Turkish Cypriot trades union leaders from occupied northern Cyprus met with the President and members of the Executive Council of the UK Cypriots’ Federation in London Thursday evening.  The convivial meeting at the bi-communal Cypriot Community Centre in Haringey, confirmed a shared vision of a free, united Cyprus and unanimous support for co-ordinated action by Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities everywhere,

aimed at an end of Turkey’s military occupation and the country’s reunification.

The trades unions delegation was on a four day visit to London, meeting British politicians and trades unions, UK Cypriot community groups and other civic society organisations. Sener Elcil Hassan, General Secretary of ‘Cyprus Turkish Teachers Trade Union’ (Turkish Cypriot Primary teachers’ union) (KTOS), said that the visit aimed to inform UK politicians and other influential groups of the many difficulties faced by the Turkish Cypriot community in occupied Cyprus, to highlight Turkey’s deliberate “imposition of demographic changes” on the island and to demand that the Cyprus issue becomes a top priority of the international community.

The delegation, representing nine Turkish Cypriot trades unions on the island, emphasised how the interests of the Turkish Cypriot community are not represented by the illegal pseudo-state in the occupied areas. In addition, they stated that they regard the so-called ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ as Turkey’s ‘puppet regime’ and that the latter’s purpose is to facilitate Ankara’s ‘partitionist’ aims on the island. The Turkish Cypriot trades unionists indicated that the objective of the UK visit, as with similar visits to Brussels, has been to articulate “the true voice” of Turkish Cypriots, which is otherwise suppressed by Turkey, and to express their fear that the Turkish Cypriot community is in danger of extinction as a consequence of Turkey’s stranglehold on occupied Cyprus and the transfer of large numbers of mainland Turkish colonists to the areas under its control. The likelihood of  extinction, illustrated by Turkey’s efforts to destroy the historically unique secular Turkish Cypriot culture and identity, through wholesale ‘Islamisation’ of the occupied areas, were recurrent themes articulated by Turkish Cypriot representatives at the meeting.

Peter Droussiotis, Federation President, stated the UK Cypriot community’s desire to work with Turkish Cypriots who share the vision of a united island free from foreign occupation troops. He said: “The Federation’s consistent message is that we want a reunited Cyprus for the benefit of all Cypriots.”

In response to questions, Mr Droussiotis reiterated the Greek Cypriot community’s total  commitment to a just and lasting settlement and empathised that its rejection of the Annan plan in 2004, which Turkey exploits for propaganda purposes, should not be interpreted as a rejection of reunification. He said: “The Annan Plan was overwhelmingly voted down because it was seen as a dysfunctional, unworkable plan which would have legitimised virtually every consequence of Turkey’s military invasion and occupation while denying Cypriots their human rights and fundamental freedoms in their own country.”

The meeting agreed that Turkey’s military occupation and policy of colonisation represent the main obstacles to a just and viable settlement on the island. Those present also resolved that leading Cypriot community groups and organisations, both in Cyprus and overseas, should work more closely together and explore joint initiatives in support of the common struggle to reunite the island. They agreed to develop the dialogue with a view to formulating specific strategies and actions supportive of this agenda.

Commenting on the meeting’s outcomes, Mr. Droussiotis said:

“We were delighted to meet our Turkish Cypriot trades union friends: there is clearly a common will to work towards a solution in Cyprus that safeguards the freedom, independence and unity of the island for the benefit of all Cypriots. The tragic story of the plight of the Turkish Cypriot community in the northern part of Cyprus occupied by the Turkish army is one of unacceptable oppression, bullying and belligerence by Turkey.

“It is abundantly clear, based on the evidence presented at the meeting today, that Turkish Cypriots are as much victims of Turkey’s invasion, occupation and colonisation of the northern part of Cyprus as their Greek Cypriot and other Cypriot counterparts. The messages passionately articulated by this delegation answer unequivocally the relentless falsehoods and propaganda spouted by the Turkish Ambassador and Turkey’s unprincipled advocates in relation to Turkey’s role on the island.

“I am encouraged by our common resolve to work together to bring to an end the many injustices that Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus has inflicted on all Cypriots without exception – Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Armenian Cypriots, Maronite Cypriots, Latin Cypriots and all other Cypriots – and to draw the UK Government’s attention to its own moral and legal obligations to the Republic of Cyprus. The suffering of generations of Cypriots cannot be ignored just because of the passage of time.

“Today, we witnessed how Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, when free from the chains of military occupation, enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to work together for the common benefit of all Cypriots. We know what many refuse to acknowledge: that Cyprus’s division lies not at the door of inter-communal strife but in Turkey’s systematic  obstruction of any progress for unity and harmony on the island. We look forward to enhanced cooperation with the Turkish Cypriot trades unions and with all other Turkish Cypriots who want to see Cyprus free and united.”

Turkish Cypriot trades union organisations represented at the meeting included:

·       Cyprus Turkish Teachers Trade Union (KTOS);

·       Turkish Cypriot Secondary Schools Teachers Trade Union (KTOEOS); 

·       Revolutionary Workers Trade Union Federation (DEVIS); 

·       Turkish Cypriot Cooperative Workers Trade Union (KOOPSEN); 

·       State Workers Trade Union (CAG-SEN); 

·       Eastern Mediterranean University’ Non-Academic Staff Trade Union (DAU-BIR-SEN); 

·       Turkish Cypriot Civil Servants Trade Union (KTAMS); 

·       Turkish Cypriot Medical Doctors Trade Union (TIP-IS); 

·       Turkish Cypriot Press Workers Trade Union (BASINSEN).

The meeting was also attended by leading UK Cypriot community representatives:

·       Susie Constantinides (Federation Executive Council Member and Chair, Cypriot Community Centre);

·       Gokay Ucar (Vice Chair, Cypriot Community Centre);

·       Hassan Raif (Secretary, Cypriot Community Centre and Chairman, Turkish Cypriot Democratic Association);

·       Ferdi Suleyman (Turkish Cypriot Democratic Association);

·       Bambos Charalambous (Secretary, Federation Executive Council Member, Secretary, AKEL in Britain and Managing Director, Parikiaki Newspaper);

·       George Adonis (Federation Executive Council Member and General Secretary and Legal Advisor, Greek Cypriot Brotherhood);

·       Neophytos Nicolaou (Federation Executive Council Member and Organising Secretary, AKEL in Britain);

·       Andreas Karaolis, Federation and Greek Cypriot Brotherhood Executive Secretary;

·       Tony Sophoclides (Director, The Altitude Consultancy, PR and Media advisors to the Federation, and Greek Cypriot Brotherhood Executive Member); and

·       Thanasios Gavos, Cyprus News Agency London Correspondent.