As the holidays come upon us and the year draws to its close, we would like to send you and your loved ones our warmest wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2024.
In a year of change for the world, the festivities are a cherished opportunity to reflect on its developments and of course, relax and enjoy time with our friends and family. In February, Cypriots voted for Mr Nikos Christodoulides as the new President of the Republic of Cyprus, after a decade of service by former President Nicos Anastasiades. Prior to stepping down as President, we were delighted that Mr Nicos Anastasiades was the Guest of Honour at our Celebration of Cyprus Gala dinner in January this year. Following his election, President Christodoulides has met leaders from across the international community and spoke at the UN General Assembly, where he called for the resumption of negotiations for a free, united Cyprus, in line with agreed UN framework and the EU acquis. As your Federation, we have been working tirelessly to support these efforts.
This time of year is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the challenges that we have faced and the opportunities that await us in the new year. We have continued to work hard for our community this year to advocate for a free, united, Cyprus as well as to proudly represent and advance our diaspora.
Advocating for a Free, United Cyprus
Whilst the international community has remained steadfast in its calls for a reunited Cyprus, Turkey’s President Mr Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (who was re-elected earlier this year), has continued his calls for the illegal permanent partition of Cyprus. Alongside these calls, Turkey and the Turkey Cypriot leadership have continued to raise tensions in Cyprus, including this August near Pyla when UN vehicles were bulldozed off roads and UN peacekeepers were assaulted (including British peacekeepers) by Turkish soldiers.
President Christodoulides told the UN General assembly that, “We have witnessed the Turkish military forces perpetrate further violations in Varosha, […] We have witnessed it in our maritime zones, and we have witnessed it most recently in the buffer zone, where attacks on UN peacekeepers by Turkish forces horrified and alerted us once again to the urgency of peace in Cyprus.”
We have stood firm against this aggression in Cyprus and continued to advocate for a free, united Cyprus in line with the agreed UN framework and EU acquis, by engaging with the Government, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Opposition Parties, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cyprus, and individual Parliamentarians.
At our ‘Celebration of Cyprus’ Gala Dinner in January, Minister for Europe Leo Docherty MP reiterated the UK Government position on the Cyprus Problem, supporting “a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement” and the UN-led efforts to achieve it. A reunited Cyprus, he added, would enhance investment, trade and tourism to secure a more stable future for all parties.
Speaking for HM Official Opposition, Stephen Doughty MP, Shadow Europe Minister, spoke about the “immeasurable” contribution of the Cypriot diaspora to British society and Cyprus’ own role as “a stable, secure and crucial ally in so many areas.” He also reiterated his and the Labour Party’s “firm and steadfast commitment to reuniting Cyprus, and to ending the occupation, based on the internationally recognised model of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality.”
For the 49th anniversary of Turkey’s illegal invasion of Cyprus in 1974, we once again, ran our annual #HandsOffCyprus email campaign. This year’s message urged MPs to speak out against Turkey’s illegal partition plans and to ask the UK Government to do everything that it can to ensure that Turkey returns to the negotiating table, within the agreed UN framework. With your help, our campaign reached 392 MPs, that is 60% of all MPs across the country. We were delighted to see such a large number of MPs responding with clear statements, supporting a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, based on the UN framework, as well as the need to resume negotiations.
The tragic anniversary was also marked with our Annual Parliamentary Meeting, hosted with the APPG for Cyprus. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, Dr Costantinos Kombos, briefed attendees on President Christodoulides’ initiative for the resumption of the UN-led negotiations with an enhanced role for the EU. Minister for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and United Nations Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said that the UK remains dedicated to finding a solution to the Cyprus problem, in line with UN parameters and described the role of UNFICYP as “essential.” The meeting was also addressed by Stephen Doughty MP, Shadow Europe Minister; Wendy Chamberlain MP, Chief Whip of the Liberal Democratic Party; Chris Stephens, Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Levelling Up; Chair of the Cyprus APPG, Sir Roger Gale MP; Vice-Chairs; Theresa Villiers MP, Bambos Charalambous MP, Caroline Nokes MP; Martin Vickers MP and Sheryll Murray MP. Also in attendance was Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, Fabian Hamilton MP; Mark Jenkinson MP, Treasurer of Cyprus APPG; Catherine West MP; Chris Clarkson MP; Lord Truscott; Mike Wood MP; Navendu Mishra MP; Steve McCabe MP.
Alongside His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, we also organised our Annual Memorial Service officiated by His Grace Bishop Maximos (Pafilis) of Meliten, to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives defending Cyprus in 1974 and led prayers for all the Missing Persons.
This year also marked the 40th tragic anniversary of the illegal ‘UDI’ on the 15th November. The Federation, along with the Cyprus APPG, held a Cyprus Information Day in Parliament to mark the occasion. Over the course of the day, Federation representatives were joined by 21 MPs, peers and researchers who renewed their pledge of support for Cyprus. The High Commissioner of Cyprus in the UK Andreas Kakouris, was also in attendance to brief Parliamentarians on the latest developments on the Cyprus issue (including the efforts to restart negotiations), the attempt to build an unauthorised road near Pyla, and the strategic role of Cyprus in the region, especially in the Israel-Gaza conflict.
In addition to this event, we delivered a resolution to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street, met with senior officials at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and delivered a resolution to the Turkish Ambassador. Our resolution called for the immediate appointment of a UN Special Envoy so that negotiations can resume, within the agreed UN framework, as soon as possible.
