Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Markoulli has protested the continuous violation of the rights of Greek Cypriots, enclaved in the island’s northern Turkish occupied areas.
Addressing an informal meeting of her EU counterparts, she said that since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, 300 Orthodox Christians and 100 Catholic Maronites live enclaved in the Republic’s northern third, occupied by Turkey, which violates their religious rights by prohibiting religious liturgies and violently terminating church services.
The meeting took place in Copenhagen Friday and Saturday.
The Foreign Minister also pointed out that 500 churches – Orthodox, Catholic, Maronite and Armenian – in the occupied areas have been completely looted and others are in danger of collapsing.
Markoulli stressed that those enclaved in Cyprus’ northern third are European citizens whose religious rights are violated by Turkey and the EU cannot remain indifferent. She pointed out that the EU must play an important role in universally promoting human rights and emphasized that such an approach should be consistent and coherent.
The Minister announced that Cyprus intends to organize a seminar on the role of women in conflict resolution and peace processes, based on the UN Security Council Resolution 1325. Participants will include Greek-Cypriots, Turkish-Cypriots, Israelis, Palestinians and other women who had a role in the developments in the Arab Spring.
As she stressed, EU enlargement policy, aiming to unite Europe, is a priority. Especially for Cyprus, she noted, relations with countries neighboring the EU are extremely important, given Cyprus’ geographic location near the Middle East and North Africa.
The EU must play an even more active role in the Middle East, Markoulli remarked, pointing out that military intervention in Syria must be avoided, since that would lead to a civil war, with very serious chances to expand in the region, beginning from Lebanon.
EU foreign ministers agreed this weekend to sharpen the focus on human rights in EU foreign policy.
Ministers discussed how to strengthen EU foreign policy in times of economic crisis. The foreign ministers also discussed current crises situations, including Syria. There was broad agreement to continue the gradual sharpening of sanctions against the Assad regime and increase the focus on the central priorities for EU Foreign policy, including targeted support for the political developments in EU’s neighbourhood and expansion of the relationship with emerging powers.
They also agreed that human rights should be the silver thread in EU foreign policy.