Home  |  News   |  Speech by the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL Stefanos Stefanou in the debate organised by AKEL and the LEFT GUE/NGL Group in the European Parliament

Speech by the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL Stefanos Stefanou in the debate organised by AKEL and the LEFT GUE/NGL Group in the European Parliament


“The Cyprus problem: Quo Vadis?”

16 November 2021, Brussels, European Parliament

It is with great pleasure that after almost two years we have the opportunity to visit the European Parliament once again, to meet and discuss with you what has taken place and affects the Cyprus problem. We would like to thank you for your presence at today’s event, as well as for the opportunity to brief you on AKEL’s positions on the serious developments that have taken place surrounding the Cyprus problem. At the same time, we consider this opportunity as particularly important in order to outline in greater detail our own approach to the possibilities and ways of putting the problem back on the path of a solution.

Unfortunately, at a time when humanity has suffered and continues to suffer from the many ills brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, complex frictions and conflicts continue to rage with undiminished intensity internationally. Taking an objective approach to this situation, one could conclude that the Cyprus problem is no longer a priority for the international community. A more inclusive approach, however, shows that a solution to the Cyprus problem would help the overall normalisation in the region itself, as well as EU-Turkey relations. In particular, if one were to bear in mind that it would enable problems that are complicated by the non-solution of the Cyprus problem to be addressed.

Turkey, attempting to consolidate its hegemonic presence in the region, has engaged in a multi-level externalization of its objectives, strengthening its presence in the African continent and extending its intervention in conflicts such as Nagorno-Karabakh. At the same time, Turkey continues to carry out blackmailing illegal actions on energy issues in the Eastern Mediterranean. Furthermore, it is proceeding with the creation of additional modern military structures in the occupied territories of Cyprus and imposing partitionist fait accompli, for example through the violation of the status quo in the fenced off area of Famagusta.

As long as Turkey continues to undermine the solution of the Cyprus problem, it is obvious that it will continue to damage the prospect of restoring stability and normalizing international relations in the region in general. This should be of concern to all those whose legitimate interests are intertwined with our region, including the European Union and its member states.

In the current given context, a solution to the Cyprus problem perhaps seems more distant than ever. And yet, as difficult as it may seem at first sight, under the right conditions it could potentially be achieved soon and indeed even more easily than other challenges the international community faces. This is demonstrated by the recent negotiating experience in Crans Montana in 2017, where we had reached, by the UN Secretary General’s own admission, a historic opportunity for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.  Something the Secretary General did not say by chance.

Despite the different narratives of those who participated in the Conference, everyone without exception admits that at Crans-Montana we had come very close to a solution of the core aspects of the Cyprus problem. For that reason, if we continue from where we left off, a speedy solution to the Cyprus problem is realistic. This has, after all, been the position of Mr. Guterres himself and of the UN Security Council, as well as of the relevant resolutions of the European Parliament itself for four years. This reference is wrongly absent from the latest Report and resolution of the Security Council.

In our understanding, which is also based on the accumulated experience of the international community in resolving major political problems, convergences that have been reached after decades of painstaking negotiation are not destroyed. The balance that has been struck on a number of core issues must be preserved, firstly because it represents a mutually acceptable outcome for the two sides and secondly because if issues of such importance and sensitivity are reopened, it is certain that we will be led into further endless discussions. This is something that does not serve either side involved on the Cyprus problem.

For example, Mr. Tatar is demanding the acceptance of sovereign equality for the Turkish Cypriot community as a precondition for the resumption of negotiations. In other words, he is demanding the recognition of separate sovereignty, which points to a separate state and is not under any circumstances acceptable. This issue was discussed for decades until we arrived at a mutually acceptable convergence between Christofias and Talat, which addressed the legitimate concerns of both communities without casting any shadows over the existence of two separate entities in Cyprus. Therefore the convergences do not refer to sovereign, but to political equality, which was agreed and expressed through a series of convergences registered on effective participation in the institutions and decisions of the central government.

A second example is the way federation is created. What Mr. Tatar is now demanding, and indeed is setting as a precondition, is that we should accept the creation of federation by two separate entities, which is an unacceptable position. As is well- known, there are two ways of creating a federal state, namely the merger of separate states and the transformation of a unitary into a federal state. This debate is not theoretical, but substantive. Precisely because in the case of a merger of separate states, serious issues arise such as their participation in international organizations, the continuity of international treaties, the removal of pretexts for any future secession and others. The Turkish Cypriot side insisted on the merger of separate states, while the Greek Cypriot side insisted on the transformation of the constitutional structure of the Republic of Cyprus. We finally recorded a mutually acceptable convergence. The way in which the federation will be created will not be explicitly referred, but the continuity of the state will stem from the content of the solution.

Obviously, the main reason for the backtracking being observed on the issue of continuing the negotiations from where they had remained at Crans-Montana in recent texts of the United Nations is the official shift by Turkey and Mr. Tatar towards a two state solution. However, the fact that instead of the consistent support for the position for a resumption of the negotiations from the point where they were suspended, so-called “new ideas” have been put forward, which clash with the Secretary General’s position since they reopen key convergences, is not unrelated.

This practice has not only been exploited by the Turkish side as a pretext, but has created vital space for the submission of new ideas by third parties. Several of these ideas, in an attempt to bridge the gap, result in proposals that destroy the acquis of the talks, approaching Turkish demands and cannot be accepted.

It is quite clear that over the past four years, the Cyprus problem has entered a dangerous period of time passively passing by in relation to the negotiations. Also indicative of this is the fact that there is a serious indecision observed concerning the appointment of a UN Special Envoy on the Cyprus problem.

