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17-04-2024 08:12

Speech by the President of the Republic, Mr Nikos Christodoulides, at the Greek Cypriot Brotherhood’s 90th Anniversary Event in London, yesterday

At the outset, I wish to thank the organisers of the event and the leadership of the Brotherhood for providing me with this opportunity to address and engage with all of you, with such a special audience.

It is with emotions of joy and pride that I am here today in London to mark the 90 years since the foundation of the Greek Cypriot Brotherhood. To celebrate 90 years of its continuous service to the Cypriot diaspora in the United Kingdom (UK) and to the long-standing struggle for the freedom of our beloved Cyprus.

Tonight, we applaud and recognise the long history of both your service and instrumental work towards your fellow Cypriots for which, I am sure, you all rightly feel proud of.

And I want you to know that the Government and the people of Cyprus are not only grateful for your defining contribution in struggling for a free and united Cyprus, but we are also deeply appreciative of your unrelenting efforts to advance and promote the relations between Cyprus and the UK.

Dear friends,

Throughout its long and rich history, the Greek Cypriot Brotherhood has been guided by noble principles as well as commendable initiatives, all with the goal of safeguarding the interests of the Cypriot community in the UK and of Cyprus itself. Since 1934, when the Brotherhood was founded, initially to help the first Cypriot immigrants by providing them with cultural, educational and moral support, the Brotherhood has been the backbone of the Cypriot diaspora in the UK.

Over the years, the Brotherhood worked diligently and contributed significantly in maintaining the strong connection between the Cypriot migrants in the UK and their homeland, Cyprus.

The Brotherhood was the driving force behind the initiative to establish the first Greek schools in the UK for the generations born outside Cyprus. In July 1974, it led the formation of the National Coordinating Committee of Cyprus in England, which later was renamed as the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, the umbrella organisation that unites the Cypriot diaspora here in the UK – a diaspora which I personally perceive as the most dynamic aspect of the CY-UK relations.

The Brotherhood, rightly so, largely invested in the younger second and third generations of Cypriots, securing the continuation of the Cypriot community and ensuring that our values and principles are well-preserved. Over the course of its history, the Brotherhood demonstrated resilience and remarkable adaptability. As the needs of the Cypriot community changed through the years, so have the goals and efforts of the Brotherhood.

It was at the forefront of all national struggles since Cyprus’ independence back in 1960. After the Turkish invasion in 1974, it pioneered and led initiatives to ensure, above political affiliations and personal interests, that the voice of the Cypriot diaspora would be heard and acknowledged. It was also a catalyst in all efforts to build up and intensify cooperation and much-needed communication with British political parties and politicians.

To deliver on its mission, the Brotherhood always worked closely, and continues to do so, with all Presidents, Governments and political leaders of Cyprus, as well as with the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK and of course the Cyprus High Commission.

Dear friends,

At this point, allow me a personal note which I would be very much remiss if I did not refer to.

I know your work very well. I was privileged and I feel blessed that, during my diplomatic career, I have served as Consul General at the Cyprus High Commission [from 2002 till 2006]. I feel blessed, simply because I had the privilege to personally witness the enduring work and the unselfish dedication of the members of the Brotherhood and our broader UK diaspora.

I saw first-hand the commitment and personal engagement of the members of the Brotherhood in the pursuit of conveying our national struggle’s messages to the UK. I could not but consider myself lucky as I had the opportunity to work and cooperate closely with the Brotherhood and all other organised groups of Cypriots in the UK. I met kind, honest and generous people. I made long-lasting friendships, creating bonds of mutual respect that remain strong up to this day.

Today is a special day for me, as a President of the Republic of Cyprus. Like all former Presidents of the Republic, I have the great honour to be nominated as High Patron of the Brotherhood. I will carry this honour with great sense of commitment and responsibility. Most importantly, I consider this nomination as a great honour towards the high institution I myself represent, that of the President of the Republic of Cyprus. My sincere feelings of pride also represent Cyprus’ appreciation for the significant national, social, cultural and education work you all have fulfilled for almost a century.

Ladies and gentlemen,

2024 is a year marked by key moments and anniversaries for our country. We are approaching the 20th anniversary of our accession to the European Union (EU). It is a historic milestone for Cyprus and as I often say, it is our country’s most important achievement since its 1960 independence. Twenty years on, we are a proud EU member at the core of European politics whose voice and positions are heard and respected.

However, 2024 also marks a sombre anniversary; the completion of 50 years since the illegal 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the ongoing military occupation of almost 37% of the territory of our beloved homeland.

We are standing today, half-a-century-later, in awe before history – before the memory of our fallen compatriots and of those who passed away unjustified, before the families of our heroes and the relatives of missing persons, before our enclaved people and all refugees.

