The Maronites of Cyprus` demand for the return of their four villages in the Turkish occupied areas under Greek Cypriot administration, is fair and completely justified, said Sunday President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades.
Speaking during the celebration of St. Maronas Feast Day at the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Graces in Nicosia, President Anastasiades said the fate of the maronite villages is one of the issues that “we paid special attention during the recent meeting in Geneva”.
A Conference on Cyprus convened in Geneva, on January 12, under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, with the participation of Anastasiades and Akinci, the Foreign Ministers of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom as guarantor powers, and in the presence of the European Union as an observer, to address the issue of security and guarantees, a crucial chapter in discussions for a Cyprus settlement.
Referring to the Cyprus problem, President Anastasiades said he was particularly reserved because “I can ascertain an intention to create a new situation and new preconditions on the negotiating table that unfortunately concern third parties and not the rights of the citizens of this country”.
The President said our priority “was and remains an agreement that will secure the future of all the citizens of our island”.
During the negotiations in Geneva, he added, we managed to put forward for discussion all aspects of the Cyprus problem and if Turkey contributes positively, then we will be able to have a clear picture soon on the course of the negotiations.
Turning to the Maronite community, the President said “we share your concern for survival and acknowledge that a fundamental precondition is the return to your occupied villages”.
For this reason, he added, “I would like to assure you that during the ongoing negotiations, the justification of your expectations is a priority”.
He said “the fate of your villages was one of the issues that we paid special emphasis during the recent meeting in Geneva which included tabling maps that concern territorial adjustments, because I consider fair and completely justified your demand for return of the four maronite villages to their lawful inhabitants under Greek Cypriot administration”.
President Anastasiades also assured the Maronites that the “government, according to its financial capabilities, will be a firm supporter in any problem the community is facing”.
Recently, he said, it was decided that a plan will be prepared to provide financial support to help maintain the maronite clubs, cultural events, religious activities, “enabling us to maintain the identity and culture of the Maronite community”.
He also said that the government is constantly working to improve the lives of the enclaved Maronites through specific actions and projects.
In his message during the celebration, Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus Youssef Soueif expressed the support of the Maronite community to the President`s efforts for a fair, peaceful and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, noting that “Cyprus can be an example in the crossroads of civilisations and religions”.
The four Maronite villages are Agia Marina, Asomatos, Karpashia and Kormakitis.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have been engaged in UN-led negotiations since May 2015, with a view to reunite the island under a federal roof.