Christofias was speaking after one of several memorial events yesterday to mark the 35th anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion.
He was commenting on statements made in the north by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat who hosted a military parade in which nine Turkish F5 fighter jets, helicopters and naval frigates sent from Turkey took part in celebrations to mark the 1974 ‘peace operation’.
“In any agreement, we will never let Turkey’s guarantorship become an issue of debate or be watered down,” Talat said. “We are not very far from a settlement. But we act silently and cautiously because we have learned lessons from the inconsistent attitudes of the Greek Cypriot side and the European Union in the past,” he added.
He also said that Turkish Cypriots had become guarded against what he called the “unfair and aggressive energies of the GC leadership in the international arena”.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek also referred to Turkey’s guarantee saying: “Only a solution that reflects the realities of two peoples and two states is possible. It must also include Turkey’s effective guarantor rights,” Cicek said. “Turkey will never renege on its guarantor obligations.”
Responding, Christofias said the notion was unacceptable. ”We have ascertained that on these issues our views are poles apart,” he said.
Both leaders said however they were working towards a solution “the soonest possible”.
The Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey want a solution by the end of the year. The Greek Cypriot side said recently this would not be possible. The leaders began talks last September.
“Today we are obliged to keep memories alive but at the same intensify our efforts to end the fait accompli of the invasion and occupation which only worsens with the passing of time,” Christofias said.
But Cicek warned: “The window of opportunity will not stay open indefinitely.”
“If all parties act with the constructive attitude the Turkish Cypriots have displayed, we believe that a comprehensive settlement is possible by the end of 2008,” he added. He also said Turkey would “never be dragged into a dead end of choosing between Cyprus and the EU”.
While politicians sparred with words, memorial services were held all around the island as figures from the upper echelons of the political and religious establishments commemorated the memory of turmoil, displacement and imposed partition with speeches focusing on the struggle to undo the wrongs of the past.
“In honour of the people who lost their lives, who stood betrayed in the face of the tanks and machine guns of Atilla… I want to say that we will do whatever is possible so that their sacrifice is justified, that we reach a solution that will grant us a functioning state that upholds the human rights and freedoms of all Cypriots, without foreigners possessing an ordained right to meddle in our internal affairs,” said Christofias at a service in Phaneromeni church in Nicosia.
The President was joined at the ceremony by Archbishop Chrysostomos and Defence Minister Costas Papacostas, who both implored the people of Cyprus to remain diligent and determined in the search for an end to the enduring tragedy of the island.
Other memorial services were held in towns, villages and cemeteries around Cyprus, as well as in cities around the world with significant Greek Cypriot or Greek communities. Prime Minister of Greece Costas Karamanlis stressed his nation’s unwavering support for the Republic, saying: “Thirty-five years after the Cypriot tragedy, Greece and its people do not forget. We struggle, and we will struggle until the last wall on European territory falls and justice is realised.”
Commemorations and expressions of solidarity also came from New York, where Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in America Demetrios led services in the Greek stronghold of Astoria in New York.
In the north, while all of the newspapers had their front pages dedicated to celebrating the events of July 20th, left-leaning Afrika maintained its status as the mouthpiece of opposition to the conventional rhetoric, writing under the headline: “35 years in half a country”.
‘We continue to celebrate the day that thousands of people lost their lives, when many were murdered and thrown into mass graves, when women were raped, when a large part of the population were turned into refugees and the island was divided,” the paper said.
By Daniel Thomas, Cyprus Mail, July 21, 2009