On the 19th of May, the Republic of Cyprus successfully completed its six-month term at the helm of the Committee of Foreign Ministers of the Council of Europe. Foreign Ministers, Deputy Foreign Ministers and Permanent Representatives from the rest 46 member states plus observers from the USA, Canada, The Holy See, Mexico, Japan and Israel flocked to the Cypriot capital to pay their respect to the island republic and hand over the chairmanship of the Committee to the Czechs.
The mission of the Council of Europe is to promote the shared values of peace, tolerance, fight against racism, prevention of torture, protection of minorities; in other words democracy, social and cultural development across the board of its membership.
The day could not be more symbolic: 19th of May is the day of remembrance of the Ottoman and Young Turks’ Genocide of Pontian Greeks. The Council of Europe Foreign Ministers’ concluding meeting in Lefkosia (Nicosia) passes the message that the Republic of Cyprus has never become extinct as those in power in Ankara have propagated time and again in their self-important effort to impose their suzerainty on the Greek Cypriot majority islanders. The Greek Cypriots, constituting 80 per cent of the island’s population with the longest historical presence - 3,000 years - of all ethnic groups on island will never compromise with the Turkish military occupation of the northern third of their country. They will not accept a cover up presence of Turkish troops under the shameful guise of protection of the Turkish Cypriot minority.
If there is an entity on the brink of extinction on the island this is not the Republic of Cyprus whose leaders fully recognize the need to restructure it - this should be the aim of the Cyprus talks - but it is the Turkish minority whose demographic character is grossly adulterated by the implant of tens of thousands of settlers from Anatolia and utterly diluted by the overwhelming presence of 40,000 Turkish troops. Taking into account the flee of thousands of indigenous TCs to democratic states, including the Republic of Cyprus since virtually all of them enjoy the benefits of Cypriot citizenship, then we can easily deduce that in the Turkish military occupation zone the autochthonous Turkish Cypriots constitute a sad minority!
To be sure, the Turkish government has a lot to answer on a long list a number of counts central to the ideal and mission of the Council of Europe. Ankara is answerable for the near extinction of the TC minority in Cyprus which is forced to live under military rule for the past 43 years. Those who propagate the myth that the Turkish Forces occupying Northern Cyprus protect the TCs should answer a set of questions: i) Who has the last word in that part of the island ii) Are the TCs happy with the Turkish military having the upper hand on all vital policy issues? iii) Why is the number of autochthonous TCs dwindling over the long years of occupation while the number of troops remain constant and the number of settlers and grandiose mosques built to serve the latter mushroom?
Not to speak about the treatment of minorities - Christian (Armenian & Greek Orthodox) and Muslim (Alevi & Kurdish) in Turkey itself. Not to speak of the incarceration of thousands of journalists and the persecution of voices of dissent and the widespread use of torture by the Turkish police.
Asked if Turkey could be expelled from the CoE, Kasoulides, the Cypriot FM, noted that the CoE Parliamentary Assembly has looked into this issue and has brought back the monitoring status. He added that an independent domestic means of legal redress has been determined, under CoE monitoring, to which each Turkish citizen can apply before lodging a complain to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In the true interests of every Turkish citizen, irrespective of creed or ethnic origin, let us ask Mr. Kasoulides: has the domestic means of legal remedy, the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) established by Ankara in its puppet administration, the ‘TRNC’ delivered any justice to the thousands of his countrymen deprived of their property rights by the illegal Turkish occupation? If anything the IPC stopped accepting filing of applications by Greek Cypriot plaintiffs while those few that did apply had to endure a travesty of justice adding salt to the insult.
Kasoulides should have posed those questions directly to the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the CoE. The latter did arrive at Larnaca airport to attend the Lefkosia meeting despite his government’s noisy rhetoric that the RoC is extinct. In the 43 years of Turkish occupation, Ankara has been employing persistent efforts to present the RoC as extinct; much to its chagrin the RoC is alive and kicking on the international scene as the CoE Lefkosia Meeting proves beyond any doubt.
In Russia, if we are to take a good example of a P5 member, there is no doubt about the sovereignty of Cyprus: Moscow send its Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, not only to attend the multilateral CoE Ministerial Meeting but importantly to engage in a two day frank discussion of bilateral relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Cyprus.
The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that the two countries share common or close positions on many issues. Both countries support a swift return to constructive Russia-EU negotiations, strengthening the UN’s central role in international relations as the universal organisation for supporting peace and security, and collective responses by the entire international community to modern threats such as international terrorism, trans-border crime, and drug trafficking. Moscow added that the EU’s sanctions against Russia and the measures which Russia took in response had led to a drop in trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, but that Russia continued to search for ways to mitigate the problem.
If anything, the Council of Europe Ministerial Meeting in Lefkosia given prominence by the attendance of Sergei Lavrov dedicating time and effort in further promoting bilateral relations while seeking to mend relations with the EU, the bloc to which Cyprus belongs, has shown that both Cyprus and Russia, far from being isolated, place themselves at the forefront of efforts to normalize relations for peace, security and prosperity in the Old Continent.