UK Parliament event discusses Cyprus independence anniversary and Famagusta
The 63rd anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus was marked at an event at the UK Houses of Parliament, while the Famagusta question was also discussed, in the presence of British MPs and many UK Cypriots.
The event was co-organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cyprus and the Famagusta Association of Great Britain.
The High Commissioner of Cyprus to the UK Andreas Kakouris said that the UK has an important role to play in the Cyprus issue and that the purpose of such events is to maintain interest in the country.
He highlighted three points: that people should not forget there is still an occupation in Cyprus 49 years on; that the country has proven to be a bastion of stability and security in the region, even playing a central role in helping countries evacuate nationals from Israel during the current crisis; and that Turkey is attempting a “creeping encroachment” in Famagusta, systematically violating relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
He concluded by stressing that “there is only one people in Cyprus” and “there aren’t two states on the island”, welcoming the “very clear” position of successive UK governments in support of a reunified Cyprus with a settlement based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
Caroline Nokes MP, a Conservative Party member of the APPG for Cyprus, underlined the need for the sides to get back to the negotiating table to restore the principle that the UN resolutions have set down and seek a bizonal, bicommunal federation settlement. She assured the UK Cypriots present that they have “many friends” in the UK Parliament.
The Famagusta Association GB President Dr Vassilis Mavrou started with a comprehensive summary of the island’s history since the independence, commenting that the wishes of the Cypriot people were not fulfilled, due to Turkey’s ambition to partition the island.
He criticised the UN as well as the UK for allowing the violation of UN Security Council resolutions and asked for “solidarity, determination and international leadership” by London, so that it fulfils its obligations as a guarantor power.
He made special reference to the violations by Turkey of the resolutions relating to his city of Famagusta, but also to the destruction of cultural heritage in the occupied north and the “new invasion” in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
He concluded that Turkey’s goal is to sabotage any potential negotiations to reunite the island and its ultimate aim to achieve a change in the demographic balance of the island.
Next up was Jeremy Corbyn MP, former leader of the Labour Party, who said that the UN, the British parliament and the UK parties support the removal of Turkish troops from Cyprus and the island’s reunification, but he commented that the situation needs “something more assertive”.
He said that more pressure should and could be applied on Turkey with regard to Cyprus, adding that Britain has a very special role to play as a guarantor power. Corbyn commented that both the current and the next UK government should be pressed to be more serious about achieving the reunification of Cyprus.
Chris Stephens, an SNP MP for Glasgow, referenced the humanitarian drama of the missing people in Cyprus and the human rights violations. He supported calls for the rightful inhabitants of Famagusta to return to their city under conditions of peace and security.
Concluding the well-attended event, the Conservative APPG for Cyprus Chairman Sir Roger Gale MP noted that Turkey cannot be allowed to colonise Famagusta.
He recounted his experience of visiting Cyprus, where he realised that the communities can live and work together in what is only “one Cyprus” belonging not to the UK, Turkey or Greece but “to you, the Cypriot people”.
He added: “We have to rekindle the talks under the auspices on the UN, we have to get people talking again as this is the only way to get this problem solved”.
He conveyed the APPG unwavering support for Cyprus reiterating: “We are with you and will remain with you for as long as it takes.”
The event also heard from the Famagusta municipality councilor Andreas Kazamias and the Bishop of Constantia and Famagusta, Vassilios.