British Cypriots and politicians from across Britain’s political spectrum demonstrated in great numbers on Sunday, in a show of solidarity against Turkey’s intransigence over efforts to end its continuing illegal military occupation of the northern part of Cyprus. The National Federation of UK Cypriots’ annual rally at Trafalgar Square saw thousands of protestors make their voices heard to deliver a clear message to Turkey and to the British Government.
A petition was delivered to Prime Minister David Cameron, in which the National Federation of UK Cypriots’ President, Mr Peter Droussiotis, called upon Mr Cameron to apply leverage on 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 of protest to the Turkish Ambassador to the UK was also delivered to the Turkish Embassy in London. The annual London “Rally for Cyprus” was organised by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK to mark the 40th anniversary of the illegal invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish army on 20th July 1974.
The keynote speaker at the event was Mr Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, Minister for Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism of the Republic of Cyprus. The Minister said that: “It was really far too long to have to wait for forty years for justice to be served in Cyprus, especially when the just cause of the island has been recognized by numerous resolutions of the United Nations and is based on the principles and values of the European Union.” The Minister also pointed out that the Cypriot people are the only European citizens who are denied basic human rights in their own country, because of the Turkish military occupation.
He added: “What is urgently required are steps to enhance the mutual trust between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Turkey has to decide whether or not it wishes to take concrete steps to build confidence and improve the political climate. It is to this end that President Anastasiades has proposed confidence building measures including the Famagusta proposal”.
The rally in Trafalgar Square was also addressed by British politicians from the main parties.
In his introductory speech, Mr Peter Droussiotis, President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, welcomed and thanked all of those present, in particular Minister Lakkotrypis, the Mayors of the occupied towns of Kythrea and Lapithos, Petros Kareklas and Neoptolemos Kotsapas respectively, Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and a member of the British Cabinet, the Greek Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mr Konstanitnos Bikas, the Cyprus High Commissioner to the UK, Mr Euripides Evriviades, and members of the British and European Parliament and the Greater London Assembly Sir Alan Meale MP, Mike Freer MP, Charles Tannock MEP and Andrew Dismore AM.
After welcoming the rally, Mr Droussiotis articulated called upon the international community to act on Cyprus. He said:
“Today we remind the world of the utter injustice of the continuing division of Cyprus, the disgrace of a divided capital in a united Europe. We condemn the ethnic cleansing, the cultural genocide, the religious desecration – these consequences are the pernicious legacy of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
“The tragedy of Cyprus is compounded because the will of the United Nations has been defied, with complete impunity, by successive Turkish governments, for 40 years, which makes today an anniversary of failure too – the failure of the international community to hold Turkey to account. So we call upon Britain, which has moral and treaty obligations to Cyprus, and upon the European Union, whose values and principles are being arrogantly defied by Turkey, to put pressure on Turkey to help deliver a free, united Cyprus for all Cypriots. And we ask Britain and Europe to make it unequivocally clear to Turkey that it will never join the EU unless it leaves the island.
“Forty years on, the flame of liberty in our hearts still burns; it will not be extinguished; our hope endures; the dream lives on; the struggle continues and will not stop until the bells of freedom ring from every corner of the island.”
Petros Kareklas, Mayor of occupied Kythrea, speaking on behalf of the Occupied Towns and Municipalities of Cyprus, pointed to the destruction of the island’s cultural and religious heritage in the occupied areas. He demanded the immediate removal of Turkish troops from Cyprus and noted that while a solution was desired by virtually all Cypriots, any settlement must safeguard the unity of the state and the peaceful co-existence and prosperity of all Cypriot citizens in their own country. He added his deepest thanks to British Cypriots and the Federation for their efforts in pressing for an end to the division of Cyprus.
Andrew Dismore, a former MP and current member of the Greater London Assembly, then addressed the rally. Speaking in fluent Greek, Mr Dismore said that “the eyes of the world at present are on the crises in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East, so it is important not to forget Cyprus, which makes it even more vital to have events such as this rally for as long as the injustice of a divided island remains”.
Charles Tannock, a Member of the European Parliament for London, told the rally that he will again prioritise the instigation of a resolution to focus the newly elected European Parliament on the issue of Varosha and Famagusta, and the reunification of the island. Mr Tannock went on to state that the recent interest of the USA in the Cyprus problem bodes well for the prospects of a solution under the United Nations.
Sir Alan Meale MP spoke of how Cyprus “deserves justice, as a member of the European Union, the Commonwealth and the United Nations” and highlighted “the sacrifice of so many Cypriot lives to protect freedom and democracy in two world wars”. He further called for a redoubling of efforts in searching for the fates of people still missing and unaccounted for since the invasion.
Also at the rally to demonstrate their solidarity with the Cyprus cause were long-standing friends of the island Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mike Freer MP, and former MP Ian Twinn. Additionally, the Cyprus High Commissioner, Mr Euripides Evriviades, and the Greek Ambassador, Mr Konstantinos Bikas, were on the platform together with Federation officers and members of its Executive Andreas Papaevripides (Federation Treasurer and President of POMAK), Bambos Charalambous (Federation Vice-President), Michael Ellinas (Vice-President), Ninos Koumettou (Vice-President), Michael Kashis (Secretary), Suzy Constantinides (Chair, Organising Committee), Christos Karaolis (also Nepomak President), Neophytos Nicolaou, George Adonis, veteran Executive Secretary Andreas Karaolis and former Federation and POMAK President Charis Sophoclides visiting from Cyprus.