“We envision a free and reunited Cyprus, a common homeland of Greek-Cypriots, Turkish-Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites and Latins (Roman Catholics), a model of peaceful coexistence and prosperity of all its citizens and a pillar of stability, peace and security in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
GDL: In the 60 years since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, its foreign policy has evolved significantly, in a process that can be described as transitioning from introversion to extroversion. Can you elaborate on these priorities?
KK: It was never a matter of extroversion or introversion. We always wanted to be a State useful to the rest of the nations; our neighbours, not only those within the European family, but also third countries. The small size, of course, has its own significance in terms of influence, but it has never acted as a deterrent to our actions and synergies within the EU, but much more in the sensitive area where we are.
The Republic of Cyprus is only 60 years old, yet it has a strong presence with acts and actions that have always been aimed at defending basic principles that all States and people should serve. Peace, solidarity, security, democracy. There are many who believe that we invoke these principles because we are young, this is not true. We serve these principles out of conviction, not out of necessity.
In these 60 years, we have unfortunately been called upon and face great difficulties and tragedies, with the harsher reality that of the occupation of 37% of our country by Turkey as a result of the Turkish invasion of 1974. It was and is our responsibility; our first concern is to get rid of the occupation, the redress of injustice, wound healing.
And on this occasion I would like to remind you that the Turkish invasion was not an afternoon walk. It left thousands dead, refugees, rapes, pain, plus everything that has followed to this day, such as settlement and the violation of every principle and every Rule of Law.
However, yes we stood on our feet. We did not kneel. We are an EU Member State with particular commitment to its principles. We develop activities and collaborations in the region through bilateral, tripartite and quadrilateral talks. We are and we want to be useful, where possible. At the same time, we understand that we are not the only ones facing problems and we respect all those who are exposed for any reason, important or insignificant.
GDL: The Cypriot Foreign Ministry, in addition to traditional foreign policy tools, has also embarked on elaborating strategic plan and utilising “soft power” foreign policy tools. Can you tell us more on which sectors you are focused upon?
KK: When everything around us changes and the evidence, requirements and steps become more and more revised, we have a responsibility to keep pace with the changes without altering our basic principles and policies. And we surely do. These include cultural diplomacy, gender mainstreaming, as well as economic diplomacy on which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has undertaken a leading role in defining an Economic Diplomacy Strategy for Cyprus for the period 2021-2031, aiming to effectively use its diplomatic network in reinforcing Cyprus’ position in the global market.
The Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Athens is a tangible example of the complex activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus. Referring to:
Firstly: The Cyprus House, the Cultural and Educational Centre of the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Greece, is a department of the Cultural Services of the Cyprus Ministry Education and Culture and since 1987 has emerged as a powerful soft power tool for Cyprus. For 30 years now, through a wide range of initiatives, synergies, programmes and events, it highlights the historical and cultural identity of Cyprus, cultivating and strengthening the close relations and meaningful dialogue between the intellectuals and creators of Cyprus and Greece.
Secondly: The Cyprus Embassy Trade Centre Athens was founded in 1983 by the Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Industry of Cyprus to highlight and promote Cyprus products and services in the Greek market. The Cyprus Embassy Trade Centre in Athens is also responsible for the countries of Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania and Montenegro.
Thirdly: The Maritime Section operates under the Shipping Deputy Ministry. Its mission is to safeguard and further develop Cyprus shipping as a safe, socially responsible and sustainable industry, for the enhancement of the national economy and the creation of new jobs, specialisation and expertise in the sector. Our Maritime Office is responsible for the implementation of policy and more specifically, among its other activities, to cooperate and provide services to companies and organisations based in Greece.
GDL: An important component of Cyprus’ agenda is the creation of mini-multilateral structures in the region, the Eastern Mediterranean, in some cases together with Greece, working to foster a network of trilateral cooperation initiatives. What is the purpose of such schemes?
KK: As I mentioned before, a key axis of our foreign policy is the composition and cooperation aimed at shaping conditions of peace, prosperity and stability in the region. We did it with great devotion and the utmost respect for our interlocutors. Those who assumed that the goal of these schemes was only economic gain through the use of energy sources were refuted by the developments.
These partnerships include all the pillars of interest of the States that make them up. Energy issues may have been the reason, but as things turned out, collaborations were based on multi-layered and solid foundations.
“I will repeat what we have been proclaiming for 46 years. Our homeland is under occupation, we are experiencing the consequences of the occupation and we, most of all, want a solution.
