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Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Nikos Kotzias, at the Freedom award ceremony hosted by the Federation of Cypriot American Organizations (New York, 21.09.2017)
It is a great honour to receive this award from the Cyprus Federation of America. From the heart of “Megalonisos”, here, in the U.S.A. It is an honour that gives me great pride and satisfaction.
I thank the Federation of Cypriot American Organizations for honouring me.
I thank His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, for his kind words.
As well as Mr Christopher, the President of the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA).
Finally, I especially want to thank President N. Anastasiades for his kind words, with whom we have fought side by side in tough battles.
Cyprus needs patriots and patriotic actions.
Patriotism has nothing to do with extreme nationalism, much less chauvinism. There are people who purposely distort the difference between these two terms, these two political stances.
When we talk about patriotism, we refer to the ties one maintains with the geographical space where he/she grows up, or wishes to grow up, with the political space where citizens safeguard their political rights. That is, the space of one’s democratic existence, where he/she acts and makes choices. The space whose culture, language, customs and traditions, expression (from music to dialogue) one considers as his/her own. It is a space which bestows identity and a sense of belonging.
For expatriates, contradictions and dilemmas may arise, as they may have the sense of belonging to two homelands. But I too, while not an expat, feel I have two homelands: my mother, Greece, and my sister, Cyprus. Together, these two homelands comprise a cultural space largely unified, but structured in two separate states, each with its own particularities. Anyone who doesn't respect these particularities, the fact that the citizens of Cyprus and Greece safeguard their rights -that is, their constitutional patriotism- in different state/institutional systems, can bring harm to both homelands.
Most characteristic examples are the criminal events of the summer of 1974 that allowed Turkey to violate international law and legality; that allowed Turkey to find Cyprus to a great extent undefended, in spite of the heroism of our Greek and Cypriot compatriots. Events that marked my life, as had done the events of the 1960s. These were events that politicized my generation.
Patriotism, therefore, has to do with a feeling of love for one’s homeland, for its culture, as well as the safeguarding of his/hers democratic rights therein. But, at the same time, it is also linked with a sense profound internationalism. Patriotism recognizes the value of other 'homelands', the right of different peoples to be proud of their history, their institutions and traditions; their culture and customs. It doesn't just respect diversity. It goes far beyond a narrow perception of tolerance for diversity. It seeks to incorporate and assimilate elements of that diversity. In this way, it enriches one’s own homeland; its culture, institutions, democratic processes and relations within this homeland. In other words, it recognizes the value of diversity. In fact, culture, the democratic institutional system, principles and values did not simply appear out of nowhere. They did not just fall from the sky. They have all been influenced by older cultures, their heritage, as well as by the positive aspects of many contemporary cultures.
A democratic patriotic movement, a patriotic stance, shows solidarity to all those in pursuit of goals, principles and values similar to its own. Patriotism safeguards the homeland and the democratic horizon also through its internationalism.
In contrast to patriotism, extreme nationalism does not respect diversity. It does not accept that other peoples might have a rich culture, important elements in the essence of their existence. It does not recognize that values also exist in the way of life, in day-to-day life, in the traditions and dreams of other peoples. This type of nationalism is the opposite of democratic patriotism. It sees its own identity as superior to any other. It belittles the successes of other identities. It does not recognize there are things to learn from others, and it can easily develop into racism. The latter claims that its culture is entirely superior to others. That its superiority is supposedly drawn from many sources – even its genetic characteristics. What is more, the worst form of denial of this patriotism is the adoption of extreme nationalistic outlooks of third parties.
In the case of Cyprus, we witnessed the most senseless and, at the same time, most extreme case of nationalism in our region. This is the outlook of those who arbitrarily characterize any democratic/patriotic stance of Hellenism –by using stereotypical phrases– as nationalism, and who accept Turkish nationalism, often serving it even, through their stance.
Those who distrust whatever is said by the leaderships of Cyprus and Greece, but adopt the opposing side's every lie. This is a historically unique phenomenon for Hellenism as a whole.
