for your long-standing, personal interest in Cyprus and the region.
I wish to also express my sincere appreciation to PSEKA for their initiative to organize this event once again, and for their invaluable contribution in making the case for Cyprus in DC. Sincere thanks to Philip, Andrew, Mike and all involved in the organization of this event.
We come together to mark the 47th anniversary since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, in violation of international law, including the UN Charter. The consequences of the 1974 invasion and subsequent occupation by Turkey were devastating and enduring.
Unfortunately, forty seven years after the Turkish invasion, Turkey is proceeding with actions aimed at creating new fait accompli in Cyprus – both at sea and on land - actions that have negative ramifications regionally and on US interests, and which form part of Turkey’s overall expansionist policy in the region of the wider Eastern Mediterranean.
Our discussion this evening comes in the immediate aftermath of announcements made a few hours ago by the President Erdogan in relation to the fenced area of Varosha in the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus.
Despite calls by the US, EU and the international community not to proceed on Varosha, President Erdogan today announced that they are changing the status of part of the fenced area of Varosha, where the secessionist entity in the occupied areas will be given control.
These actions, that come at a time when the international community is focusing its efforts on the resumption of negotiations for the Cyprus problem, are clearly violating the relevant United National Security Council Resolutions on Varosha which clearly state that responsibility for Varosha lies with Turkey and that control of the area must be transferred to the UN Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus.
As I have stated, the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly recognized that the status of Varosha is distinct, and through numerous Resolutions called “for the transfer of this area to the administration of the United Nations”.
Turkey’s decision comes after Turkey’s 2020 decision to proceed with the opening of the beach front of the fenced area of Varosha, which was followed by construction work in the area in preparation for the “opening” of the rest of the fenced area.
Today’s decision is part of an overall plan by Turkey to change the status of the whole fenced area and illegally extend control of the secessionist entity to the fenced area of Varosha, but is also part of Turkey’s policy to negate in this way the aim for reaching a settlement on the basis of a bizonal bicommunal federation, as prescribed by UNSC Resolutions.
The Security Council has been vocal on the matter of Varosha, and Turkey’s illegal activities, reiterating that no actions should be carried out in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with UNSC Resolutions and in this context called for the reversal of Turkey’s course of action, stressing the importance of full respect and implementation of its Resolutions.
If the world does not react to President Erdogan’s new provocative actions, there can be no doubt that he will be encouraged to continue, not only in Cyprus, but also in the region where Turkey’s destabilizing role extends, in a manner that also undermines US interests.
The international community, the United Nations, the United States – as a UNSC Permanent Member, as an actor that understands the importance of stability in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean - have a responsibility to react swiftly, decisively, responding to Mr. Erdogan in the only language he understands. The language of might and decisiveness.
We immediately raised the issue today at UN level, and tomorrow decisions will be taken on what precisely will be requested from the Security Council. This is an issue on which there are Security Council Resolutions and as such the Security Council’s position is crucial.
The role of the Government of the United States is of crucial importance. We are well aware, as are you, that President Biden has deep knowledge of the intricacies of the Cyprus problem, and also recognizes the importance and symbolic value of Varosha. This was absolutely clear during his 2014 visit to Cyprus as Vice President during which he exerted efforts for a CBM on Varosha which was regrettably rejected by the Turkish side.
It is important to understand that the unilateral actions by Turkey in Varosha go hand in hand with its change of position on the Cyrpus problem, as stated during the 5+1 informal meeting in Geneva in April, rejecting the agreed basis for a solution, namely BBF, and their support for a two state solution, contrary to UNSCRs on the Cyprus problem.
If there is to be any hope for the resumption of negotiations for a viable comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem – which would be a strong message of peace in a region that desperately needs it - the US and the international community need to be firm in their reaction on Varosha, otherwise President Erdogan will continue on this path of provocation and division in Cyprus. A policy that forms part of its overall expansionist, hegemonic policy in the region.
The international community, the United States, have a duty not to allow President Erdogan to transform the entire region into his playground and a source of conflict and destabilization.
Thank you for your attention.