At an event hosted by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK in the British Parliament last night, UK politicians and British Cypriots heard an extensive update on developments in Cyprus, from the Republic of Cyprus Government Spokesman, Nicos Christodoulides. His address was followed by comments and statements from Parliamentarians and an open questions and answers session.
During the meeting, UK Parliamentarians from across the spectrum and both Houses of Parliament, pledged their commitment to keeping Cyprus on the agenda of the incoming Government after May’s UK General Election.
Welcoming guests, Peter Droussiotis, President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, who chaired the meeting, pointed to Turkey’s unwillingness to take the steps necessary to bring unity to Cyprus as well as stability to the island and the wider region:
“Not only does Turkey show no signs of changing its stance, it seems intent on undermining efforts to achieve a settlement, as has been vividly illustrated by its illegal incursions into the island’s EEZ.”
Mr Droussiotis also highlighted the contrast between the reaction of the West to what is happening in the Ukraine today and what has been happening in Cyprus in the last nearly 41 years and stressed that, in the face of Turkey’s aggression, the island has no choice but to follow a multi-faceted foreign policy and to use its geostrategic location to maximise its leverage.
Mr Christodoulides then presented his update on developments in Cyprus, covering a range of issues, from the wider aspects of the Cyprus problem, to the narrower themes of President Anastasiades recent visit to Russia, Turkey’s threats to the integrity of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone and the island’s continuing economic recovery since the financial crisis in March 2013.
He spoke of how Cyprus was at a “critical juncture”, where Turkey “has escalated its illegal and highly provocative actions in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)”, destabilising an already sensitive region. As such, Mr Christodoulides said that President Anastasiades’ visit to Russia last month was:
“…part of the long-standing practice of keeping all permanent members of the Security Council duly and equally informed of the latest developments. Russia cannot be an exception.”
The Government Spokesman went on to state his administration’s hopes for greater solidarity from its EU partners, not least in light of Cyprus’s full support and commitment for actions in relation to the Ukraine, despite adverse economic impacts in doing so:
“We expect the same solidarity from our EU partners on issues that are of vital importance to us, such as the violation of our sovereign rights in our exclusive economic zone. While we have received support from a number of member states, it is highly disappointing and regrettable that this is not the case for all EU member states.
“The EU and our partners should ask themselves what it says about the credibility of the EU, and whether it is acceptable that there was such a strong reaction by the EU vis-à-vis Russia in the context of the Ukraine crisis, while the EU has opted for a very cautious approach when it comes to Turkey’s – a candidate country’s – actions in Cyprus, an EU member state.”
The hydrocarbon reserves discovered in Cyprus’s EEZ would be used to “help create a region of unity, peace and stability, forging commonalities and strategic interests for the greater common good”. In concluding, Mr Christodoulides reported the better than expected speed and extent of economic recovery in Cyprus, saying that the “upgrading of the Cyprus economy by Credit Rating Agencies, the return of Cyprus to the international markets just a year after the signing of the MOU, and a favourable interest rate, send a strong message that there is trust in our economy.”
Mr Droussiotis then invited Parliamentarians to speak. Those present included Labour’s Shadow Foreign Minister Gareth Thomas MP, David Burrowes MP, Sir Alan Meale MP, Jim Sheridan MP and Lord Collins of Highbury, former General Secretary of the Labour Party and now a peer in the House of Lords.
Gareth Thomas MP said: “I pay credit to the Cyprus Government for the ways that they have approached both the negotiations in Cyprus and its economic recovery.” He added that he hoped that EU relations with Turkey remained cordial but that “Turkey must do its bit to and recognise that it has significant responsibilities to handle [the Cyprus problem] in a responsible way… Some tough compromises will have to be made but the prize is a huge one.”
David Burrowes MP said that: “The Cyprus problem must be a priority for all parties,” later adding “We all urge the UK to take its role seriously as a Guarantor Power… you all want actions. We have a situation where we call for Cypriots to solve the Cyprus problem, with support from the EU, but Britain needs to be much more proactive in seeking a solution.”
Jim Sheridan MP asked “If it is wrong for Russia allegedly invading Ukraine, and all of the sanctions against Russia for doing so, why are there not the same sanctions and the same outcry against Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus? There must be a position of consistency by whatever Government the UK returns in May… Cyprus deserves a better deal.” He also spoke of his own role in the Council of Europe, pertaining to missing people, emphasising the importance of the issue of the missing people to a solution for Cyprus.
Sir Alan Meale MP called for the British Government, European Union and international community to act consistently by acting proactively in Cyprus, as they did in Kuwait and the Ukraine. Of Britain, he said: “We are a Guarantor Power in Cyprus; we have to show more strength. The EU must act as a family and demand the removal of troops from the island. Cyprus is a valuable, valued and geopolitically important member of the EU family and must be treated as such.”
Other attendees included the Deputy Cyprus High Commissioner in London, Haralambos Kafkarides, the Consul-General of the Republic of Cyprus in London, George Georgiou, former leader of Islington Council (and now Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green) Catherine West and Enfield Cllr Jason Charalambous. Many senior representatives of the Cypriot community in the UK also attended and contributed to the discussion, including POMAK President and Treasurer of the Federation Andreas Papaevripides, Federation Vice President Bambos Charalambous, General Secretary Michael Kashis, Executive members including Suzie Constantinides MBE, Christos Karaolis (also Honorary Nepomak President), Neophytos Nicolaou, George Adonis, Savvas Pavlides, Executive Secretary Andreas Karaolis, as well as other representatives of UK Cypriot community organisations from London, Birmingham and other areas.
On a night when there were no votes in the House of Commons, as parties allow their MPs to focus on campaigning for the general election and other duties, messages of support were received from Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Andy Love MP, Sir Roger Gale MP, Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, Matthew Offord MP, Mike Freer MP, Chris Bryant MP, Julian Huppert MP, Lord Dubs, Lord Harris, Lord Dykes, Rosie Winterton, David Crausby and Nick de Bois.
Earlier in the day, the Cyprus Government Spokesman participated in a working lunch with the Executive Council of the Federation at the latter’s headquarters.