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Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias' intervention at the opening of the Conference on the Cyprus problem (Geneva, 12 January 2017)

Friday, 13 January 2017

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias' intervention at the opening of the Conference on the Cyprus problem (Geneva, 12 January 2017)N. KOTZIAS: I would like to thank the United Nations and the new Secretary-General, Mr. Guterres, who from the first day he took office has fought for the Cyprus issue to be settled. I would also like to thank Mr. Eide.

We have friendly relations with many of those in attendance in this hall. I see people I have known for decades, not just from Cyprus, not just from the United Kingdom, but also from Turkey, as well as Turkish Cypriots.

We are in a region where we are bound by many things and many hours of discussion. Why have these hours of discussion taken place? Because we want to solve an historic problem that was not created by our generation. We are a generation that hopes and wants to resolve it. Our Prime Minister was born in 1974, and from the moment of his birth he has lived with the Cyprus problem. So, we are the generation that wants the solution.

We want to resolve an historic issue, and as I often say, history must not be a prison. To the contrary, history must be a school. We have to learn how to solve problems and not how to cause them, and this is our will.

We want this solution we will find -- we are certain that we can and must find it -- to follow the spirit and the letter of the Charter and the resolutions of the United Nations on the Cyprus issue.

We want to resolve a problem, but at the same time we also want to implement the commitments we have made throughout recent years. The solution we are promoting is a solution of historical responsibility for a better future for Cyprus.

We have the good fortune to have two leaders on the island, the President of the Republic of Cyprus and Mr. Akıncı, who have shown political courage, clear-sightedness, seriousness in resolving their common problem. From the very first moment we took office -- and always, as Greece -- our goal was the protection of the rights of all of the citizens of Cyprus.

Our democratic principles, the principles on human rights, our history through the millennia, showed us that we must equally defend the interests of both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriot Community, as well as the interests of the three minorities on the island.

I would like to thank Mr. Eide in particular, because he was the first interlocutor who responded on the issue of the existence of three minorities in Cyprus, and democratically we have an obligation to bear them in mind, while of course the bulk of the population is the two communities.

We want the protection of rights, and I want to reiterate what I said at the first meeting I had at the UN, 20 months ago: the solution to the Cyprus problem must grant the greatest possible equality and rights to the Turkish Cypriots. Our Turkish Cypriot friends, as fellow citizens of the Greek Cypriots, must feel it is their island; that on this island they can dream of their future; that they can think that their children will live on this island.

That it will be their island and that it belongs to no one other than the Cypriot people, of which the Turkish Cypriots are a component part. The Turkish Cypriots must feel secure. And above all, as I often say, all of the present and future generations of Turkish Cypriots, as well as of Greek Cypriots, of course, must have the right to dream. And to dream of themselves on this island, their homeland.

On the other hand, the Greek Cypriots must, and have the right to, feel secure. They must, and have the right to, feel that they are not in danger on this island, and that, together with their Turkish Cypriot fellow citizens and the three minorities, they are masters of the island.

For us, today, Cyprus is also a beacon of stability in an unstable region, but it can become, with the two communities together, a force for peace in the Middle East. And an example of the fact that we can resolve even problems that seem difficult.

Problems do not exist only for us to describe them, but also for us to solve them. Of course, life will bring forth other problem afterwards. But we first need to solve the problems that exist.

So we want a solution, and that is why we are working together for the reunification of Cyprus. We believe that a unified Cyprus will impart momentum to economic development. Because all of us, all of our countries, are suffering from the crisis that exists in the region. The wars in Syria and Iraq, the situation in Libya, the broader instability prevailing with regard to the economic and social development of all our countries. The Cypriots' economic and social development, but ours as well.

We believe that we must find the best solution, setting as a criterion that it be just, that it comply with International and European Law, and that it be convincing, so that the two communities vote in favour of it and ratify it in the referenda that are to follow.