Let's take two examples from the recent negotiation on the two short but important treaties that have been oppressing Cyprus for decades. The Treaty of Guarantees and the Treaty of Alliance. There are those who say that to pursue their abolition is an expression of nationalism, if not of extreme-right politics. In their minds, the democratic national liberation movements, the anti-fascist movements and the anti-occupation movements appear as extreme rightist. From what I understand, defence of one’s homeland is considered counterproductive. It is a position one meets in contemporary historical revisionism in Greece. A stance that argues that it was the resistance to the triple occupation of Greece during World War II that caused the suffering of the occupation. That this suffering was not caused by the occupation itself. This outlook claims that Leonidas's 300 were wrong in standing up to Xerxes. Nowadays, they have gone as far as to consider any rejection of the occupation of Cyprus as a nationalistic act! What remains to be said is that the Turkish occupation and acceptance of that occupation are facets of some peculiar internationalism.
Due to its size and geographical position, upon achieving independence, Cyprus did not, simultaneously, become a "normal state", like (most of) the other member states of the UN. The UK maintained bases on the island, and Turkey gained guarantor rights. The former colonial powers maintained their presence on the island, precisely in the capacity of former (colonial powers), and not as a result of an agreement of the newly founded state with new friends and allies. The question is simple: Is the fight to abolish the guarantees a battle towards the past? a nationalistic battle? Or, to put it differently, is Cyprus's transformation into a normal -in a sense, regular- state an unfair, even unnatural, demand? Allow me to remind you that the notion and demand that Cyprus should become a normal, regular state was first expressed in a letter I sent to the UN before Geneva II; a letter in which I rejected the document riddled with pro-Turkish falsehoods that Mr. Eide had prepared ahead of Geneva II. In fact, I was honoured by the fact that the Secretary General of the United Nations, His Excellency Mr. Guterres, adopted this expression: a normal state.
The three guarantor powers violated international law, as well as the treaty of guarantee itself. While Greece promptly redressed this deviation, Turkey has been violating international law for 43 years now, demanding in the negotiations that these violations be legitimized and perpetuated. The question is simple: is the defence of international law a patriotic and internationalist stance, or a nationalistic and extreme-right stance?
The answer is simple: the defence of the homeland and of democratic/human rights is a democratic struggle. The struggle to eradicate the Ottoman past with regard to the independence of Cyprus is democratic and dignified. Nationalism, anachronism and extremism stem from Turkey that wants to occupy a third state and control it; that wants to maintain “rights” of intervention over it. Okay, this is Turkey. Because if Turkey weren't just that, it would confer its 17 million Kurdish citizens with a portion, at least, of the rights it is pursuing for itself and for the Turkish settlers in Cyprus.
From a perspective of methodology, as regards patriotism, Turkey's stance is not the main thing. Turkey is pursuing its interests. Or, at least, pursuing what it perceives as its interests. The main problem lies with those of our fellow citizens who support Turkey's demands. Who see them as self-evident and call on us to tolerate and accept them. And in fact they would have us believe that this surrender is actually an act against nationalism. But, in reality, they are adopting the aggressive nationalism of a country that, in terms of democracy, is behind Cyprus and Greece. That is, they adopt an aggressive and reactionary Turkish nationalism over Cypriot and Greek patriotism. This is also a major issue as regards the Turkish Cypriots.
For 43 years now, the Turkish Cypriots have been living in an area that is under occupation by a foreign army, the Turkish army. 220,000 people live in this area, of which only 95,000 are Turkish Cypriots. And corresponding to this population is an occupying force numbering 43,000 soldiers. Not only have they taken and occupied Cyprus, but they are also obstructing the democratic development of the northern part of Cyprus, exercising a policy similar to the one they exercised in Greek Imbros. An island with a population of 11,000 at the beginning of the 20th century – all Greeks. According to the Treaty of Lausanne, this island should be self-administered by the Greek residents. But the Turkish governments never implemented the international agreements. They violated all of the rights of the Imbriots, and today there are thousands of Turkish settlers living on the island, and only 300 Greeks. Only now have they begun to respect what had been agreed.
And there are those who want to achieve the same thing, in the long term, in Cyprus.
