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Turkish policy to alter demography of Cyprus denounced to UN

gabriella michaelidou at un
Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Gabriella Michaelidou

Turkey’s plans to alter the island’s demographic character were denounced by Cyprus’ Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Gabriella Michaelidou.

Speaking to the UN committee on human rights on Tuesday, Michaelidou said Turkey has implemented a systematic policy to change the demographic composition and population balance on the island by encouraging the mass migration of thousands of Turkish settlers.

This, she stressed, is a war crime under international humanitarian law, aimed at eliminating the historical character of the island and prejudice the settlement of the Cyprus problem.

The systematic unlawful exploitation, development and use of Greek Cypriot properties in the north is a deliberate expansionist plan promoted by Turkey with the aim of “Turkifying” the occupied part of Cyprus, Michaelidou said.

The deputy permanent representative told delegates that respect for international law, human rights law and the principles enshrined in the UN Charter are not at the discretion of any state.

All states are obligated to reaffirm their commitment to the fulfilment of these universal human rights and there is no justification for their violation, she added.

Michaelidou recalled the displacement by the Turkish army of some 170,000 Greek Cypriots, who continue to be denied the right of return and peaceful enjoyment of their properties.

She called on Turkey to stop the ongoing illegal exploitation of Greek Cypriot-owned land, including its sale to Turkish settlers and foreigners.

She further reminded attendees that UN principles on housing and property provide for “all refugees and displaced persons […] the right to have restored to them any housing, land or property of which they were arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived.”

Michaelidou also referred to daily human rights violations of enclaved Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the north, who have now been reduced to a few hundred, as a result of discriminatory treatment, and the looting of over 520 churches.

She recalled that the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is in violation of international law and a war crime under the Rome Statute.

Michaelidou raised the issue of the missing persons and called on Turkey to provide information on their fate from military archives, including information on the deliberate relocation of remains.

Turkey must ensure immediate and unhindered access for the missing persons committee to all military areas in occupied Cyprus, she said.

Regarding Varosha, Michaelidou recalled previous security council resolutions in which the UN repudiated any unilateral actions in Varosha. Regrettably, she said, Turkey continues its course, in full defiance of these resolutions.

Finally, the deputy permanent representative stressed that the Republic of Cyprus will continue to protect the human rights and reedoms of all Cypriots regardless of their ethnic origin, race, gender, civil or marital status, religion, sexual orientation, age, or disability.

“It is our hope that this will soon be done in the context of a reunited country,” she said.

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