Excerpts from the speech of AKEL Political Bureau member and MP Aristos Damianou in the Debate on the Cyprus 2024 state budget
19 December 2023, House of Representatives
…A specific foreign policy issue with serious implications for our state, which the Christodoulides government has handled in a unilateral, erroneous and dangerous way for a small and semi-occupied EU member-state, is that of the Republic of Cyprus’ right of veto in the EU.
Bringing back the debate surrounding the abolition of unanimity in the EU’s decision-making on foreign policy issues is detrimental to the interests of our country. The belated excuses and fabrications made, but also the government’s stand in general, have exposed Mr. Christodoulides. No President of the Republic has the right to negotiate the sovereign rights of the state. The President is not the state, but the head of the given government. Such pivotal issues are not up for negotiation.
I don’t know whether the Christodoulides government considers that by acting submissively towards unelected directorships in the EU and making compromises on principles, it will be favored. Nor whether its perception of so-called Western orientation, a position adopted by DISY, of which Christodoulides is a political child, justifies its identification with and tolerance of the ongoing violations of international law. Embracing a leader of a state that is responsible for the murder of 19,500 Palestinians in Gaza, including 13,600 children and women, in just two months, provokes sadness and anger. Other than that, they are meant to be exterminating Hamas.
Maintaining strategic alliances with neighbouring states is the right thing to do. Denouncing Hamas’ terror launched against Israeli civilians is also right. For the government ruling forces to tolerate the invasion, occupation, colonisation and violation of UN resolutions, at the same time as the UN Secretary General declares that Gaza is being turned into “a graveyard for children”, is tragic – especially when you happen to be the President of Cyprus, which has itself been suffering the same at the hands of an occupying power – Turkey – for half a century.
In truth, on what moral high ground is Cyprus going to assert its rights if we tolerate the violation of international law against other peoples?
And this brings me to the forthcoming – hopefully – developments surrounding the Cyprus problem which, for that to happen, presuppose a change in the unacceptable and dangerous Turkish attitude. Turkey is imposing new fait accompli on the ground and is exploiting the longest deadlock ever recorded on the Cyprus problem.
We have learned to approach the Cyprus problem through an account of Turkish intransigence. However, our perspective as Greek Cypriots is not necessarily shared by the international community. After the collapse of the Crans Montana conference on Cyprus in September 2017, the Secretary General of the UN apportioned responsibility on both communities and ascertained a readiness of the part of Turkey to find solutions to the burning issues of security and guarantees.
Since then, as a result of Mr. Anastasiades’ unacceptable handlings and expediencies, we have lost our good reputation abroad and credibility. Anastasiades’ former Foreign Minister Mr. Christodoulides was the image of the Anastasiades government abroad. It will take a sincere effort to regain our lost credibility, so that the occupying power Turkey stops looking for and finding false alibis for its stance.
That is precisely why invoking UN resolutions and decisions in a general way isn’t enough. Mr. Guterres will expect to hear in a clear way (but also that he means it) from Mr. Christodoulides that he is indeed ready to negotiate on his Framework. And at the same time – yes – a positive agenda is needed with policies that create conditions and prospects for bridging the gap, for rapprochement with the Turkish Cypriot community and prospects for the normalisation of relations with Turkey.
We wonder whether the diametrically opposed approaches of the three coalition parties supporting the government, ranging from the acceptance of the solution of federation to the position that federation is the worst form of legalised partition, enables the President to act with a view to sticking to the agreed framework of a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality. Rather, he will probably walk a tightrope! It is no coincidence that yesterday and today political leaders and members of two of the three parties occasionally did not make any reference to the Guterres framework or the solution of bicommunal, bizonal federation from their speeches.
Even belatedly, the President must accept that no President’s political shoulders are broad enough to assume the weight of the Cyprus problem. Nor is the wisdom of one better than the wisdom of many. Collectivity and unity are forged through mutual respect and the setting of common goals. If the President of the Republic chooses a solitary path, he will bear the sole responsibility for his actions and decisions. Let him therefore reconsider his erroneous stance of not convening the National Council.
AKEL, as a patriotic and responsible party, is ready to assume its responsibility and take on its share of the burden, if we are to assert with sincerity, on the basis of the agreed framework, the resumption of a procedure on the Cyprus problem, subject to the abandonment of the dangerous Turkish positions, of course, with the aim of a peaceful liberation and reunification.
Half a century of occupation, with half a country, shattered dreams, half a life. We don’t deserve such a fate. Our people, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites and Latins, all the children of this homeland, deserve full lives, a hopeful future in a free and united homeland – without refugees, uncertainty, armies of occupation, foreign aggressions and barbed wires of division.