The Greek Cypriot side underscored and continues to underscore -as do I- the problem of occupation and refugees. We also need to underscore that only with the withdrawal of the occupation troops can there be a free Turkish Cypriot on the island. That democracy throughout Cyprus, including among the Turkish Cypriots, will function only when the militarism of the Turks in occupied Cyprus has been abolished. The Turkish occupation army is also a factor obstructing the development of democracy in occupied Cyprus.
The defence of the rights of the Turkish Cypriots in a reunified Cypriot Republic and their liberation from the presence of the military jackboot is nothing less than a patriotic and, at the same time, internationalist act, and it is ludicrous to consider it nationalistic. Unless there are people in our two countries who think that the Turkish army is a guarantor of democracy. Of course, not even those governing Turkey make this claim, as they arrested, as gulenists putschists, most of the senior officers in the occupation army, including their commander. And we are being asked to accept this occupation and putschist army, so that the quislings don't brand us as nationalists?
One such indicative example of subservient behaviour is a text arguing that it wouldn't matter if we gave, in writing, Turkey the right to intervene, even in the southern part of Cyprus. Because, the author argued, Turkey can do this whenever it wants in any case. This is a cynical rejection of the importance of international law, of the global legal system and of respect for human and social rights. It cynically calls on us to surrender. In other words, it argues that Thermopylae, the Epic of 1940, resistance to the occupation and the junta were wrong.
Similarly, an old Cypriot political figure levelled the accusation that Kotzias "trapped us" with the issue of the guarantees and rights of intervention of Turkey. He isn't troubled by the occupation, but by its denouncement. He isn't troubled by his homeland being under the control of a foreign occupying force, but by the fact that we don't cover it up. They indict us because we refuse to hide our heads in the sand.
But, really, why are they not telling us precisely what they want? In Crans-Montana, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs stated in front of everyone that he wants his army in Cyprus so that he can intervene on the island whenever he deems necessary.
Allow me to make a friendly observation. There are a number of people who, criticizing these friends of Turkish nationalism, present them as supporters of "any solution". Including a "bad solution", as we say. Allow me to disagree. Not all proposals – those of the Turks, for example – do constitute a solution. In reality, they are proposals that perpetuate the problem: the occupation. Knowingly, a bad proposal isn't even a bad solution. Because what kind of solution would implement proposals that provide for the perpetuation of the occupation and Turkey's right of intervention?
Two and a half years ago, here in New York, I made a very clear statement that Greece does not want guarantees over Cyprus, or to remain a guarantor power there. Can someone please tell me why non-intervention in the internal affairs of Cyprus and the abolition of colonial-type guarantees is not a progressive act?
The Greek government, like the Cypriot government, supports and utilizes international law, international rules, its membership of organizations, institutions and systems. Of these, our first choice is the UN. We support its work and assist it with all our power. And just as a state does not identify with one government or another, in the same way, and much more so, the UN cannot identify – and it is not right for it to do so – with one individual or another, much less with a special advisor. The time when Louis XIV declared that he was the state has passed.
In regard to Mr Eide, let me give you an example. In January 2017, in Geneva, at a meeting we had with the UN, I submitted the question as to whether the Special Advisor is a one-dimensional mediator between Turkey and Greece, or whether his primary duty is to implement the resolutions of the UN. The answer was that the latter was the case. So I asked why, then, does Mr. Eide not defend the resolutions of the UN General Assembly and Security Council, regarding withdrawal of the occupation troops. His response was that "there are no such resolutions." When we showed him copies of the resolutions of the UN General Assembly and Security Council, he stated -in the presence of the UN Secretary-General- that he wasn't aware of them. In other words, the UN Special Advisor on Cyprus was not aware -even after two years of mediation- of the resolutions of the organization he represented.
Overall, Mr. Eide's conduct was not that of a person who sought honest compromises based on the resolutions of the UN itself, on international law, but of a player who was convinced -albeit wrongly- that he could pressure the Republic of Cyprus more than he could Turkey.
So it is puzzling -I am putting this as elegantly as possible- that there were forces in Cyprus that believed Greece did not have the right to address the UN or to write letters to it in order to call attention to the aforementioned. As if Greece were a country of limited sovereignty and a UN member state with limited rights.