Of course, the passage of time adds difficulties and problems to the essence of the Cyprus issues, but it is not possible to use this as an argument to violate the principles of law and reach a bad, unsustainable and non-functional solution to the Cyprus problem.”
GDL: How is it that Turkey feels intimidated and not inclusive in these schemes? What do you answer to them?
KK: You can comprehend that your question concerns a country which illegally occupies 37% of the territory of my homeland. However, despite the on-going occupation, despite the consequences of the invasion that still weighs on our Cyprus, despite the uncompromising attitude of Turkey in the efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue for 46 years, not only did we not exclude Turkey from the groups, but instead called upon them to become part of them.
Turkey has chosen the path of isolation. Turkey chooses the route of unilateral illegal actions, turning its back in a provocative way on the prospect for dialogue on the basis of International Law and the principles of good neighbourly relations.
GDL: The Cyprus issue has deep historical roots and various internal and international dimensions. However, since the illegal Turkish invasion (July-August 1974) and the occupation of some 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, it is first and foremost an international problem of invasion and occupation in direct violation of the UN Charter and a plethora of UN Resolutions.
However some circles insist that there are new realities on the Cyprus’ problem. What is your response to this statement?
KK: I will repeat what we have been proclaiming for 46 years. Our homeland is under occupation, we are experiencing the consequences of the occupation and we, most of all, want a solution. Of course, the passage of time adds difficulties and problems to the essence of the Cyprus issues, but it is not possible to use this as an argument to violate the principles of law and reach a bad, unsustainable and non-functional solution to the Cyprus problem.
The solution to the Cyprus Question is sought through peace talks held under the auspices of the United Nations as part of the UN Secretary General’s good offices mission. The aim is to reach a comprehensive and lasting solution in accordance with the Charter and the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations, which will lead to the transformation of the unitary State into a bicommunal, bizonal federation with a single sovereignty, single citizenship and single international personality, with political equality as set out in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.
GDL: Which are the latest developments on the Cyprus Issue and what is the prospect for the resumption of meaningful negotiations for a comprehensive settlement in line with UN Security Council Resolutions, International and EU Laws?
KK: We are facing the formation of the conditions for a new effort. The less we say at this stage, the better for everyone. The important thing is that from our side we want and are ready to enter into talks. We have repeatedly stated the basis and framework that should govern this new effort. We have confidence in the Secretary General of the United Nations. He knows first-hand the declared intention and good will of our side. We all hope that they will convince Turkey to do the same. Our readiness is a given.
“Cyprus’s accession to the EU in 2004, possibly the most pivotal moment in Cyprus’s modern history and certainly one of its greatest diplomatic successes, has meant that the solution of the Cyprus Problem is inextricably linked to the EU and by extension to EU law, values and principles…
The EU’s expressed commitment to continue participating and supporting negotiations under the UN auspices is of utmost importance in this regard.”
GDL: How important is the active involvement of the EU in the negotiating process?
KK: Cyprus’s accession to the EU in 2004, possibly the most pivotal moment in Cyprus’s modern history and certainly one of its greatest diplomatic successes, has meant that the solution of the Cyprus Problem is inextricably linked to the EU and by extension to EU law, values and principles. Cyprus is and will remain a Member State of the Union following reunification.
Fully cognisant of the fact that the potential of the country can only be fully reached if the country is reunified, all efforts are exerted to support the efforts of the UNSG for the resumption of negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, in a bi-zonal bi-communal federation, fully in line with United Nations Security Council Resolutions, in line with International Law and European Law. The EU’s expressed commitment to continue participating and supporting the negotiations under the UN auspices is of utmost importance in this regard.
GDL: Greece’s position is the full withdrawal of Turkish occupation forces and the termination of the anachronistic system of guarantees of 1960, which are an integral part of an agreed, viable and comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem.
Do you anticipate an agreed solution should restore international legality, which is blatantly violated by the Turkish invasion and on-going occupation of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, a sovereign and independent State that is a Member of the UN and the EU?
KK: The solution must provide for the complete withdrawal of all foreign troops, the abolition of the anachronistic guarantee system, the withdrawal of the settlers and the guarantee of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots. It must further guarantee the unity of the State, institutions, society and the economy and must be in line with the European acquis and fully respect the principles on which the European Union is based.
We envision a free and reunited Cyprus, a common homeland of Greek-Cypriots, Turkish-Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites and Latins (Roman Catholics), a model of peaceful coexistence and prosperity of all its citizens and a pillar of stability, peace and security in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Interview by Nicolas Boutsicos
Editor, Greek Diplomatic Life