President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday took the opportunity during his speech at the UN General Assembly to respond to criticism by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, from the same podium, accused Greek Cypriots of having ill-intentions on the Cyprus problem.
During his address at the General Debate of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Anastasiades said the new effort for a solution, provided “a glimmer of hope.” He mentioned however, the challenges faced due to Turkey’s behaviour.
Just as Cyprus was at the forefront of other initiatives aiming to establish conditions of peace and stability in the region, he said, for the last 45 years “we are undertaking the same positive initiatives in order to end the unacceptable status quo and achieve lasting peace and stability in my homeland.”
But despite his sincere efforts and the constructive engagement of both himself and his predecessors towards a settlement, Cyprus remains the last European divided country, he said.
Anastasiades stressed that the UN and the Secretary-General’s Good Offices Mission “is the only way forward for us.”
Regrettably, he said, whilst the efforts of resuming the negotiating process are underway, recent actions by Turkey not only violate international law but severely undermine the aim of having a conducive environment for meaningful negotiations.
The president said that while it was not his intention to embark on a blame game, yet, he was not allowed to or “the dignity of our people dictates not to do so, to accept the gunboat diplomacy, blackmail tactics and the attempts to force our side to negotiate under duress.”
He wondered whether it was possible for the efforts of the UN Secretary-General to succeed while Turkey was violating the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus in its internationally recognised exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.
“Or when Turkey threatens Cyprus that there will be severe consequences if we proceed ahead with our energy programme? Or when Turkey threatens neighbouring states and energy companies, with which we are cooperating and have established conventional obligations?” he asked.
He also referred to recent public statements and acts by Turkish officials, signalling its plans for settling the fenced area of Varosha, the uninhabited part of Famagusta which is under illegal Turkish military occupation.
As regards Varosha, the president stressed that its distinct status was recognised in all reports of the Secretary-General and the UN operations in Cyprus. The framework for the resettlement of the closed-off town by its lawful inhabitants under UN auspices was set as a priority both by the 1979 High-Level agreement between the leaders of the two communities and the UN Security Council Resolutions 550 and 789.
He said the Republic of Cyprus was confronted with an increasingly aggressive positioning of the Turkish military and an escalation of violations in the buffer zone.
“All these developments make the role of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus and the fulfilment of its mandate more necessary than ever,” he said.
Anastasiades also referred to statements from the same forum earlier in the week, by Erdogan, who, “embarked on misleading allegations.”
“He referred, amongst others, to an uncompromising position of the Greek Cypriot side and that those who claim to solve the Cyprus Problem under the condition of “zero security, zero guarantees” have ill-intentions from the beginning,” he said.
Anastasiades wondered if it was uncompromising and an ill-intention to aspire establishing an independent and sovereign state, free from the presence of occupation troops and to terminating an anachronistic Treaty of Guarantees and establishing a robust system of security, based on the Charter of the UN and the Treaties of the EU “[…] to aspire establishing a normal state in which all decisions will only be taken by Cypriots, free from foreign dependencies?” he asked.
As regards Erdogan’s allegations that the Greek Cypriot side refuses to share political power and prosperity with the Turkish Cypriots, Anastasiades said: “We have accepted political equality as defined by the Secretary – General and upheld by Security Council Resolutions.”
He added that the two communities had reached as part of the talks an agreement on the issue of natural resources, in line with the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.
The Greek Cypriot side has also conveyed its readiness, he said, “always within the framework of meaningful negotiations, to deposit revenues accrued from the exploitation of hydrocarbons to an escrow account for the Turkish Cypriot community.” This escrow account would ensure the rightful share of the Turkish Cypriot community, in accordance with the population ratio of the future constituent states.
Anastasiades also questioned Erdogan’s claims that Turkey had a reasonable approach on the issue of energy resources and that they will protect the legitimate rights of the Turkish Cypriots until the very end.
“Whose interests is Turkey protecting when its claims limit for its own benefit the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus by 44per cent at the expense of the rights and interests of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots?” he asked.
He also stressed his support to this new effort by the UN Secretary-General to resume the process from where it left off in Crans-Montana.
As regards the terms of reference for the resumption of talks, he added that there is an understanding by the leaders of the two communities that they should comprise the 2014 Joint Declaration by the two leaders, the convergences achieved up to the talks in Crans-Montana, and the six-point framework of the UN Secretary-General on security and guarantees, troops, effective participation, territorial adjustments, property and equitable treatment, as presented on June 30, 2017 at Crans-Montana.
He reiterated that the aim was the evolution of the Republic of Cyprus into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality, as set out in the relevant Security Council Resolutions and the High Level Agreements, with a single sovereignty, a single international legal personality and a single citizenship.
He repeated that it was not his intention to embark on a confrontation. “To the contrary, I fully ascribe to Mr. Erdogan’s emotional concluding remarks, as they encapsulate the essence of what we are trying to achieve in Cyprus: “Freedom, peace, prosperity, justice and a peaceful and safe future for all”.”