British Cypriots joined politicians from across Britain’s political spectrum yesterday to condemn Turkey’s intransigence over efforts to end its continuing illegal military occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.
A petition was delivered to Prime Minister David Cameron, calling for the UK to use its influence with the Turkish Government in order to press Turkey to withdraw its occupying troops and to play an active and positive role in current efforts to reunite Cyprus for the benefit of all Cypriots.
A letter to the Turkish Ambassador to the UK was also delivered following a demonstration outside the Turkish Embassy in London. Later, a march through the heart of London culminated in a mass rally in Trafalgar Square. The annual July London “Rally for Cyprus” was organised by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, to mark the twin anniversaries of the fascist coup by the military junta then ruling Greece on 15h July 1974, and the illegal invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish army which followed 5 days later, on 20th July 1974.
Twelve days before the Rally, on 6th July 2010 , an event took place in the Houses of Parliament to offer support to relatives of people still missing since Turkey invaded the island in the summer of 1974 and to lobby politicians for their support.
The rally in Trafalgar Square was addressed by several British politicians from the main parties. Mr Peter Droussiotis, President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, and The Minister of Communications and Works of the Republic of Cyprus, Mrs Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, also addressed the event.
In his opening address, Mr. Droussiotis said:
“We expect the new British Prime Minister David Cameron whom we petitioned at 10 Downing Street today and the new Foreign Secretary William Hague to tell Turkey that it must change its tune on Cyprus, that it must, at long last, change course, if it wants to make further progress in Europe.
“Turkey’s unacceptable behaviour in Cyprus must not be rewarded; it must be punished if it is not corrected. The new British government has a unique opportunity to help bring this about – to make this vital and principled change to its approach to Turkey.”
Tribute was then paid to former MPs in attendance, still showing their support for Cyprus; Tom Cox, Eddie O’Hara, Andrew Dismore and Ian Twinn. Respects were also paid to Rudi Vis, the former MP for Finchley and Golders Green and a long-standing friend of Cyprus and the UK Cypriot community, who died earlier this year. Other parliamentary supporters of the Cyprus cause in attendance included Transport Minister Theresa Villiers MP, Mike Freer MP, Matthew Offord MP, Alan Meale MP and Jim Sheridan MP.
The Cyprus High Commissioner HE Alexandros Zenon and his Deputy Mr Dimitris Hatziargyrou represented the Cyprus High Commission at the event while the Mayors of the occupied towns of Kyrenia and Morphou, Mrs Maria Ioannou and Mr Charalambos Pittas, respectively, represented Cypriot towns and villages under Turkey’s military occupation.
Jim Sheridan MP, a Scottish MP, then delivered the wishes of the people of Scotland for a solution to the Cyprus problem before stating that the Coalition Government had been elected on a pledge of delivering fairness and that: “There is no greater cause for fairness than in Cyprus” and calling upon the UK Government to ensure that Turkey cannot gain EU member status while occupying another EU state.
The Minister of Communications and Works of the Republic of Cyprus, Mrs. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, who was the main speaker at the event, then addressed the audience, firstly by recognising the good turnout for the rally, saying that “Your participation in this massive demonstration gives a strong message that this injustice … cannot longer be tolerated, a message that must reach all policymakers in the UK.”
The Minister added:
“European values and principles are being trampled upon by Turkey. The values of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law, which are the very foundations of the United Kingdom, are being made a mockery by Turkey’s illegal actions in Cyprus.”
“Our message is not one of despair, it is one of hope, of resolve and of re-dedication to the cause of peace, justice, freedom and unity for Cyprus. We have searched for 36 years for a peaceful solution and we shall continue to do so. We want a common future with our Turkish Cypriots compatriots, in peace, prosperity and security as citizens of the European Union.”
Matthew Offord, the recently elected Member of Parliament for Hendon, spoke of the his and his colleagues’ determination to hold the British Government to account, saying that it had been elected on pledges of fairness and that Cyprus is an example of where fairness must be delivered, adding:
“If Turkey wants to join the EU, it must fulfil their obligations to the people of Cyprus. That means that there is no division of the island. That means the return of property to the people from whom it was taken in the invasion of 1974. And that means that people who are missing must be located and identified, so that their relatives can begin the grieving process. Until that happens, Turkey is not welcome in the EU. Until then, we keep fighting.”
Mike Freer, new MP for Finchley and Golders Green, added his support, saying that he would work with his colleagues in Parliament to maintain a high profile for Cyprus on the Government’s foreign policy agenda.
The last guest speaker was Alan Meale MP, a stalwart supporter of reunification of the island of Cyprus, who expressed his dismay at returning to the rally each year to demand a solution, rather than to celebrate a reunited island. He added:
“Here we stand in Trafalgar Square, in the shadow of the South African Embassy, asking for an end to apartheid in Europe. And until we get that, there is no place for Turkey in the EU. There is no place for them in Europe while they occupy part of Cyprus.
“Struggles sometimes take decades, as you all know. But for those who have lost homes and relatives we must continue to fight until we win a solution and free Cyprus from tyranny. There can be no peace until Turkey removes its troops from the island.”