The Deputy Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the UN, Gabriella Michaelidou denounced the ongoing human rights and fundamental freedoms’ violations of the Greek Cypriots stemming from Turkey’s invasion in 1974 and the ongoing illegal occupation of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as Turkey’s plans regarding the demographic character of the island.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Michaelidou stressed that respect for international law, human rights law and the principles enshrined in the UN Charter is not at the discretion of any state.

According to a PIO statement, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the United Nations (UN) made a national statement on 17 October, during the general debate under the title “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights”, in the context of the Committee’s work.

She stressed that it is the obligation of all States to reaffirm their commitment to the respect, protection, and fulfilment of all human rights as defined by UN conventions, adding that human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and there is no justification for their violation.

She further noted that on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the world situation is still far from ideal.

The Deputy Permanent Representative raised again the issue of human rights and fundamental freedoms violations of Greek Cypriots as a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion and the continued illegal occupation of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus. She noted that the Republic of Cyprus will continue to raise the issue of violations until they are fully remedied.

She 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. Referring to the systematic and unlawful exploitation, development and use of Greek Cypriot properties by Turkey, she stressed that this is a deliberate and expanding plan promoted by Turkey with the aim of “turkifying” the occupied part of Cyprus.

Michaelidou called on Turkey to stop the ongoing unlawful exploitation of Greek Cypriot owned land in the occupied part of Cyprus, including their sale to Turkish settlers and foreigners. She reminded that according to the UN Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons, “all refugees and displaced persons have the right to have restored to them any housing, land or property of which they were arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived…”.

She added that Turkey has implemented a systematic policy to change the demographic composition and alter the population balance on the island by mass transferring 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.

Michaelidou recalled the daily human rights violations of the enclaved Greek Cypriots and Maronites living under Turkish occupation, who have now been reduced to a few hundred in the occupied part, as a result of oppression and discriminatory treatment on the basis of their ethnic origin, race and religion.

She also referred to the looting and vandalization of the rich cultural heritage in the occupied part of Cyprus, including the desecration of more than 520 Orthodox, Armenian and Maronite churches. The Republic of Cyprus, she noted, recalls that the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is in violation of international law and international humanitarian law and a war crime under the Rome Statute.

The Cypriot Deputy Permanent Representative raised the major humanitarian 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. At the same time, Turkey needs to ensure that the Committee of Missing Persons has immediate and unhindered access to all military areas in the occupied part of Cyprus.

Regarding Varosha, Michaelidou recalled all previous Security Council Resolutions and Presidential Statements, including Resolution 2674/2023, in which the SC expressed deep regret regarding the continuation of unilateral actions in Varosha and the disregard of the call for immediate reversal of actions. Regrettably, she added, Turkey continues in the same course of action, in full defiance of relevant Security Council Resolutions and Presidential Statements, undermining all efforts to resume the negotiations and reach a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem on the agreed basis of Bizonal Bicommunal federation, as prescribed in the Security Council Resolutions.

Finally, the Deputy Permanent Representative stressed that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus will continue to protect and promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots irrespective of their ethnic origin, race, gender, civil or family status, religion, sexual orientation, age, or disability. It is our hope, she said, that this will soon be done in the context of a reunited country.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

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