On Monday evening, the Conservative Friends of Cyprus hosted their annual New Year’s reception in the Palace of Westminster with the traditional Vasilopitta cake cutting ceremony.
Members of the British Cypriot community were joined by the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Matthew Offord MP, Sir Roger Gale MP, Marin Vickers MP, Sheryll Murray MP, Bob Blackman MP, and Vice-Chair of the Conservative Party, Helen Grant MP. A number of local councillors and senior members of the Conservative Party also attended the ceremony, which was presided over by Father Meliton on behalf of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
Theresa Villiers said that that the ceremony, now in its third year, was “an opportunity for Parliament to show its support for Cyprus and how much it honours the dynamic Cypriot culture in the United Kingdom.”
Ms. Villiers also pointed out that as another new year begins, Cyprus remains divided. “We will continue to defend the freedom of Cyprus. We know how important it is to see the division of the island end once and for all. We are and will forever be friends of Cyprus and we will always strive for its freedom.”
Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cyprus, Sir Roger Gale MP, initially referred to the 55th Epiphany ceremony held in Margate on Sunday, expressing his gratitude for the Cypriot community’s contribution to the local area.
He added that for 35 of the 55 years that he attends the celebration as an MP, Cyprus remains under occupation. “It is a parody that a European country is allowed to be occupied. We hope that under the auspices of the United Nations the talks will resume and that soon your wonderful island will be reunified,” he said.
He made special reference to the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus, HE Euripides Evriviades, who was present at the event and whose term in office comes to an end later this year.
Matthew Offord MP referred to September’s parliamentary visit to Cyprus organised by the Conservative Friends of Cyprus, noting the how moving he found his experience of the visiting the Green Line.
Dr. Offord added that British MPs will continue to push for a solution acceptable to all, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and that they will continue to raise the issue of the occupation to ensure that Britain does not forget Cyprus.
In his own greeting, Mr. Evriviades thanked the “all weather” friends of Cyprus, saying that their support would not be forgotten. He stressed that the only thing Cypriots are asking for is what all peace-loving people in the world enjoy – democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. He also noted that the bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom extends far beyond the existential Cyprus issue, referring to cooperation on regional security, trade and tourism.
He added that he was proud of the dynamism of the members of the Cypriot community in the United Kingdom, describing them as “good citizens” who contribute to the multiculturalism of the country.
The event, which was sponsored by Peter Petrou, saw the traditional New Year carols led by musician Nikos Savvides. Other guests included the Mayor of Barnet Cllr Reuben Thompstone, Cllr Maria Alexandrou-Zavros, Chairman of the organisation Jason Charalambous and founding members Dr Ian Twinn CBE, Andreas Papaevripides, Demetrios Markou MBE and Doros Partasides.