First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to the organisers of the Conference for allowing me to say a few words on behalf of Lobby for Cyprus and all those individuals and organisations represented by Lobby. Undoubtedly, we are all here this week, because we share the same desire and undiminished determination, to see an end to the illegal occupation and division of our country.
Of course, there are many factors relating to a settlement to the so called 'Cyprus Problem': security, the constitution, EU membership, the immense demographic changes and imbalances created by the presence of thousands of colonists on the territory of the sovereign Republic of Cyprus. But, arguably above all others, is the matter of the land and title-deeds. All matters relating to a settlement, rest, in Lobby's view, on the issue of title-deeds and the inalienable right of the refugees to return to and/or reclaim this land.
For the past 20 years, the illegal Denktash regime has tried to legitimise its presence on the island by attempting to win international recognition and by issuing 'title deeds' principally to powerful interests (those who rule the 'TRNC'(Turkish occupied northern part of Cyprus) on land stolen from the rightful owners, the Greek Cypriot refugees. This policy however, as repeatedly pointed out by Lobby, has failed miserably, because Denktash's title-deeds are not recognised by anyone as being legitimate. Not even Turkish and Turkish Cypriot registered banks recognise these title-deeds and therefore, do not accept them as collateral to raise bank loans.
The property represents the stolen assets and businesses of Greek Cypriot refugees, in Cyprus and the diaspora, who demand the return of these lands and properties, as a moral and legal right. This legal right has been conclusively proven by the European Court of Human Rights in December 1996 in a landmark decision in the case brought by Titina Loizidou against Turkey. The Court found Turkey guilty for preventing Mrs Loizidou to return and enjoy her property. In its stunning demolition of Turkey's defence, the Court emphasised that the regime in the occupied area is illegal and all its acts or decrees seeking to steal legal titles from the refugees, have no legal validity in the international community.
No wonder the thieves, who, for the moment, despoil our land and refuse to return it, are anxious. They realise the risks to their powerbase and own interests, as so many refugees are adamant and as determined as Titina Loizidou to reclaim and yes, resettle their lands and properties. This is not fictitious or a romantic notion, it is a fact. Some refugees, out of outrage, a sense of injustice having been committed against them for over twenty years, are yearning to return to their roots, and they will return. Many others, though sharing similar deep feelings and sensitivities, will also return because they realise the enormous worth of their reclaimed lands, in a potential settlement.
Lobby has pointed out that with the influx of capital into the north subsequent to a settlement, Greek Cypriot development capital( public and private), EU aid, IMF and world bank monies, private international finance, the property values will multiply and increase by staggering rates. Can you imagine what prime tourist land in the Karpasia and coastal mountain areas of Kyrenia will be worth? There is little or no prospect of any UN/EU compensation package working when property values in the newly liberated lands will far exceed the value of any compensation or so called ;property- exchanges;.
The fact is that with the refugees either returning to, or reclaiming their stolen lands and properties, for moral or economic reasons, the commercial exploitation and redevelopment of the north of the island will be firmly in Greek Cypriot hands. They will be in control of the economic and commercial development of the property, in what is the most beautiful and up to 1974, the most productive part of the island.
Under such circumstances, it is not difficult to see how Denktash's power base will erode and disintegrate - it is within the power of the refugees to realise all that we, Lobby for Cyprus are saying. It is the refugees who will prevent the permanent division of Cyprus and the introduction of apartheid at the doorstep of Europe. It is their legitimate aspiration and determination to reclaim their stolen lands, that will ultimately bring about what we all desire - a free, united, independent and sovereign Cyprus, the common home of all indigenous Cypriots!