What isn’t passive however, as we have for some time been warning about, is Turkey’s stand, which has intensified the imposition of new partitionist fait accompli on the ground. In the intervening period, Ankara acts with complete audacity, culminating in its provocative and illegal actions in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus, its illegal machinations in Famagusta and the official return to the position for a two state solution.

The issue of Famagusta, which has rightly preoccupied the European Parliament, is much more important than it appears. The declassification of part of the fenced off area of Famagusta from a military zone, without placing it under the administration of the United Nations, is contrary to the Resolutions 550 and 789 of the UN Security Council. It is an area that has not been colonalised for almost half a century because Turkey knew that it had to return it, and indeed as a matter of priority, since this was provided for in the relevant Resolutions, as well as in the 1979 High-Level Agreement. The map that had been submitted by the Turkish Cypriot side in Geneva in 2017 also included, among other things, the return of the fenced off city under Greek Cypriot administration.

Consequently, this is a unilateral action by the Turkish side preparing the illegal colonisation of the area, which in no way whatsoever does it ensure the return of its lawful inhabitants in conditions of security, but under an occupation regime, while at the same time severely damaging the prospect of a comprehensive solution. If an area that has been empty for decades is colonized, if this incentive is lost too, who and how many people will continue to believe in the prospect of the solution of the Cyprus problem?

If there is a way to halt the Turkish aggression and terminate the imposition of the partitionist fait accompli that Mr. Erdogan – Mr. Tatar are planning, it is through the resumption of the negotiations. However negotiations that shall be meaningful, as the Secretary General of the UN himself had very correctly identified early on. Namely, that the existing body of work agreed in negotiations should not be challenged and that the two communities should discuss the pending issues in a constructive manner. Unfortunately, this has not been the case over the past four years.

As AKEL, giving a concrete form to our proposals on how to resume the negotiations from where they had remained in 2017 at Crans Montana, we submitted a comprehensive proposal to the President of the Republic of Cyprus last December. This proposal is fully in line with Mr. Guterres’ repeated calls for a resumption of the talks from where they had left off, as well as the use of natural gas as an incentive for a solution to the Cyprus problem. This proposal will be explained to you subsequently by Toumazos Tsielepis, an international law expert and a member of the negotiating team of the Greek Cypriot side.

At this point, it would be a significant omission if I didn’t refer to another dimension of the Cyprus problem that some often fail to understand. Namely, the trust that must exist and be cultivated between the two communities, both at a political level and between people. If this relationship is allowed to deteriorate in the way it has done in recent years, it is likely to negatively determine the prospect of the reunification of Cyprus.

Historically, AKEL has been the Party of rapprochement of the two communities, the Party that has worked to instill within the Greek Cypriot community the importance of friendship, fraternity and cooperation with the Turkish Cypriots. At no time, not even in difficult times, did AKEL ever participate in any provocative or criminal actions targeting Turkish Cypriots. We therefore realise to the greatest possible extent the importance that the joint struggle of the two communities has in the direction of a solution.

It is precisely for this reason that even in the midst of the pandemic, with all the objective difficulties we had to confront, we intensified our efforts to reach out and contact our Turkish Cypriot compatriots. I will not repeat everything AKEL has done on this issue, however I think it is worth making a reference to our uninterrupted and ongoing cooperation with progressive Turkish Cypriot parties, the joint presentations on aspects of the Cyprus problem, the mobilisations that took place before the informal Geneva conference, as well as the mass mobilisation we organised on 3 October with the participation of the forces supporting the solution from both communities.

Furthermore, as you know, AKEL’s actions in favour of bicommunal initiatives are not confined to the limited geographical boundaries of Cyprus. By way of example, every year, through our interventions in the European Parliament, we assert the renewal of funds that will enable the continuation of the work being done by both the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), as well as the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage. At the same time, we make sure that some of our visitor’s groups to Brussels are bi-communal.

For AKEL, the solution of the Cyprus problem has always represented a central axis of our policy, because the survival of our people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, in our common homeland is linked to it. At this precise moment when what is at stake, as it is clearly unfolding before us, is the solution of federation or partition, the call we address is that you evaluate what we have outlined to you on the importance of preserving the agreed convergences. These are the only effective way to resume negotiations with a prospect of a speedy successful conclusion.

If there is one thing we can all do, our own credited share, it is to assist as much as we can to solve one of the many and important problems that beset the international community.

For AKEL, the solution of the Cyprus problem has always been a central axis of its policy, because it is connected with the very survival of our people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, in our common homeland.

Right now when what is at stake, as it is clearly unfolding before us, is either a federal solution or partition, the European Union must adopt a clear stance towards Turkey. It is inconceivable that, despite Ankara’s provocative and illegal actions against the Republic of Cyprus and its insistence on the acceptance of a two state solution (by the Greek Cypriot side) as a precondition for the resumption of the negotiating process, EU member states are pandering/saying what Mr. Erdogan wants to hear.

If we are really aspiring to a change in Turkey’s stand, the ways and means to lead to this result must be sought immediately. In particular, the absence of any reference to a resumption of the negotiations on the agreed basis and from the point they had remained in 2017 is, in our view, unacceptable and counterproductive.

The call we address is that you evaluate what we have outlined on the importance of preserving the acquis of the convergences. These convergences are the only effective way for the negotiations to resume with the prospect of a speedy successful conclusion. If there is one thing we can all do, to the extent that it depends on us, is to help as much as we can to resolve one of the many important problems that beset the international community. This will be to the benefit of all Cypriots, Turkey, Greece and the European Union itself.


Speech by Toumazos Tsielepis, AKEL Political Bureau member and Head of the Cyprus Problem Office of AKEL, in the debate organised by AKEL and the LEFT GUE/NGL Group


The government's refusal to ask for a reduction of VAT to 9% on electricity is directed against society