NICOSIA - Cypriot Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nicos Emiliou denounced Turkey’s continuing violations in Cyprus that have been taking place ever since the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island.
"In the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, basic human rights were brutally violated, together with the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of my country. Thirty-nine years later, the occupation of more than one third of Cyprus continues, and massive violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms persist," he said addressing the United Nations General Assembly’s 68th Session of the Third Committee.
He referred to the continued identification process of the remains of missing persons 39 years after the invasion.
"In Cyprus, the past is very much the present," he said, adding that today, Cyprus remains the country with the highest proportion of Internally Displaced Persons as a percentage of its population in the world.
Emilou noted Turkey’s decision to allow the Committee of Missing Persons access to a fenced zone in the occupied areas this year but called on the Turkish Government to fully address this humanitarian issue with urgency, by launching an effective investigation, both on the cases of people whose remains have been identified, as well as those whose fate is still unknown.
He also called Ankara to allow unrestricted access to all relevant information in its archives, as well as to all relevant areas, including military areas, in Cyprus and in Turkey itself.
The Cypriot Representative also referred the living conditions of enclaved persons in the occupied part of Cyprus. "Despite some improvements in recent years, which we recognise and welcome, Greek and Maronite Cypriots living in the occupied areas are still subjected to harassment, restrictions to their movement, denial of access to adequate medical care and curtailment of their freedom of worship, adding that "we are especially alarmed by continuing violations of their property rights, as safeguarded by Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to bequeath property to their descendants."
Emiliou furthermore denounced the systematic violations of the right to education of enclaved students, as well as the widespread destruction and looting of religious and cultural heritage in the occupied part of Cyprus is not only a crime against Cyprus, but one against humanity.
"The desecration of religious and historical sites, which began as soon as Turkish troops landed in Cyprus in July 1974, continues today. Around 550 churches and Christian monuments, along with numerous cemeteries, have been desecrated, pillaged, destroyed, converted into mosques, army barracks or worse, or even demolished," he went on to say.
Emilou however, noted that not all is bleak welcoming two recent positive developments in the broader field of religious freedom.
He referred to a senior Muslim cleric who held a service at Hala Sultan Mosque near the city of Larnaca while at the same time, Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia, who had been prevented for the past 18 months from visiting his diocese in the occupied part, was allowed to visit his enclaved flock and the monastery of Apostolos Andreas in north-eastern Cyprus.
Emiliou announced that a restoration project through the bi-communal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage will begin in the coming months for Monastery of Apostolos Andreas, one of the most important religious sites on the island, which has been left to decay since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
"Such developments, small as they may be, are proof of the powerful yearn of the Cypriot people for peaceful coexistence and give all Cypriots, hope for a reunited future," Emiliou went on to say.
At the backdrop of renewed efforts to launch a new UN-led initiative for the solution of the Cyprus problem, Emiliou underlined that for the effort to reunify Cyprus to succeed, these violations must cease at once.
"We call on Turkey to end the occupation, recall its troops and apply and respect the resolutions and recommendations of all relevant UN and other international bodies, thus restoring peace and security and the human rights and dignity of all the people of Cyprus. This is of vital importance, not just for Cyprus, but also for the credibility and moral standing of this Organisation," he concluded.