1 Mar. 2022 - Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides addresses UN Human Rights Council

Statement by H.E. Mr. Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, at the High-level Segment of the 49th Session of the Human Rights Council

1 March 2022 (via video-message)

Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Madam High Commissioner,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a privilege to address the 49th High Level Segment of the Human Rights Council. Unfortunately, the continuously unfolding events of the last days render my physical presence impossible.

The Human Rights Council is the epicentre of international dialogue and cooperation on all issues pertaining to the protection of human rights, their universality and indivisibility. The work of this Council, therefore, is about setting the standards and pushing the boundaries, in order to bring out the best in humanity and to help unleash the full potential for good in our societies, to ensure that the future will be brighter than the past.

Yet, what we are witnessing in the last week is the untold suffering and misery brought by war. The Republic of Cyprus unequivocally condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a flagrant violation of International Law and the rules-based international order. The protection of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of all states constitutes a fundamental principle for Cyprus. Allow me to echo the call of so many before me, to the Russian Federation to immediately end hostilities and return to the path of diplomacy. Cyprus stands in solidarity with Ukraine and its people. It is important to hold an urgent debate on the Situation of Human Rights in Ukraine during the current Session.

Dialogue is the only way to bridge differences and diminish the plague of polarization and war that unfortunately has beleaguered our work and our world. Strengthening rules-based multilateralism is the only way to effectively address global issues.

Cyprus has been living as a victim of foreign aggression, occupation almost for the last 50 years. The consequences and human rights violations on behalf of Turkey since 1974 are still much felt today: The fate of half of Cyprus’s missing persons has yet to be determined. Those forcefully displaced by the Turkish army are not allowed to return to their homes and properties. The demographic structure, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, continues to be re-engineered through illegal colonization by settlers. Threats to settle the ghost town of Varosha are in breach of relevant Security Council Resolutions and the 1987 Resolution of the Commission of Human Rights that expressly condemns any “attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as illegal and calls for the immediate cessation of such activities.”

Mr. President,

Covid-19 has shone a light on a wide array of deep structural inequalities and has inevitably had socio-economic consequences, both between countries as well as internally, within societies. Its impact on social, economic and cultural rights has been immeasurable, as it has on civil and political rights. Allow me to seize this occasion to express our concerns regarding these negative trends and point out that Cyprus will continue to raise its voice with regard to the need for protecting the most exposed and most vulnerable groups within society, including women, members of the LGBTI community, children and persons with disabilities.

Conflicts, crises and instability put the fundamentals of human rights under threat. Cyprus in seeking to become a member of this Council for the first time, between 2025 and 2027, wishes to see these issues placed high on our common agenda.

Mr. President,

Cyprus lies just 60 miles off the coast of Syria, which for over a decade of conflict has been beleaguered by continuous human rights violations and abuses to international humanitarian law that no amount of humanitarian assistance can redress. The effects of foreign occupation, multiple and competing power-centers, massive displacement, radicalization, migration and social and demographic engineering practices augment the fragmentation, as civilians on the ground continue to suffer.

As regards Libya, it is imperative that a new date for the postponed elections is announced, as the growing uncertainty could spiral into violence. Meanwhile, the presence of foreign armies and militias must be addressed without delay. Improving the human rights situation in Libya remains an important topic for the Human Rights Council and the Fact-Finding Mission’s work towards this end is indispensable.

The recognition in September of the right to a healthy environment is a timely achievement. The creation of a Special Rapporteur on Climate Change was crucial as it is imperative to have a human rights-based approach to mitigating the effects of climate change and raise international awareness.

Migration will remain a challenge in the years to come. We must all remind ourselves of our obligations regarding international protection and respect for the principle of non-refoulement. We are extremely concerned about the exploitation and abuse of migratory flows by human traffickers as well as the political instrumentalization of migration by certain states. We call for this abuse to be stopped and the only way to do this is for states and stakeholders across the multilateral arena to work together.

Before concluding, I wish to highlight that during this session of the Human Rights Council, Cyprus, together with a cross-regional core group comprising also Argentina, Ethiopia, Greece, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Mali, Poland, and Switzerland, will be presenting the triennial initiative on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage.  We look forward to engaging in good faith with each and every one of the UN member states during the informal consultations and aspire to receive broad support for this resolution during the current session as well, as was always the case in the past.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Cyprus will continue its active engagement in the Council in order to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights across the world.

I thank you.