“Today is a fitting occasion to reflect on the long-standing friendship and enduring bonds between our two countries and peoples”
It is with great pleasure that I join you all this evening in celebrating the Birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.
First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to our hosts, the British High Commissioner and Mrs Lillie, for the kind invitation to attend this wonderful reception.
Today’s celebration of Her Majesty’s 93rd Birthday is a fitting occasion to reflect on the long-standing friendship and enduring bonds between our two countries and peoples.
Bonds which were celebrated last year on the occasion of the centenary from the end of the First World War, during which 16.000 Cypriots fought alongside their British brothers in arms. This was repeated in the Second World War, when more than 30.000 Cypriots from all ethnic backgrounds defended our shared values on democracy and achieving lasting peace.
What is also very important to stress is that our people-to-people ties constitute, without any doubt, the most dynamic aspect of our relations.
In March, I had the honour of being received by Her Majesty the Queen and attended a special event in honour of Cyprus hosted by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace, celebrating the historical ties between our two countries and the accomplishments of the Cypriot Diaspora in the United Kingdom.
And I am indeed very proud of the active Cypriot Community in the UK, the largest Cypriot community overseas with more than three hundred thousand Cypriots permanently living in the United Kingdom, many of whom have received honours from Her Majesty the Queen for their services in various sectors, such as education, arts, culture, sciences and business.
At the same time,the UK is one of the most favourite academic destinations for thousands of Cypriot students, while more than 70.000 Britons permanently reside in Cyprus and nearly one million Britons choose yearly our island as their preferred tourist destination.
In parallel, it is well-known that our economic, business and investment relationship constitute an integral and fundamental part of our partnership, with the UK being one of Cyprus’s main trading partners for both goods and services.
On the political and diplomatic fields, our relationship has been one of constant evolution, based on numerous synergies on a wide range of issues, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including as partners in the Commonwealth and at the time-being within the EU.
And I wish to stress that during these past years, when our two countries faced pressing challenges, we displayed real solidarity and support to each other.
For example, when Cyprus was under the Economic Adjustment Programme the UK provided swift assistance and shared best practices as regards the banking system and in restructuring the public sector, which has proven indispensable and is widely appreciated.
In turn, as regards Brexit, despite our small size, the fact that we have an equal voting right with all EU member-states allowed us to provide unprecedented support to Britain on numerous contested issues which arose during the relevant negotiations and discussions.
At the same time, in light of current pressing challenges or challenges which may arose in the future, this display of solidarity and friendship, based on our common values to respect on international law, should be maintained and further strengthened.
You are all aware of the latest alarming developments within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus which constitute a blatant violation of our sovereign rights and of International and EU Law.
I had the opportunity to discuss this critical matter several times with Prime Minister May and I wish to express my deep appreciation for UK’s full support and tangible solidarity with Cyprus, as clearly expressed in her letter dated May 26, 2019, through which she opposed Turkey’s planned drilling activities and fully recognised the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources.
I therefore ignore and not give attention to any statements contrary to the above by any UK Government official which might negatively affect the joint aim of further advancing our partnership.
It is not of course my intention to refer further to the tensions within our Exclusive Economic Zone, but it is a situation that, regrettably, deters our efforts to resume negotiations on the Cyprus Problem, particularly in a period when the UN Secretary General is trying to provide renewed impetus to the process, following the appointment of his Special Envoy Mrs. Jane Holl Lute.
Our side, as I have repeatedly stated, remains strongly and truly committed to the resumption of the negotiations on the six-point framework that Mr. Guterres has set as the basis for the way forward.
However, all stakeholders involved should clearly determine whether or not they have the sincere readiness to engage constructively in meaningful negotiations so as to finally establish the conditions for achieving lasting peace, allowing all Cypriots to live in a normal and independent state and closely working together for the prosperity and security of all; free from any foreign dependencies.
At the same time, in light of recent escalating provocative actions in the buffer zone, I cannot overstate the importance of maintaining a calm situation throughout the whole island. To this end, I count on your support both through your Government and the British contingents of UNFICYP, in order to avoid a deterioration of the situation which would also negatively affect the prospect of resuming negotiations.
What I would like to yet again underline in the strongest manner is our sincere commitment to reach a viable, lasting and functional settlement on the Cyprus Problem, in line with the UN Council Resolutions and the values and principles of the EU.
Although it is with deep regret that we will lose a close and valued partner within the Union, a decision by the British people that we fully respect, there is no doubt that we are now entering a new phase in our partnership.
In this regard, I wish to stress in the strongest manner that my Government and I remain committed to build upon our dynamic and constantly growing relations in new areas of collaboration and expand the traditional links shared between Cyprus and the UK. This is after all the natural path in the evolution of the deeply rooted relationship between our two countries.
At the same time, being an active member of the Commonwealth I wish to assure of our determination in implementing our joint agenda, especially in increasingly important challenges, such as: climate change, sustainable development, research and innovation, protection of cultural heritage and of the environment,
In closing, I wish to thank, once again, the High Commissioner and Mrs Lillie for the invitation to join your celebrations and for the warm hospitality.
I kindly ask you all to raise your glass for a toast to the health and happiness of Her Majesty the Queen, to the progress and prosperity of the people of the UK and to the strong friendship between our two countries.