Cyprus Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides (pictured) has expressed Nicosia’s disappointment and regret for the fact that not all fellow EU member countries offered their support regarding the violations of the country’s sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by Turkey.
“Solidarity among partners is a two-way street. On the issue of Ukraine, Cyprus has consistently participated in the EU consensus, actively supporting the EU position, even though it has entailed a significant cost for the Cyprus economy at a time when it is recovering from the blow suffered by the March 2013 Eurogroup decision. We expect the same solidarity from our EU partners on issues that are of vital importance to us,” said Christodoulides during an event held at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on Wednesday evening.
He called on the European partners to 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 Government Spokesman was addressing an audience of British parliamentarians and members of London’s Cypriot community. He started off by providing a comprehensive summary of the way the latest round of talks on the Cyprus issue has developed, strongly criticising Turkey for its actions over the EEZ of the Republic. As he noted, these actions left President Anastasiades with no other option but to suspend the Greek Cypriot side’s participation in the negotiations. “It is abundantly clear that Turkey’s actions, in the midst of the negotiations for a comprehensive settlement, serves only to seriously undermine the negotiating process and raise more serious doubts as to Turkey’s commitment to reaching a settlement, and contributing concretely to this direction,” he added.
Christodoulides stressed that the Greek Cypriot side has made it clear that it is ready to return to the negotiations provided that Turkish provocations seize. He pointed to a number of proposals by President Anastasiades that would allow the negotiations to resume, which “were unfortunately rejected by the other side.”
With regard to the recent visit by the President of the Cyprus Republic to Russia, the Government Spokesman said it was part of the long-standing practice of keeping all permanent members of the UN Security Council duly and equally informed of the latest developments. “A small country like Cyprus, with 37% of its territory under military occupation by Turkey, cannot afford to ignore any of the permanent members of the UN Security Council,” noted Nikos Christodoulides.
He also referred to the traditionally proactive and supportive role Russia assumes in the Security Council when Cyprus is discussed, contrasting this to “difficulties” Cyprus often faces with the stance adopted by other UNSC permanent members.
As for the intense media scrutiny the President’s visit received, the Government Spokesman commented that the reports “often ignored the fact that in all meetings President Anastasiades pressed the EU’s united and principled stance on the Ukraine crisis.” Referring to the agreements signed in Moscow, he said that the Agreement on Military Cooperation updates and codifies the ongoing framework of operational cooperation between the two countries, and that the MoU on Naval Cooperation spells out existing naval aspects of this cooperation in an implementing document for improved operation purposes on a case by case clearance by Cypriot authorities, already provided to the Russian fleet.
Christodoulides also spoke about Cyprus’ central and decisive role in promoting security and stability in the turbulent region of the Eastern Mediterranean, highlighting the key role the country is playing in tackling terrorism – by supporting form the very beginning the coalition against ISIS and contributing in the international community’s efforts in every possible way.
He made a special reference to regional cooperation and synergies created with Cyprus assuming an active role in building them and noted the potential of the hydrocarbon discoveries in the EEZ of the republic of Cyprus: “They have the potential of transforming the island into an important pillar for implementing the EU’s policy to enhance energy security by securing alternative supply corridors.”
As for the country’s economy, he said that the full implementation of an ambitious economic reform and consolidation program, along with the sacrifices by the resilient Cypriot people, is yielding tangible and positive results sooner than expected. “We have not yet reached the end of the road, but we are certainly approaching the end of the economic crisis,” said the Government Spokesman.
The event was hosted by a number of MPs from all major parties in association with the President of National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, Peter Droussiotis.
Droussiotis said in his introductory speech that Turkey remains defiant – “an occupying force unwilling to take the steps which will bring unity to Cyprus as well as stability to the island and the wider region.” He added that Turkey seems intent to undermine the settlement efforts, as demonstrated by its illegal incursions into Cyprus’s EEZ. He also accused the international community of applying double standards in reference to the reaction over the Ukraine crisis and in comparison to the reaction against Turkey.
Labour MP Gareth Thomas praised the Cypriot government for the way it has approached the talks and said that although Turkey has an important role to play in terms of regional security, it has to do its bit to help reunify the island.
David Burrowes, a Conservative MP in north London, said that the UK has a heavy burden and responsibility to try and find practical ways in seeking a solution to the Cyprus issue, and he also highlighted the importance of returning Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants.
Jim Sheridan from the Labour Party raised the question of the contrast in the international response to the situation in Ukraine and the one in Cyprus and Sir Alan Meale, also a Labour MP, wondered what is the point of being part of the EU family if the rights of one member are not safeguarded by the rest.