As always, we are extremely grateful to the Parliamentarians who have stood up for Cyprus throughout 2023, by asking questions of HM Government in Parliament, supporting our work, or engaging with the Cyprus APPG.
As part of our continued engagement with the FCDO, we have maintained a continued dialogue with Ministers, the FCDO Cyprus Desk and also actively engaged with the UK High Commissioner in Cyprus, Mr Irfan Siddiq OBE. This year he met with the APPG for Cyprus during a visit of his to London and we also had the opportunity to meet with him at a reception at his residence in Nicosia, during the POMAK /PSEKA Diaspora conference in August.
As your Federation, we will continue to raise awareness about the illegal ongoing occupation of Cyprus and Turkey’s continued provocations, be it with parliamentarians, FCDO officials, journalists, think tanks, academics, or other stakeholders. We are very grateful for your active engagement in our campaigns and events that enable our collective campaign for a free, united Cyprus. Thank You.
Proudly Representing and Advancing our Community
Our UK Cypriot community is always at the forefront of our work and we are proud to represent and advance the interests of our diaspora.
It was our great pleasure to have hosted the Celebration of Cyprus Gala Dinner with Guest of Honour, the then President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Nicos Anastasiades in January. After two years of delay caused by COVID-19 and the passing of the late Queen Elizabeth II, we were able to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Republic of Cyprus. We were delighted to have over 500 people in attendance, including a large number of Ministers, Shadow Ministers, parliamentarians, councillors and leading diaspora Cypriots such as John Christodoulou, Theo Paphitis, Professor Kypros Nicolaides, Dame Janet Paraskeva, Andria Zafirakou, Constantine Cotzias, Len Lazari, Dr Linda Papadopoulos and Tom Toumazis.
In May, we hosted newly elected President Christodoulides for a working dinner in his honour, during his visit to the UK for the coronation of King Charles III. The President reiterated that his highest priority is to break the deadlock so that reunification talks can resume on the basis of the agreed UN framework. He also praised the work of the Federation and the UK Cypriot diaspora.
On the first official visit of a President of the Cyprus House of Representatives to the UK, we were delighted to host House President Ms Annita Demetriou for a working dinner in her honour. She assured the Federation of the House of Representatives’ continued support for our work.
Since President Christodoulides’ election, we have been working with a number of the newly appointed Ministers on issues of importance to you. With Minister of Foreign Affairs Constantinos Kombos, we discussed ongoing efforts to upgrade Consular facilities. With Minister of Defence Michalis Giorgallas, we discussed initiatives to simplify and digitise applications for exit permits. With Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry George Papanastasiou, we discussed how to enhance trade between the UK and Cyprus, as well as how to utilise the talents of UK Cypriots to support Cypriot trade. With Deputy Minister of Tourism Kostas Koumis, we discussed efforts to further promote Cyprus as a tourist destination in the UK.
As your Federation, we remain committed to the celebration of our history, heritage and culture. We were proud to organise a Doxology, officiated by His Grace Bishop Iavokos of Claudiopolis, on behalf of His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira, to mark the national anniversaries of March 25th and April 1st.
Every year, we also open a new round of applications for our UK Cypriot Professionals Network (UKCPN) scheme that has included over 150 UK Cypriots. Working with our member associations, this scheme promotes and facilitates mentoring and career development relationships for UK Cypriots of all ages, industries and experiences.
Following significant community upset over the Met Police’s display of the flag of the occupation regime on its social media, we coordinated an open letter signed by 1800+ Londoners to the MPS Commissioner. As a result, we are engaging with the Met Police to ensure this incident is not repeated.
We have also continued our engagement with the Armenian, Jewish and Kurdish diaspora representatives, with a number of joint campaigns on areas of common interest.
At this time of year, our minds also turn to those less fortunate than ourselves. It is often said that the mark of a society is how it treats those who are most vulnerable. It is for this reason that I am particularly proud of our community’s charitable efforts at this time of year. The Rizokarpasso Association in the UK sent a generous Christmas present to every enclaved child in Rizokarpasso; The Cypriot Community Centre continues to provide Meals on Wheels for the elderly as well as transportation to its centre for a wide range of social and health related activities. NEPOMAK UK, our youth branch, has also run its Santa Shoebox campaign that coordinates UK Cypriots in London, Coventry and Mansfield to send presents to enclaved children in occupied Rizokarpasso as well as Ukrainian refugees in the UK.
These are just a small selection of our many activities over the last year. As the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, we remain honoured to serve our wonderful diaspora and will continue to build on 2023’s successes as we enter a new year. Whilst I am proud of our achievements this year, we all need to re-double our efforts as we write next year’s chapter in our history.
This is especially important as next year will mark the 50th tragic anniversary of Turkey’s illegal invasion in 1974 and the on-going occupation of Cyprus. Despite the passage of time, we remain as committed to ending the occupation and reuniting Cyprus, as we always have been.
More than ever before, we must remain united and look at what we can all do differently for our diaspora – whether that is opening a dialogue with your local MP about Cyprus; actively participating in the Federation’s campaigns and initiatives; or engaging with the political party that you support.
Once again, thank you for your incredible collective support.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for 2024
President, National Federation of Cypriots in the UK