Speech by the General Secretary of AKEL S.Stefanos at the special session of the House of Representatives on the Black Anniversaries of the coup and invasion
15th July 2021
I was nine and a half years old when on the evening of the first day of the invasion, on 20th July 1974, we were loaded on a truck and left my village Gerolakkos. We were quite a few people. Old women and men, women and children. The conscripts were missing. They were conscripted and were on the Pentadaktylos mountain range and in Kyrenia to repel the Turkish invasion.
We left with the conviction that we would return. That’s what the adults told us in the truck, and we, children then, who didn’t really understand the consequences of what was happening, had no reason to question them. We will return! That was the belief in the first years after the invasion, which has faded over the years. The conviction gradually turned into a hope that is now fading away. Since then, many have passed away with their dream of returning to their homes unfulfilled.
In 1974 we experienced a tragedy that was not some sudden accident. Nor did it come out of nowhere. It was the cumulative result of the anti-Cypriot plans that were executed, but also of decisions and actions. The twin-crime of the coup-invasion was agreed in 1971 at the NATO Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Lisbon.
Regardless of any planning, however, Cyprus would not have experienced the tragedy of the Turkish invasion had it not been for the coup of the Greek Junta and EOKA B. It was well-known that the overthrow of the constitutional government would lead to the invasion of Turkey in Cyprus. The protagonists of the coup therefore cannot be credited by claiming mitigating circumstance of ‘foolishness’.
The coup is an act of high treason and the protagonists are traitors.
Forty-seven years after the twin crimes, we are still searching for our vindication. In the face of critical developments, we must draw the correct conclusions from the historical path of the Cyprus problem, which is full of expectations, disappointments, illusions, but also of opportunities that were not exploited as they should have been. The discussion of the past is a necessary process, and should not remain stuck in what we should have done then, but to see what we should do right now, before it is too late.
Of course, the first and decisive factor for the non-solution of the Cyprus problem is Turkey itself. The occupying power is comfortable with the current de facto situation. Slowly but surely over these forty-seven years it has been consolidating its illegal occupation through the colonisation of the occupied areas, through the selling off of Greek Cypriot properties and with the property construction boom on them, through the alteration of the demographic composition and secular character of the Turkish Cypriot community. Through the creation of fait accompli on the sea, on the ground and by consolidating the de facto partition in people’s minds.
From the very first moment of the invasion, Turkey knew that time was working in its favour for the realisation of its objectives. That is precisely why, with patience and perseverance, it is making use of it.
On the Greek Cypriot side, many were under the illusion that time was working in our favour. However, history and the developments of recent years, especially after the failure of the Crans Montana conference on Cyprus, have shattered this illusion in the mind of every reasonable person in the harshest way.
The second conclusion is a logical extension of this conclusion: the status quo is not a stable and unchanging situation. On the contrary! It is a situation that is sliding towards worse situations.
We are not comfortable with a temporariness that gives an illusion of certainty and security. The status quo is far from guaranteeing all the goods, all the rights and all the advantages we have as a state. Turkey’s questioning of the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone, the obstacles to the development of energy planning and the exploitation of natural gas, the risks to the country’s security, the fait accompli it creates in Famagusta and many other actions are the result and extension of the illegal Turkish occupation. Only a solution will put a definitive end to all these problems. We know very well that geography cannot be changed. But we can and must change the terms of neighbourhoodness. With the solution of the Cyprus problem!
The third conclusion to be drawn has to do with the basis for a solution. It is an illusion to believe that we have more than one option. There is only one option before us and it is the one that the Greek Cypriot community agreed (I stress: agreed) with the Turkish Cypriot community since 1977, adopted by the UN in a series of resolutions which we invoke to denounce Turkey for violating them. As Turkey is doing now by officially promoting partition in the form of a two state solution.
The basis for a solution is a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality as outlined in the resolutions of the UN. And the resolutions cannot be invoked a la carte.
The solution of bicommunal, bizonal federation is a solid basis to support a solution that ends the Turkish occupation, reunites the land and the people. That ensures a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality. That guarantees the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all our people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, who will co-manage their common homeland.
