BY MINOAS VITALIS, Europe Editor
On Monday 29th October, students at the University of York had the opportunity to meet and listen to S&D MEP Costas Mavrides speaking on the possibility of reaching a settlement in Cyprus within the EU framework.
The MEP began by explaining that he will not discuss the historical background of the occupation and will not assign fault. Both sides of the issue have made mistakes in the past and must be united by the prospect that Cyprus can once again become a unified island. A reunified Cyprus must be an independent Cyprus working for the benefit of all its citizens, irrespective of their descent, and must not be under the thumb of Erdogan’s authoritarian regime.
Mavrides provided some vital facts to consider when discussing the Cypriot issue. Firstly, the entire island is part of the European Union even the northern part which is currently occupied by an illegal secessionist entity acting under the guidance of Turkey. Secondly, that most people living in the occupied areas in the north are settlers and not Turkish Cypriots. Finally, that Turkey has strategic geopolitical goals in the area which are hindering the negotiations between Cypriot President Anastasiades and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.
It is clear that Turkey is using as a pretext the interests of the Turkish Cypriots in order to intervene in the island whenever it deems necessary, controlling the natural resources that belong to the Republic of Cyprus and the Cypriot people. Turkish involvement can be seen in the numerous violations of the Cypriot EEZ by the Turkish navy and in the existence of more than 30000 Turkish soldiers in the island.
Mavrides argues there has been a total failure of international law with regards to the Turkish occupation and the influx of settlers from mainland Turkey into the occupied areas. He questioned why sanctions have not been imposed on Turkey by the EU when they have been imposed on Russia for invading Crimea. He again stressed the fact that numerous legally binding decisions of the UN Security Council in support of the Republic of Cyprus have not been enforced. He suspects that Turkish involvement in Syria, the situation in Iraq, the refugee crisis and Turkish membership in NATO might be some of the reasons why the international community has not enforced numerous decisions in support of the Republic of Cyprus. His response is for tougher EU sanctions and greater EU-wide security cooperation.
It would have been understandable if Mavrides, who grew up in a now occupied village in northern Cyprus, advocated for a more forceful response to the issue, but above all, he wants to see a diplomatic solution which takes into account the interests of all Cypriots, and one that sees a tougher EU response.