UK Cypriots and British politicians across the political spectrum turned out in force today to condemn Turkey’s continuing illegal military occupation of the northern part of Cyprus, and to demand that the UK Government, as a guarantor power of Cyprus’s independence, act decisively to press Turkey to withdraw its occupying army and to work actively for a solution of the island’s division which will be for the benefit of the people of Cyprus.
The day of protest was the culmination of a series of evens organised by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK to mark the tragic events of July 1974 in Cyprus, namely the criminal coup by the military junta then ruling Greece and the illegal invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish army which followed.
The rally started with a picketing outside the Turkish embassy and a march through central London and culminated with rallying cries in Trafalgar Square from President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, Peter Droussiotis, British politicians and main speaker, Stefanos Stefanou, Cyprus Government Spokesman, all of whom called upon Turkey to match the good will and determination shown by new President of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, in his efforts to reach a just , viable and lasting settlement which will reunite Cyprus in the interest of all of the island’s people, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins.
Earlier, en route to Trafalgar Square from the Turkish Embassy, where Mr Droussiotis handed in a letter of protest to the Turkish Ambassador demanding goodwill from his government, a Federation Executive delegation delivered a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, urging his government to use its influence over Turkey and to fulfil its obligations as a Guarantor Power of the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus.
In his introductory speech at the rally, Mr. Droussiotis lamented the fact that “34 years after the invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish army, the division of Cyprus remains a tragic failure of leadership by the international community to hold Turkey to account for its naked use of force and its continuing disregard for the rule of law.” He also called upon the UK government and friends of Cyprus to push hard for a solution that will “reunite the territory, the people, the institutions and the economy of the island, in the framework of a bi-zonal, bi-communal, Federal Republic, a state with a single sovereignty, international personality and a single citizenship.”
Stefanos Stefanou, Cyprus Government Spokesman, highlighted the courageous steps taken by President Christofias in the last few months and called upon the UK and the international community to support the President’s efforts so that the process currently under way finally leads to a reunited Cyprus in which the human rights of all its citizens will be restored and safeguarded.
British MPs and MEPs collectively called on the UK government to take practical steps in order to ensure that the latest wave of optimism over Cyprus is not squandered and that the opportunity now presented for the negotiation of a comprehensive and durable settlement which will liberate Cyprus from the Turkish military occupation and forcible division of the last 34 years is fully developed.
Two MPs, Eddie O’Hara (Lab, Knowsley South) and Andrew Dismore (Lab, Hendon) addressed the rally in Greek, speaking of their optimism for the future but the need for pressure on Turkey to be sustained. Simon Hughes MP (Lib Dem, North Southwark and Bermondsey), who has attended all of the annual Federation rallies for 25 years, said:
“The next 12 months present an unequalled opportunity to advance progress and deliver a solution. A combination of the two leaders’ willingness to do business and the 2009 EU elections putting Cyprus on the agenda offers opportunities for real progress.”
Andy Love MP (Lab, Edmonton) welcomed the recent Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and Cyprus. He said:
“It underscores the UK’s commitment to reunification. I urge a start to formal direct negotiations in which the UK should encourage Turkey to take a part.”
Theresa Villiers MP (Con, Chipping Barnet) lamented the 34 years without a solution:
“It is tragic that after so many years, Cypriots still have to gather in Trafalgar Square to protest about the division of the island. I pledge to keep the pressure on the UK Government.”
Alan Meale MP (Lab, Mansfield) took the UK Government to task:
“It’s a disgrace that our Government – a Guarantor Power of Cyprus – hasn’t solved this crisis. It’s a blemish on the UK and on the EU that the division of Cyprus still remains”
Charles Tannock, a Member of the European Parliament for London, called upon the US to bring influence on the process seeking a settlement and called upon the US Presidential candidates to commit themselves to solving the Cyprus problem.
Rudi Vis MP (Lab, Finchley & Golders Green), said that this year had seen improvements:
“At least the leaders are talking to each other. What we want for the coming year is deeds and actions. I look forward to 2009 being even more successful.”
The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Demetris Christofias, is due to meet with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community on the island, Mr Mehmet Ali Talat, on Friday 25th July 2008 in order to review progress so far and whether direct substantive negotiations between them in order to reach an agreed solution should commence in the near future.