Statement by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus
Ambassador Sotos Zackheos
to the General Assembly
On the situation in the Middle East

December 12, 1997

Mr. President,

My delegation associated itself with the statement of the European Union. I would like however, in view of the special significance we attach to the Middle East situation to make a few additional comments and observations. Let me say at the outset, that Cyprus's long and rich history has always been heavily influenced by developments in the Middle East. Situated at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, my country has throughout the centuries been a bridge between the peoples of the Middle East and Europe. In seeking to maintain and strengthen our ties with the European Union, with which we expect to start accession negotiations as early as next April, the promotion of our relations with all our neighbors in the Middle East remains also a significant pillar of our foreign policy.

The recent alarming developments in the Middle East have shown the precarious nature of the peace process and highlighted the imperative need to redouble the efforts for the survival and ultimate successful outcome of the process upon which millions of people, both in the region and internationally, have pinned great hopes.

My Government supports all the initiatives and efforts aiming at finding a comprehensive solution to the Middle East problem. We reaffirm our support for the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 425 which provide the framework for a viable peace in the Middle East. At the same time, we recognize the right of all States to exist in peace with their neighbors within safe and internationally recognized borders. We, therefore, denounce, in the strongest terms, terrorism and violence against innocent civilians.

On the occasion of the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Glafcos Clerides, reaffirmed our friendship with the Palestinian people and our support for the efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive settlement, bringing lasting peace and security in the Middle East.

Following with deep concern the present stalemate, we are convinced of the need that the peace process be injected with new spirit and momentum to move it out of its present difficulties. The Government of Cyprus remains committed to play its modest part in a practical way, to the enhancement of the peace process. In this regard, we express our belief that in order to have stability, the agreements between the parties should be faithfully implemented. There is no other way for stability in that sensitive region than a peaceful solution through negotiations, reconciliation, trust and cooperation.

For this to happen, it is essential to avoid measures which place obstacles to the implementation of the peace process, including the closures of Palestinian territories and the building of settlements which make it more difficult to move the peace process forward. At the same time the economic advancement of the Palestinian people remains a determining factor for stability and ultimate rapprochement in the Middle East. For this reason the Government of Cyprus prepared a special programme of economic assistance to the Palestinian people which is currently being implemented. The program includes training of around one hundred Palestinian Officials in Cyprus, follow-up visits by Cypriot experts and the building of two medical centers.

While we consider the Palestinian problem as the core issue of the Middle East conflict, we support the resumption of the negotiations between Israel and Syria and the opening of talks between Israel and Lebanon. A fundamental element of our position in the Middle East, and indeed in all situations of occupation and invasion, is the withdrawal of foreign forces from the occupied territories.

Mr. President,

The prospect of a peaceful and prosperous Middle East is a vision cherished by all. It cannot be secured by unilateral actions, violence or military build-up but by a common vision of a better future through economic progress, stability and social justice. It is the hope of my country that this dream will not be lost.

Thank you Mr. President.