All this, of course, depends on the content of the solution. No doubt about that. But we are of the opinion that many steps have been taken with regards the content of the solution too, and these are reflected in the convergences that have been reached. We have come a long way towards a solution, but there is still a lot of work to be done. That is what we should be focusing on! This is what the Secretary General of the UN and the Security Council insist on, calling for the completion of the effort that started in 2008 and with ups and downs, problems and setbacks managed to arrive at the convening of the Crans Montana conference in 2017.
At Crans Montana, where, according to Mr. Guterres and Foreign Minister Christodoulides, we were a breath away from the solution. For the failure of the conference, the UN Secretary General apportions the blame on the two Cypriot sides and not on Turkey. The government’s narrative that the failure was due to Turkey is not being adopted by the international community. But this doesn’t concern the President and the government. For them it’s enough to convince, as long as they do convince, the people at home.
This is also a pathogenesis of our political life. We usually do not care and frequently conceal what foreigners say and think about us, who have their own interests and determine their policy on the basis of these. Even Cyprus’ European associates, who are very sensitive on other cases, in the case of Cyprus they in effect confine themselves to issuing verbal expressions of solidarity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The situation in Cyprus is indeed as critical as ever and Turkey is as provocative as ever. In anticipation of the Turkish President’s illegal visit to the occupied areas of Cyprus on the day of the anniversary of the invasion and reports that are intensifying about the imposition of new fait accompli in Famagusta, we must reflect on what we must do.
Of course, it is imperative that we react, mobilise, make representations and demand practical solidarity from the international community to end Turkish illegal actions in Famagusta and beyond.
But this is not enough. It has never been enough to confine ourselves to complaints. The solution is not achieved by reactions alone, nor by saying what we do not want. We must say clearly what we do want and not mince our words. The solution has always needed initiatives to push things forward. We have not been consistent and shown continuity on this either as the Greek Cypriot side. Many times in the past we have waited for others to solve our problem and we have not taken the initiative. Turkey holds the key to the solution, but that does not mean that the Greek Cypriot side has no role to play. Its role is to exhaust every possibility by taking specific initiatives, to use every tool and every opportunity to create momentum and push for a solution.
This is precisely what we must do now, especially now that the final partition of Cyprus is threatening us. We must take concrete initiatives that will, on the one hand, restore the Greek Cypriot side’s shattered credibility and, on the other hand, undo Turkey’s false claims and create pressure on it to return to the agreed basis for a solution.
As AKEL we have submitted a specific proposal to the President of the Republic since last December, which is based on the UN Secretary General’s position both on the need to continue the negotiating process from where it had remained at Crans Montana and on the use of natural gas in a way that will act as a catalyst for a solution. We do not claim that our proposal will magically solve the problems. But it is worth trying. It is in the President’s hand, he is in charge. If he does make use of it, Turkey will either be forced to get back on the tracks of Crans-Montana or it will be exposed as solely responsible for the continuing stalemate.
Is it possible for Turkey to abandon its intransigent positions?
Is a solution possible with this Turkey and its puppet Tatar?
If we decide in advance that they are not going to cooperate for a solution, it is as if we decide that we are not going to do anything and that suits the Turkish side perfectly. Given that the Greek Cypriot side did not move while Mustafa Akinci was our interlocutor, let us at least try now. We have no other choice.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before I leave the podium, I feel the need, on behalf of AKEL, to address the refugees, the enclaved people in the occupied areas, the wounded, the prisoners of war, the war-stricken people, but above all the relatives of the dead and the missing persons of the twin crimes of 1974 and to express our respect and love for them all.
We feel respect and gratitude towards the heroes and to all those who fought for the liberation of our Cyprus from the shackles of colonialism, for the defence of Cyprus independence and democracy in our country, in the struggle against fascism, nationalism and intolerance which has brought so much pain to both Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Honor and glory to the heroes of the democratic resistance!
Honor and glory to those who defended our homeland against the invasion!