In Greece, we believe -- and we have stated this -- that the system of guarantees is outdated. We believe -- and I, personally, believe -- that it is a system of the colonial era. We have got past it. And there is no need for anyone to ask for it. Today, the relations of states are linked with interdependence and with the positive showing of soft power.

We believe that fear or the risk of use of violence by third parties must be eliminated from the map of Cyprus. We believe that we must agree on the definitive solution of the problem of the security of Cyprus.

And this means withdrawal of armed forces, under the umbrella of the UN, perhaps with a creative role for the OSCE. We believe that Cyprus must find a system of internal security.

As you know, we never talked -- either in meetings or publicly -- about the internal aspect of the Cyprus issue, because although we are interested, we do not have the right to do this, because we are dealing with an independent and sovereign state. But we are interested in the security of all Cypriot citizens.

I myself and my government believe deeply that this plan, which the two leaders are promoting with courage, brings a situation different from that of 1963. The creation of two States in Cyprus, self-government of the Turkish Cypriots to a great extent, is the greatest guarantee that they will mind their affairs well – whether their own community’s affairs or the affairs of Cyprus as a whole.

I also believe that the best guarantee of the rights of the citizens, collective and individual rights, is the European Union. And I very much thank President Juncker, who, as we know, has a very busy programme, as well as the EU High Representative, Mrs. Mogherini, for their presence and assistance.

As Greece, we know what the cost is if someone breaks the rules of the European Union, and we know that the EU has very many tools for imposing what it thinks is right. These aren't just words. Over the past seven years, we have come up against it and we believe that the EU has the measures and means to defend what is agreed upon against anyone, within the EU or within Cyprus, who wants to diverge from this. I believe the same holds true for the UN.

Moreover, I think what I am reading about the creation of state police forces, federal police and international police is a very good thing, because these, too, guarantee the security of all the parties. I also tried as an academic to study what the problems are that create insecurity for both of the communities. To the degree I understand it, the problems of insecurity that exist within Cyprus are being dealt with by means of police and justice. There is no need for any outbreak of negative phenomena, armed intervention, bombardments or anything else.

This is why we believe that we need an independent and sovereign Cyprus with all of the rights and obligations of a member state of the UN and the EU. This is why we believe that it is worth the trouble -- and we will go into this during the negotiations and our talks -- for such agreements to be implemented, like the agreements on levels of German troops in 1990, during the withdrawal of the Soviet armed forces from East Germany. This specific agreement on troop levels -- which was temporary in nature -- is a good example.

We have also submitted a specific friendship proposal between Cyprus, Turkey and Greece. As I say to my Turkish friends -- whom I respect greatly -- Allah threw the dice and he threw us into a corner of the world, and in this corner of the world we must coexist in the most creative and best way. We must even follow -- if one wants -- the special rules of our society, our tradition and our religion.

I also believe that the future of the whole of Cyprus is in the EU, like the future of Turkey. I take this opportunity to say, once again, that Greece is a firm friend and supporter of Turkey's European course. If there is one country in the EU that believes in this perspective for Turkey, it is Greece.

We believe that, to the degree that we will resolve our problems -- I am certain we will do it -- Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, through a Friendship Agreement, will make up a strong trio in the EU, in the world to which we belong, in a world in which a strong UN Security Council resolution will establish the sovereignty of unified Cyprus.

Life doesn't give us opportunities every day: from the love that culminates in marriage, to the discussion we will have here and will culminate in a unified and sovereign Cyprus that will function as a responsible actor on the European and international political stage.

Again, I want to thank the Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. Guterres, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser, Mr. Eide, Mr. Juncker and Mrs. Merkel. I want to thank my friends from the Turkish delegation, the Cypriot delegations, and the British delegation for all the discussions we had, for the common yearning, as we say in the East, and for our sentiments.

Politics, as I say, needs rationality, but also sentiment. With these two we will resolve the Cyprus problem.

Thank you very much.