By Kyriacos Kyriacos-Nicosia
Cyprus celebrates today its independence from the British. The anniversary was celebrated with school parades in all cities and a military parade in capital Nicosia.
In the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) and the Congress of Berlin, the island was leased to the British Empire, which de facto took over its administration in 1978( though, in terms of sovereignty it remained an Ottoman territory until 1914, in exchange for guaranntees that British would see the island, mostly inhabited by Greeks, as a base to protect the Ottoman Empire against prossible Russian aggression.
The island served Britain as a key military base for its routes, to its strategical position, a cross way to three continents. The island was declared independent on the 1st October 1960, after a four year (1955-59) anti-colonial struggle. The Republic of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied 37% of the island`s territory.
Two British bases remain in island, which are currently used in the air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq.
Greek Minister Minister of National Defence of Greece Demetris Avramopoulos represented the Greek government in the military parade which took place this morning in capital Nicosia.
Memorandum for crisis
Cyprus and Greece signed a joint Memorandum of Crisis Management which provides for the strengthening of the cooperation between the two states in the field of defence.
The Memorandum was signed by the Minister of Defence Christoforos Fokaides and the Minister of National Defence of Greece Demetris Avramopoulos.
In statements after the meeting, Fokaides said that the Memorandum was signed with the aim to strengthen the two countries` defence cooperation for the safeguarding of their territorial integrity and the protection of their sovereignity.
The Memorandum, he went on to say, provides for the exchange of information, the coordination of the actions of the crisis management services and measures for joint actions.
Fokaides said that the Memorandum is an additional tool for the deepening of the close cooperation which exists between the two countries in the areas of defence and security.
Cyprus and Greece, the Cypriot Minister stressed, are countries of stability, security and democracy in the wider region and have an extremely important and upgraded role to play for regional security.
The two countries, he went on to say, join forces in the common struggle against any threat for their security, the democratic societies and the modern civilisation.
In his statements, the Greek Minister of National Defense said that the agreement signed today does not have any aggressive purposes.
“On the contrary, it contributes to the creation of a safety environment”, he said, noting that the defence systems of Greece and Cyprus, appart from the purpose of protecting and ensuring the integrity and independence of Greece and Cyprus, respectively, can serve other common European purposes.
Referring to the meeting he had earlier with President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades, Avramopoulos said they spoke about the Cyprus problem and the developments in the region “which upgrade and strengthen the geostrategic and geopolitical role of Cyprus”.
He also said that Cyprus` defence system is modern and efficient and is ready to respond to any challenge.
Papoulias and Samaras pledge Greece’s support
The President and Prime Minister of Greece, have pledged that cooperation with Cyprus constitutes the cornerstone of Greece’s policy on its top national issue, the Cyprus problem.
In messages of congratulations to President Nicos Anastasiades on the occasion of Independence Day on October 1st of the Republic of Cyprus, Karolos Papoulias said that “the continuous cooperation and full coordination with the sister Republic of Cyprus constitute the cornerstone of Greece’s policy on our top national issue, the Cyprus problem”.
He added that “our common goal is the termination of the Turkish occupation and Turkish colonization, the restoration of the right of all refugees to return to their homes and properties, and the finding of a comprehensive solution on the basis of the decisions of the UN and the capacity of Cyprus as an EU member state’.
In his message, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stated that “40 years after the Turkish invasion and the imposition of the occupation regime, the solution of the Cyprus problem, with respect to the international law, the fundamental human rights and the acquis communautaire, remains a continuing demand of the entire Hellenism”.
In this framework, Samaras added, “the Greek Government strongly supports the intensive efforts for a just and viable solution.”
“Strong partnership” with US
The US remains fully committed to supporting efforts for the reunification of Cyprus into a bizonal, bicommunal federation, US Secretary of State John Kerry notes in a congratulatory message on the occassion of Cyprus’ Independence Day.
He also underlined “the strong partnership between our two countries”, which as he said is “also reflected in the growing economic, cultural, and educational exchanges between our citizens”.
President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades has expressed his determination to work hard for a peaceful solution to the Cyprus problem, which is the unification of the divided island.
The President, who received on Wednesday in Nicosia the salute of the military parade for Cyprus’ Independence Day, said he was proud of the Cypriot armed forces, expressing at the same time hope that the necessary conditions are created so that the armed forces will never have to intervene.