6 June 2013, Washington DC
Thank you for the opportunity to address this meeting on behalf of Lobby for Cyprus and to the organisers, in particular Phillip Christopher, Andy and Mike Manatos and all the others who have worked to make this a successful conference. Like all the other members of Lobby for Cyprus, this is not my full time job, my day job is a human rights lawyer helping challenge and reform unjust laws and practices around the world. I have been attending PSEKA, POMAK and NEPOMAK conferences for 12 years now and I take a moment to remember the ever present Andrew Athens whose absence has been felt at this gatherings and will be felt in the future. His tireless and generous commitment to Cyprus and Hellenism worldwide has been an inspiration for myself and I am certain, many others in this room.
Distinguished guests, His excellency the Ambassador, Government Spokesman, Mayors from Cyprus, and dear delegates.
Lobby for Cyprus is the voice of Greek Cypriot refugees based in the UK. Lobby for Cyprus is an independent and non-party-political organisation, made up of individuals and refugee associations, that united to campaign for a genuinely free Cyprus. Our objective is the fulfilment of the 3Rs:
- Removal of all Turkish troops
- Repatriation of all Turkish colonists
- and the right of Return of all refugees.
These 3Rs are consistent with UN resolutions that condemn:
- the illegal occupation by Turkey,
- the continued ethnic cleansing by Turkey.
- and the importing of colonists from Turkey – a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention.
These, in addition to the continuing human rights violations against refugees, the families of the missing persons and those tortured, raped and killed by the invading Turkish troops constitute the ‘Cyprus Issue’ and Turkey’s problem. Pressure must be brought to bear on Turkey to be accountable for its crimes against humanity and gross violation of human rights.
We organise campaigns targeted at the UK government, Members of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament, other decision-makers, and the UK media. We organise seminars and debates on various themes. Two upcoming seminars one with Rizokarpasso, Famagusta Village Associations and another during the July week for Cyprus ‘Who’s Occupying Cyprus’.
We prepare regular campaign actions to encourage and assist our members and supporters to take actions on important issues.
Whilst those of us who have lobbied now for decades will continue to do so, we at Lobby for Cyprus believe that it is important to educate and arm the next generations. It is reassuring to see that the same is happening here in the USA. We are very active on online social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. I urge you to follow and re-tweet our posts. The Facebook group is where Lobby’s global and extended family is extremely active, sharing on a daily basis inaccurate and false articles they have read, company pages which inadvertently give recognition to the pseudo-state, brands which have set up shop in an occupied towns, the latest attempt by the occupation regime to obtain celebrity endorsement and adverts they have seen which seek to create an image of a normalised situation in the military occupied area. It is encouraging to see within minutes individuals taking action, registering their complaints, demanding corrections be made or pages be removed and the subsequent celebration. Because we as individuals can and do make a difference, and it is at meetings like these that we should devise a united movement and send a clear message, that whilst we are happy to continue, more needs to do more because the Turkish propaganda machine has been going at full steam for many years now. We are in a stronger position, we have international law on our side and so a little bit of effort goes a long way.
We recently organised a workshop with students. Together we discussed what we believe is wrong with a bi-zonal bi communal federal solution (because intuitively we all know it is wrong). At Lobby for Cyprus many of our prominent members are lawyers and discussions were kicked off with short briefings on international law, human rights and the rule of law. The end result was a list of counter arguments to such a settlement together with an action plan.
It is some of these points that I want to briefly highlight.
- Membership of the EU changes the circumstances “EU has been described as a tidal wave crushing over anything inconsistent.” The realities and circumstances have significantly changed for Cyprus.
- The people rejected such a solution in the referendum on the Annan Plan. The question was posed – does the Cyprus government have a mandate to negotiate on the basis of the earlier HLA?
- Turkey has breached the terms of the agreements. Most obviously in 1983 through the UDI and continuously through its acts of ethnic cleansing.
“It is the (only) realistic solution”
- It lacks legality.
- Does not respect human rights or the rule of law.
- How can you agree and be bound to something that is not defined.
- Ultimately it is open to challenge (in the courts/tribunals at national, regional and international level of the EU, ECHR, UN and Cyprus).
- It has no place as a workable solution – there is no point having a “solution” which is simply unsustainable.
As we sit only blocks away from where Dr Martin Luther King and others started a campaign which ended racial segregation in the USA, when we think of other modern day heroes such as Ghandi and Nelson Mandela who helped end apartheid in South Africa, it is appalling that political interests continue to push for a settlement in Cyprus which is the imposition of segregation and apartheid in their call for ‘re-unification’. What we seek is freedom for all of Cyprus and all who live in Cyprus.