My fellow compatriots,

As I stressed since the very first day I assumed office, working towards lasting peace in Cyprus is my absolute priority. I have repeatedly stated that the only effective way to address both the continuing illegal occupation and the massive violations of human rights generated by the absence of a peace path is to pave one.

I will exert every effort towards this goal as my vision is to see Cyprus reunited, from Pafos to Apostolos Andreas, from Famagusta to Keryneia, making our island a place of peace, stability and security. A place that will offer equal prospects of prosperity to all its legal inhabitants. My government’s aim is to finally render Cyprus a normal, functional state without anachronistic guarantee systems and occupying troops, laying the foundation for peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding.

A state that allows all its legitimate citizens to live in conditions of shared respect, that strives for the preservation of human rights, including the freedom of movement, the freedom of settlement and the right to property; a state where fundamental freedoms and intercultural dialogue prevail; a state, a member state of the EU, that capitalises on its strategic position and its geopolitical role to establish close relations with all its neighbours in the Eastern Mediterranean, the broader Middle East and beyond; a reliable and indispensable partner for our friends and allies.

It goes without saying that the present state of affairs in Cyprus can in no way be the future of Cyprus. Constant Turkish violations in the buffer zone, as last August’s incident against United Nations (UN) personnel showcased, prove that the status quo in Cyprus is neither static nor sustainable. I am convinced that you all agree that this fragile situation can in no way be our future. It cannot be our legacy to the next generations, to the Cypriot youth and by definition, to our children.

For this reason, since day one, we work in a methodical and consistent manner, undertaking initiatives and convincing the international community of the urgent need to resume negotiations.

In this respect, we welcomed the appointment of the UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Ms Maria Ángela Holguin Cuéllar. Her appointment was itself an important message from the Secretary-General; a message that, in my view, unveils the absolute necessity to resume negotiations aimed at achieving a mutually acceptable and workable solution to the Cyprus issue.

Her appointment is particularly important as it responds to concerns about the direction we are going. I do not underestimate the difficulties and problems we are facing. I know very well the challenges stemming from the irrational Turkish demands for a “two-states” solution. I am well-aware of the unacceptable Turkish position setting preconditions to restart talks, namely the so-called sovereign equality and equal international status.

Let me be perfectly clear; Turkish positions have been answered long ago. And they have been answered not only by each and every Government of the Republic of Cyprus. In fact, Turkish demands have been persistently addressed by the international community itself, by the relevant Security Council (SC) Resolutions, by all convergences that have been achieved on the table of the negotiations and by EU principles and values.

There is not, and there will never be, any other basis for settlement of the Cyprus Question to that described by the UNSC Resolutions. Illegality originating from invasion, use of force and occupation cannot be recognised, cannot be legitimised.

For us, for all Cypriots, for the international community, there is no other option than solving the Cyprus problem based on the agreed framework. There is no choice but to strive for rebuilding trust and fostering dialogue, through which positions and concerns of all sides can be discussed and addressed in good faith, always, though, within the agreed framework.

From this platform tonight, I wish to repeat my pledge that I am dedicated to negotiating a viable and comprehensive settlement, always within the agreed UN framework and the principles on which the EU is founded.

In this struggle, in this huge endeavour, all of you Cypriots of the diaspora have the capacity to act, as you have always been doing and continue to do so, as a catalyst for peace. After all, we always keep in mind the notable, beneficial role of our diaspora whether in campaigning for a free, united Cyprus or in enriching our bilateral relations with other countries in every corner of the world.

Dear friends,

At this point, and before concluding, I would like to extend my best wishes to Ambassador Constantinidou on her recent appointment as the Head of Diaspora and Repatriates Service. I believe that both her rich and fruitful diplomatic career as well as her acute sense of responsibility are tools necessary to successfully deliver on this very important mission and priority for my government.

I am also pleased for the Council of Ministers’ recent decision as regards the re-integration of the Diaspora and Repatriates Service into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ structure. After all, further enhancing, coordinating and intensifying the relations with the diaspora forms a key objective, a major pillar of our foreign policy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, I wish to reiterate the profound gratitude of the people and the Government of Cyprus for the work carried out, the achievements accomplished and all activities undertaken by the Brotherhood in favour of the community’s and Cyprus’ interests.

Your work empowers our efforts, fills us with strength and hope to continue our struggle towards the fulfilment of our national aspirations and goals; end the occupation and to reunify Cyprus.

As we are getting closer and closer to the centennial anniversary, I am certain that the Brotherhood will continue to flourish in the years to come. On my behalf, I assure you that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus will persist in bolstering you by all means at its disposal in order to carry on your great and historic mission.