Speech by the Government Spokesman Mr Konstantinos Letymbiotis at the 38th Annual PSEKA Conference
Washington DC, May 9, 2023
It is a distinct honor and pleasure to be with you today, participating in the 38th annual PSEKA conference. I could not have wished for a more meaningful introduction, during my first visit to the United States in my capacity as Government Spokesperson of the Republic of Cyprus.
Allow me first, to convey President Christodoulides’ and the Government’s deepest appreciation for the instrumental work you do for Cyprus here in the United States. Your tireless efforts have contributed in expanding and deepening the bilateral relations between Cyprus and the United States.
I stand here today to thank you for your commitment to our common cause – to reunify the Republic of Cyprus; your work empowers our efforts.
I would also like to thank the organizers of the 38th Annual PSEKA Conference, and the leadership of PSEKA for providing this opportunity to address and engage with such a special audience.
The relationship between the United States and Cyprus has reached new heights during the last few years. This, did not happen by coincidence; it was a conscious, active effort by Cyprus, facilitated by your work – your unrelenting efforts and determination to elevate the USA-Cyprus relations to a strategic level.
In this respect, let me extend our appreciation to all the distinguished members of Congress, past and present, who have contributed towards the achievement of strong bipartisan support that Cyprus enjoys and which, you can be certain, we consider as truly invaluable.
The potential in our bilateral relations is immense, and the Cyprus Government is working closely with the US Government to fulfil it.
In this context, the permanent lifting of the arms embargo will further promote our common interests, while the inclusion of Cyprus in the visa waiver program will create new avenues, especially with regards to trade, business, education, and people-to-people contacts.
At the same time, the government aims to create the necessary conditions for the development and expansion of businesses, the increase of trade and employment, the attraction of more investment, and the reskilling and upskilling of the local human capital. This new vision will be promoted through the long-term economic strategy of Cyprus “Vision 2035”.
The reforms the Government is pushing ahead will provide a series of financial tools to businesses and will broaden our economic partnership and commercial ties with a number of countries, including the United States. I would also like to mention the government’s focus on financing green initiatives to tackle climate crisis and on promoting actions to ensure a swift digital transition.
Concurrently, through the exercise of a multi-thematic, active and extroverted diplomacy, we aim to maximize the footprint of Cyprus in our neighborhood, as well as at the European and international levels. Relations with the US are certainly a core element of our foreign policy, which has a clear orientation.
Reunifying the country in a bizonal bicommunal federation through a viable solution to the Cyprus problem, in line with UN Security Council resolutions, remains the absolute priority of President Christodoulides. A solution to the Cyprus problem will not only unlock the full potential of Cyprus but will also have a beneficial ripple effect in the Eastern Mediterranean, a region of vital importance to both EU and US.
For more than a year, the focus of the international community has been the illegal invasion in Ukraine. Cyprus, from the very beginning, took a principled stance and continues to support Ukraine. How could we not?
For the past 49 years, we Cypriots know first-hand what an illegal invasion and occupation is:
49 years, of an open wound,
49 years of pain,
49 years of displacement,
49 years of people not knowing the fate of their loved ones.
The presence of the President and representatives of the Occupied Municipalities, representatives of the Occupied Communities Committee and the Missing Persons’ Committee, reminds us of the need for a functional and viable solution to the Cyprus problem that will reunite the country, its people and its social fabric.
It goes without saying, that President Christodoulides has set the Cyprus problem at the top of his agenda. He is fully aware of what is at stake if a settlement is not reached. He will spare no effort to resolve the Cyprus problem.
President Christodoulides introduced an initiative, aiming for the EU to assume a more decisive and leading role – always under UN auspices – in restarting and effectively assisting the negotiations. The EU currently has the toolbox that can provide tangible incentives for all parties, through a gradual and mutually beneficial process. The latest visits of the President and those that are already in the pipeline are in this respect significant.
It is our strong conviction that a reunified Cyprus will benefit not only Cyprus and its people, but also the wider region – including Turkey – the EU and our allies.
We are working with our partners and allies so that Turkey abandons its unacceptable position for a “two states” solution, that is a non-starter not only for us, but for the EU and the US.
Equally important is the issue of Varosha. If completed, the opening of the fenced area of Varosha would have a devastating effect on efforts to reach a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem.
Our goal is to resume negotiations from where they were left off at Crans Montana, to achieve a comprehensive solution in line with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and EU law.
A viable and comprehensive solution will result in the evolution of the Republic of Cyprus into a federal – functional state, without anachronistic guarantee systems and obsolete external dependencies. A solution that will ensure the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Cyprus, as a fully functionable EU member state.
Both the President and the people of Cyprus acknowledge that the status quo is not viable, not only for the Cypriot people but also for the EU and the region. This cannot be the future of Cyprus and surely it cannot be the inheritance of the generations to come.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the horrible summer of 1974, we have an obligation towards our ancestors and history, but more significantly towards our descendants to enable them to live in a free, unified, European country.
I stand here before you, at age of 38, never having lived in a free and peaceful Cyprus, but in a country – divided.
We send a message towards our Turkish Cypriot compatriots that a viable solution can be achieved – a common future can be prosperous.
On this day, we celebrate the reunification of Europe. The most successful peace project in history. Democracy, the respect of human rights, the prevalence of the rule of law and solidarity are the cornerstones of the European foundation.
The people of Cyprus deserve to enjoy living in a reunified country, with the same rights.
Let us be inspired by the vision of the founding fathers of the European Union, which is our family – our common home.
Let us work together to have peace, hope, and prosperity – instead of division, fear, and insecurity. As JFK said “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate”.
On behalf of the Government and the people of Cyprus, I want to express our most sincere appreciation for the active and positive role that the United States has maintained within the Security Council on the Cyprus problem, as well as for the efforts towards reunification. We count on US support and on you conveying this message, as we work to resume negotiations for a comprehensive settlement.
In conclusion, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States, Mr. Marios Lysiotis, who is preparing to return to Cyprus for his retirement.
On behalf of the government and the people of Cyprus, thank you, Ambassador, for your unwavering commitment and dedication, and all the valuable work you have carried in many postings but especially here in Washington. Efforts that have crucially contributed to the further strengthening of the relations between our country and the United States of America.
I am also deeply thankful to PSEKA and the co-host groups, the Federation of Cypriot-American Organizations, AHEPA, AHI, HALC, HANC, the Cyprus-US Chamber of Commerce, and all diaspora organizations, as well as our American friends for inviting me to this event and for taking ties with the USA to new heights.
The role of diaspora in bolstering the strategic partnership with Washington is pivotal. President Christodoulides conveys his heartfelt appreciation for the important work you do; and wishes to enhance our collaboration even more.
In this vein he recently announced his intension to appoint a Commissioner exclusively for diaspora affairs.
We are at a pivotal moment in our history. As our diaspora expands and develops, nurturing and sustaining connections with Cyprus, will empower our youth to continue working together to promote our national aspirations towards a secure and prosperous country.
William Ralph Emerson on his poem “A Nation’s strength” indicates where the true strength of a nation lies.
“Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;As we stand here today, we indeed feel that our nation is great, not defined by our size, but by our people, home and abroad.
Diaspora, “Omogeneia” is the pillar on which we can rely – and dear friends, today Cyprus needs you, perhaps more than ever before.
Let’s work together for our country, until this convention will be held in the shores of Famagusta and Kyrenia. In the shores of a free – unified – peaceful country.
Men who for truth and honor's sake
Stand fast and suffer long.
Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky”.