When we talk of the ‘two communities’, it sounds too much like a 2 state solution – us and them – which would not fulfil one of the 3Rs – return of all refugees. I also think we need to make it clear that Cyprus does not consist of just 2 communities 21% of the population is neither Greek nor Turkish Cypriot. Any settlement needs to be fair and just to all lawful residents. The talk/focus on 2 communities (and activities) is discriminatory against everyone else who calls Cyprus home. It is reminiscent of the Ottomans and a remnant of British divide and rule policy. We no longer live in the 1950s but in 2013, not only have the lawful demographics of Cyprus changed (a distinction needs to be made between lawful residents and the colonists) but also the laws. We are part of the EU family with common values and principles which protect individuals, discrimination laws are stronger and respect for the rule of law is a necessity in both the political world but also for investment.
- Communalism fuels nationalism and division.
- Such an Apartheid or segregation system has been rejected in South Africa and the USA for clear reasons.
“In negotiations you need to compromise”
- Compromise yes, but not to the extent that makes us 2nd class citizens in both our own country and Europe.
- Red lines are drawn not by our political interests alone but by international obligations (ECHR, EU, UN, etc…)
- Bi-zonal bi-communal federation legalises the crimes against humanity committed by Turkey.
- The1983 UDI is an act of illegality because it stems from an illegal act. After a settlement any future UDI could be legal and accepted.
President Anastasiades has stated that he does not feel bound by the convergences described in the Downer Report. However we should not be bound by an out dated and racist settlement model. Why?
- The people of Cyprus when asked for the first time in 2004 overwhelmingly rejected such a settlement.
- We should not be mistaken in believing that we can settle for an imperfect model which we can improve later. History informs us that this is a dangerous belief. We need to get it right from the start, the foundations need to be strong and rooted in international law, human rights, respect for the rule of law and democracy – with one vote for each person no matter what their ethnicity or religion.
- Under a bi-zonal bi-communal federation even if an Englishman or a Jewish person was born and raised in Cyprus they will never have full democratic rights, they could not sit as judges and depending on fulfilment of quotas they will be discriminated against in public jobs.
- A settlement should accommodate all Cypriots 'no matter what their ethnicity or religious beliefs'.
Bi-zonal bi-communal federation is outdated, unethical and it is a concept that only serves Turkey's interests.
UN initiatives for the next phase of negotiations: we need to remain strong and not adopt a defeatist view.
Famagusta has been used as a bargaining tool for too long and what has happened over the years is we fulfil our obligations but Turkey does not fulfil its. In refusing to return it, we should highlight the uncompromising Turkish stance. In fact it is not goodwill which obliges it but a condition of a specific UN resolution.
Time does not permit me to go into detail about the IPC, the recent ECtHR decision in Meleagrou. However we have always believed that property is the key to the solution. There are unconfirmed rumours that the Government is setting up a recent property committee. This too could be dangerous.
As for direct trade from the occupied areas: what guarantee is there that the products do not originate from stolen property, from your land? Here there are 2 points, firstly it is about control. The Republic of Cyprus needs to be in control of what goes in and out of the occupied areas, not Turkey, not the UN and not the EU - the sovereignty of the Republic needs to be reinforced not undermined. Second in the USA there is a heading of compensation known as unjustified enrichment. So how can you on the one hand recognise that it is wrong for an individual to benefit from something which at its root is wrong/illegal (in the case of Cyprus the stolen properties/trespass) and yet on the other hand allow direct trade.
On the economy: The economic crisis has in a bizarre way empowered and united the people of Cyprus to be more resilient against external pressures to accept settlements which they feel are unjust and forced upon them.
As events develop in Turkey and the occupied areas, which includes the fall of the pseudo-government today following a vote of non-confidence we need to take care not to give recognition to de facto second state or fall for the self-determination desires. We needto be vigilant and think ahead.
At this meeting we remember the passing of the great Andrew Athens, at Lobby we still feel the absence of another inspiring man, Kyriacos Christodoulou and over the years since the Greek Cypriots were forcefully displaced by the invading Turkish army, many others have died and when the flame of a refugee goes out, it is doubly sad because we know that they die with a dream unfulfilled, a dream that was not in their power to realise, the dream to return to their fields, to their home, to their church, to their village. It is in their memory and for subsequent generations that we continue the struggle for human rights and respect for the rule of law to prevail over inhumanity, illegality and political interests.