Statement by President Higgins following his meeting with President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades
Date: Mon 14th Oct, 2019 | 10:09
Statement to the Media
Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland
Presidential Palace, Nicosia, Cyprus
11:00 am TBC, Monday, 14th October 2019
It is an honour and a pleasure for Sabina and me to be with you here today on the occasion of this State visit by a President of Ireland to Cyprus, a visit which returns the visit by President Anastasiades and Mrs Anastasiades to Ireland in 2016, which is very fondly remembered by those of us in Ireland.
At a personal level, for some time I had hoped for the opportunity of visiting this wonderful country of which I had read so much, and an island one which has made a deep and lasting contribution to our great European civilisation.
I thank you for the warmth of your reception. Perhaps the fact that Irish people and Cypriots relate to each other so well is that, being island nations, we both place such a high value on hospitality and friendship. This has been so evident since my arrival.
My visit provides an opportunity to reaffirm the strong historic friendship that exists between Ireland and Cyprus, two island member states of the European Union with relatively small populations at diagonal opposites of our diverse continent, but with a range of shared values, experiences and prospects.
It is not only in ancient, but in contemporary times, that we share experiences. Like Ireland, Cyprus in recent times suffered a severe recession during the global financial crisis, and there is a sense that special mutual solidarity that comes from such a shared experience, as we reflect on what we experienced, and how both of our countries have emerged from these economic difficulties.
The departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union has implications for both of our peoples and we have been supportive of each other’s specific national issues.
Given our mutual experience of conflict and peace-building, Ireland has traditionally been sensitive to the challenges Cyprus faces in its ongoing search for a resolution of the Cyprus partition issue. Our sensitivity and solidarity will continue.
Ireland has supported the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cyprus over many decades. Our record of contribution to UN peacekeeping missions is something of which we are very proud, having being continuous as it has been since the earliest days of our joining the United Nations.
We understand very well in Ireland how overcoming a legacy of conflict and division is a difficult and time-consuming process, one requiring great patience and dedication but achievable with political will on all sides. The good will of others with an informed understanding in such endeavours is so valuable, and that the role of the United Nations, for example, remains central to the process of conflict resolution, and achieving reconciliation.
Knowing that Cyprus’s tireless efforts in search of a settlement will continue, Ireland will do whatever it can to be of assistance in such endeavours, in the hope for lasting peace and reconciliation on the island of Cyprus.
We will continue to support all of your efforts to reach a resolution that will ensure peace and stability for Cyprus through the establishment of an honourable, balanced and durable settlement.
The Irish and Cypriot peoples are migratory people from seafaring nations. It is no surprise that we are both forging maritime links given our shared naval histories, with your own reaching back to the Classical period.
Tomorrow I will visit the Committee on Missing Persons in the United Nations Buffer Zone which helps families to recover, identify, and return the remains of their loved-ones who went missing during the inter-communal fighting of 1963 to 1964 and the events of 1974. Ireland, which had such a task that continues is happy to support the Committee’s work.
Culture has always been important to both of our peoples and thus it is no surprise that a number of cultural events are planned for my visit. Among these, I am very much looking forward to visiting the Ancient Kourion site, and of course also to the performance of poetry and music at the Cyprus Theatre Organisation in Nicosia tomorrow.
I value the honour it is to have been invited to address the Cypriot House of Representatives on Wednesday at which I will have the opportunity to speak of the shared bonds between our two countries, as well as the shared challenges we face in tackling the multiple crises of our times - ecological, economic and social.
My visit provides an opportunity to celebrate the developing bilateral links in the marine sector between the two islands, the opportunity it gives to promote Irish culture in Cyprus and to deepen Ireland’s connection with the resident Irish community.
Finally, may I reiterate that we meet today at a time of great challenges.
In that context, it would be remiss not to express my deep concern, as President of Ireland, at which is happening in northern Syria, and the unilateral intervention by Turkey in that area.
The possibility of coercion or forced returns of refugees is an appalling one and totally unacceptable. May I also express, in the strongest terms, how any attempt at demographic change is not acceptable. I urge Turkey to seek an alternative, negotiated approach, one that rejects military intervention and its resulting humanitarian distress.
I also share the concern of Cyprus in relation to the recent arrival of drilling and prospecting off-shore. Matters of the maritime and activities at sea should be undertaken under international law and any necessary negotiations undertaken in that context.