British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was petitioned by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK to use the UK’s influence over the Turkish Government in order to persuade Turkey to withdraw its occupation troops and play an active and positive role in current efforts to reunite Cyprus for the benefit of all Cypriots.
A demonstration outside the Turkish Embassy in London and the delivery of a letter of protest to the Turkish Ambassador was followed by a march through central London, the delivery of the petition in Downing Street and a mass rally in Trafalgar Square.
The annual July London “Rally for Cyprus” was the culmination of a series of events, organised by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, to mark the twin anniversaries of the coup by the military junta then ruling Greece on 15th July 1974, and the illegal invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish army which followed five days later, on 20th July 1974. The event came hot on the heels of a lobby of Parliament held on 14th July 2009.
The rally in Trafalgar Square was addressed by several British MPs and MEPs from all three main political parties, President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK Peter Droussiotis, Mayor of occupied Famagusta and President of the Occupied Towns and Municipalities of Cyprus Alexis Galanos, and Cypriot Minister of the Interior Neoklis Sylikiotis, who was the main speaker at the event.
The Mayors of the occupied Cypriot towns of Morphou and Lapithos, Charalambos Pittas and Athos Eleftheriou, respectively, also took part in the rally.
In his opening address, Droussiotis said “the division of Cyprus is a scar on the face of the island, an anachronism in the Europe of the 21st century, a tragedy for all of the island’s people that must not be allowed to continue,“ noting that “this is a division created by Turkey and sustained by it through force of arms and Turkey must, at long last, be held to account.“
“We are here today to remind the British Government of its historic responsibilities to Cyprus. We call upon the Prime Minister to use Britain’s influence over Turkey proactively and decisively. The United Kingdom must exert real pressure on the Turkish Government to support with deeds – not merely with empty words – the true unity of the island,“ he added.
In his speech, Sylikiotis referred to the good will which President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has shown in current direct negotiations on the island and expressed hope it will be matched by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
However he underlined that progress in those talks was dependent upon Turkey’s commitment to a solution.
“The Cyprus settlement must be found by Cypriots for Cypriots but the key to a solution lies in Ankara. Turkey must abide by international law and the UN Resolutions on Cyprus. The EU also has a central role to play. In her EU accession course, Turkey must fulfill her obligations to the Union and the Republic of Cyprus and must cooperate and support a solution that serves the interests of all Cypriots. Cyprus and Greece currently support Turkey’s accession. This support, however, is not unconditional. Turkey has to fulfill the obligations of the Ankara agreement,” he said.
British MPs and MEPs called on the UK government and EU member states to act in order to ensure that the ongoing direct negotiations between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus are not in vain. There was unanimous support for a comprehensive and durable settlement which will liberate Cyprus from the Turkish military occupation and end the island’s forcible division of the last 35 years.
MP Theresa Villiers highlighted the importance of the recent ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the matter of property rights.
MP Simon Hughes also referred to the ECJ ruling, stating that the Court’s message is that property rights cannot be transferred by illegal occupation and that this needs to be understood north of the line as well as beyond the frontiers of Cyprus.
MEP Charles Tannock called for Turkey’s accession course to the EU to be used as leverage in order to exert pressure on Ankara.
MP Andrew Dismore addressed the rally in Greek, saying that the island’s 35-year-long division was unjust and unacceptable and that it was time for Turkey to play a constructive role so that justice could be done and Cyprus could be restored to unity for all Cypriots.
MEP Mary Honeyball spoke of her admiration for President Christofias in his endeavours to progress negotiations towards a solution.
Support was also lent to the Cyprus cause by some of the performers on the “fourth plinth” in Trafalgar Square, who had earlier lent their voices to the calls for justice and the upholding of human rights.
The event in Trafalgar Square was also attended by German MEP Reimer Boege, Mayor of Barnet Cllr Brian Coleman, a large number of London Councilors including UK Cypriot Councillors, and former Members of Parliament Tom Cox and Ian Twin, long-standing friends of Cyprus and the UK Cypriot community.
Meanwhile, the mayors of Famagusta, Morfou and Lapithos, in a meeting yesterday with Foreign and Commonwealth Office official Stephen McCormic, called for a more decisive intervention on the part of Britain towards Ankara to change the Turkish stance if the talks between President Christofias and Talat are to yield results.
McCormic said that Britain stresses at every opportunity it has with Turkish officials Ankara’s need to fulfill its obligations towards the EU, Cyprus and help the talks to reach a positive conclusion.
21/07/09_The Cyprus News Agency