On Tuesday 16th July, the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK and the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cyprus held its annual Parliamentary Reception for Cyprus, titled ‘Cyprus – Prospects for a Solution’, marking the tragic 45th anniversary of the illegal Turkish invasion of July 1974 and the ongoing occupation. The Government Spokesperson of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Prodromos Prodromou, briefed the APPG and members of the UK Cypriot community with the latest developments on the Cyprus issue.
The Federation President, Mr Christos Karaolis, thanked the 19 Parliamentarians, including the Minister and Shadow Minister, who were present and welcomed guests to the event and spoke of the UK Cypriot community’s hope and determination to see a reunited Cyprus free from the outdated system of guarantees and without the presence of foreign troops, as well as the return of refugees to their hometowns and properties. He added, “what we’re asking for is both fair and simple; a fully functioning state that is in line with the rule of law and is free from foreign interference. Put simply a “normal state” as the UN Secretary-General Mr Antonio Gutteres said in 2017.”
Mr Karaolis reassured those present, that despite it being 45 years since the illegal invasion, the Cypriot community is ‘louder than it has ever been before’ with 376 MPs receiving emails ‘calling for Turkey to take it’s #HandsOffCyprus”.
Sir Roger Gale (MP for North Thanet), recently re-elected as the Chair of the APPG for Cyprus, emphasised the cross-party support for the reunification of Cyprus, stating that “45 seconds is too long, 45 minutes is too long, 45 days is too long, and 45 years is far too long” for the island of Cyprus to be occupied and divided.
Theresa Villiers (MP for Chipping Barnet) echoed Sir Roger Gale’s sentiments on the duration of the occupation and division, adding that the Treaty of Guarantees should be abolished and that ‘we want to give Cypriots the opportunity to decide their own future without the presence of foreign troops’. Further, it was stressed that it remains important to continue funding the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus. Beyond the occupation, Ms Villiers also condemned the ‘unlawful incursions into Cyprus’ EEZ’, asserting that it is simply and clearly ‘unacceptable’.
Bambos Charalambous (MP for Enfield Southgate) and the only MP of Cypriot origin, affirmed his support stating that ‘we need to put pressure on Britain and all our allies to stop Turkey from drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ’ and that ‘we need to make sure negotiations start again under the auspices of the United Nations’ with the provision that ‘any solution that is agreed, must include the abolition of the treaty of guarantees’. Mr Charalambous emphasised that pressure on the government is now of greater importance as the UK government transitions to a new Prime Minister and cabinet.
Fabian Hamilton (MP for Leeds North) speaking on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition as Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, reiterated that it is ‘absolutely vital that the guarantees must go’ affirming that Britain must publicly express its desire to no longer have any form of guarantor rights. Mr Hamilton condemned Turkey’s incursions into the EEZ, emphasising that Cyprus’ resources are being ‘stolen’.
The Federation President then thanked the other Parliamentarians present at the event, including Catherine West (APPG, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green), Roger Godsiff (APPG, MP for Birmingham Hall Green), Baroness Massey of Darwen (County of Lancashire), Kate Osamor (MP for Edmonton), Sheryll Murray (MP for South East Cornwall), Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green), Caroline Nokes (Minister of State for Immigration – MP for Romsey and Southampton North), Mike Gapes (MP for Ilford South), Jack Dromey (MP for Birmingham Erdington), Martin Vickers (MP for Cleethorpes), Lord Dykes, Sir Graham Brady (MP for Altrincham and Sale West) and Rupa Huq (MP for Ealing Central and Acton).
The MPs remarks were then followed by the Guest Speaker, the Government Spokesperson for the Republic of Cyprus, Prodromos Prodromou. He expressed his appreciation for their support as well as the tireless work of the APPG for Cyprus as well as the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK. Thanking Parliamentarians for their clear support for the abolition of guarantees, he said that ‘in the future of Cyprus and the future of all Cypriots, there is no room for the obsolete system of foreign intervention, the obsolete system of guarantees.’ Addressing Turkey’s illegal drilling in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, Mr Prodromou highlighted the international condemnation and opposition to Turkeys actions including from the UK Government and the unanimous targeted measures imposed by the EU. He went on to explain that the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus had publicly invited the Republic of Turkey to delineate its maritime border with the Republic of Cyprus. However, instead of engaging in discussions, he said that unfortunately ‘the answer of Turkey is unilateral action’.
The event concluded with the presentation of a commemorative plaque to the High Commissioner for Cyprus to the UK, Mr Euripides Evriviades who will be retiring after six years in London and 43 years in diplomatic service. Sir Roger Gale MP, along with the other members of the APPG, presented the High Commissioner with the plaque to honour his service. In his closing remarks, Mr Evriviades reflected on his career in the diplomatic service, his dedication to Cyprus and his hopes for cohesion, reunification and freedom of our beloved country.