Over the past two and a half years I have been underscoring, at every opportunity, that Cyprus needs a real solution. A solution that will make it a normal 21st-century state. This means that it will be a state with sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence within the framework of today's interdependent world. A normal federal state that provides the maximum security for the two communities and the three small minorities. A state that provides social and individual security. The maximum possible social and human rights. A state that protects the principles of democracy and the rights of the citizen.
This state will not be occupied by anyone. Not even a single piece of its soil. It will not have foreign troops on its territory. The withdrawal of foreign troops will take place under a monitoring mechanism for ensuring the implementation of the agreement under the auspices of the UN. Its relations with the two old "guarantor powers" will be regulated by a Friendship and Cooperation Pact without a military aspect. A pact for promoting cooperation in on the levels of the economy, education, research, science and politics.
From the outset, Greece submitted proposals on all of these sectors to the UN, to all the parties involved in the negotiations. The Hellenic Republic and the Republic of Cyprus submitted their proposals, in contrast with the other side: Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community. In Crans-Montana, the latter two confined themselves to submitting almost identical documents, half a page in length, in which they insisted on safeguarding Turkey's illegal control of the island.
The Greek side submitted proposals on the issue of guarantees. It promoted a proposal for a "Friendship Pact" between Cyprus, Turkey and Greece. It set out a proposal for the withdrawal of the Turkish troops, including a section regarding the legal aspects of this process, entitled "Temporary Stationing Agreement", concerning the timeline for the withdrawal process. Greece also made a proposal -as did Cyprus- for the creation of a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the decisions on the re-establishment of Cyprus, the return of lands, the withdrawal of foreign troops and the implementation of the institutional changes. We proposed that this mechanism not include the current guarantor powers. We underscored that the fact that Cyprus is a member of the EU constitutes yet another solid guarantee for the citizens of all of Cyprus.
We were fortunate enough to have the UN Secretary-General adopt our basic thinking and develop it in his own way. On the last night, he distributed a text on this to us; the only text introduced by the UN at Crans-Montana. As soon as he presented it, I took the floor and declared Greece's agreement on the basics. I commented at length, with individual proposals, on the positive aspects of his proposal. Unfortunately, the floor was taken by a third party who disrupted the discussion and prevented consideration of the UN Secretary-General's document. This act of disrupting the discussion at the outset, together with Turkey's refusal -at the end of the discussion- to consent to the Secretary-General's proposal that we agree on a clause on Turkey's obligation to relinquish any guarantee or intervention "rights", led to the unsuccessful completion of the international conference on Cyprus. A conference at which guarantees and security were established as key issues.
Allow me two more comments/questions regarding what I have just related to you: first, when the UN Secretary-General proposed the abolition of the “rights” of intervention of Turkey and any other party, did he do so for nationalistic reasons? Because he didn't want a solution? Because we cannot have certain persons playing the role of Hercules as defenders of the UN, while, at the same time, accusing us of nationalism, when our proposals were in line with those of the Head of the UN, with regard to issues, on which Greece -in accordance with international law- could and had a right to voice an opinion.
Second, where exactly did they find Turkey’s positive proposals that we supposedly rejected? On this point, I note the surprising phenomenon of people who did not hear -because they were not in a position to hear- proposals that were never made, and who promote them as if they were the best, while we, who fought to promote our proposals and met with Turkey's denial, stand accused.
I, therefore, conclude with the reminder that our proposals were democratically patriotic, profoundly internationalist, because they would liberate Cyprus and the Cypriots, above all the Turkish Cypriots, from the occupation forces. The adoption of Turkey's stance in favour of the continued presence of Turkey's occupation force is not internationalism, but collaborationism. A type of collaborationism that Hellenism has known since antiquity. At Thermopylae, Ephialtes was neither democratic nor patriotic nor, much less, an internationalist. He was simply Ephialtes. We will, thus, continue our struggle towards reaching our goal. And in the end, the barbarities perpetrated against international law, the principles of the UN and the rights of all Cypriots -barbarities that some see as a solution- shall not pass. Cyprus, the Republic of Cyprus, the Federal European Cyprus will live and will continue its course through History, with pride, with the beauty of Aphrodite. And I will feel proud that I was a part of this beautiful history.