The Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has renewed his promise to work from the opposition in order to help bring about a settlement to the Cyprus issue and also press the UK Government to fulfil its obligations as a guarantor power towards the island.
Attending a Famagusta Association of Great Britain dinner in north London on Sunday evening, the leader of the major opposition said: “We ’ve had the invasion, we ‘ve had the loss of life, the destruction, the partition, we ‘ve had the loss of property and the refusal of the refugees’ right to return. The Annan plan was rejected because it didn’t cover the requirements of the Cypriot people as a whole; it has to be rethought and a new plan has to be put together. It won’t work unless it is accepted by everybody and this has to be the basis on which the new plan will develop and that’s what we will be working on in opposition and hopefully in government.”
Corbyn added that there are now two tasks ahead: to politically push as hard as possible for a deepening of the dialogue between the communities in Cyprus in order to achieve a settlement that enables people to return to their homes and the “disgrace” of what’s happened to Famagusta to be righted; and also to ensure that the British government takes its responsibility towards Cyprus very seriously.
“When a country takes up a responsibility of guarantor of independence as Britain did in 1960, that is a very serious long term responsibility. We recognise that, we understand that. I want a government that bases its foreign policy on peace, on justice, on human rights, on international law… That means accepting our responsibilities, that means ensuring there is a peaceful solution to the conflicts, bringing people together and also recognising the deep injustices that were done in 1974, when that invasion took place. And if that means a difficult relationship with some big powers in order to assert our determination to uphold the rule of law and human rights, then so be it,” said Jeremy Corbyn.
He also praised the “incredible” contribution of the UK Cypriot community to London and the British society, commenting that they should feel proud of what they have been doing for Cyprus and their adopted country.
Corbyn was accompanied by his wife and other members of his family, as well as the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry. In her short address she referred to her personal relation to Cyprus, where her father lived for many years after first visiting the island as a UN peacekeeper.
She described her experience of visiting Famagusta and Varosha, where she saw a town frozen in time, fenced off from the rest of the world after the Turks “invaded”, and left to “rot” ever since. Thornberry said she understood how people feel strongly about Famagusta and that there must be a settlement for the future of Cyprus and one that properly looks at what happens with the town.
“We can never undo the injustice done to Cyprus and its people, who still live with that injustice today… But we can hope that the new generation brought up in the beautiful island of Cyprus will not have to live with the division and the injustice; we can hope that given the leadership shown by President Anastasiades they will grow up in peace and security in a united and democratic Cyprus, where we can lay to rest the grievances of the past, but we must make proper reparation for the injustices of that past, including the injustices done to the families of Famagusta,” said Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary.
“Jeremy and I will continue to support that process and we will uphold the position of the UK as a protector of peace and the guarantor of the independence of Cyprus and will continue to stand with you in the pursuit of justice,” she added.
The High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus to the UK Euripides Evriviades thanked Corbyn for his long-standing support of Cyprus and he also praised the UK-Cypriot community, describing its members as the “true ambassadors” of Cyprus.
He noted that Famagustians and Cypriots only ask for Famagusta to return to its rightful owners and for “the sun of freedom, of justice and human rights to shine across all of Cyprus and all Cypriots”.
As he commented, “all Cypriots, irrespective of their background, are not children of a lesser God” and they want “nothing more and nothing less than what other freedom-loving people enjoy”, concluding that “what is good for the rest of the 27 EU member countries would certainly be good for the 28th.”.
The Famagusta Association President Vassilis Mavrou called upon the UK Government to adopt a more “proactive” role and to exercise its right as guarantor power in order to “assist in the removal of the illegal military occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.” He stressed that the return of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants would be a confidence building measure that would facilitate a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.