Are we really doing enough for everything happening today in the world, specifically in the Ukraine? An ongoing invasion and occupation, this is what it is.
At the same time, an unspeakable humanitarian crisis has been unfolding for nine months in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Thousands of people (until now about 50,000), exhausted, malnourished, and terrified, are queuing up in a mass exodus to Armenia to flee, fearing ethnic cleansing.
What have we done to stop another humanitarian crisis that awakens memories of a traumatic past for the Armenian nation? Obviously, not enough, if nothing.
We ought to stand by the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh as we firmly stand by the people of Ukraine, and we rightly do so.
Are we doing enough for this brutality that the world is experiencing?
Military aggression and flagrant international law and human rights violations constitute a brutal assault against our rules-based multilateral system.
Our resolve in the name of these principles must be unconditional and free of double standards, irrespective of who the aggressor is, in this case, Azerbaijan, as is Russia in the case of Ukraine, and Turkey in the case of my country, Cyprus.
Let’s speak clearly. All these wars had the same nature but not the same response.
Let’s be honest between us. They are even using the same rhetoric.
Let’s talk about neutrality.
For justice to prevail, the crimes committed in Ukraine by Russian forces need to be addressed as crimes against humanity against what we are fighting for.
In Reykjavik, the Council of Europe took the lead in establishing the Register of Damages, a milestone in our efforts to ensure accountability by Russia for all the harm done to Ukraine.
Cyprus demonstrated from the very first moments its strong solidarity towards Ukraine. It will continue to do so at any cost, towards the heroic people of Ukraine through words but also deeds.
This was for Cyprus, above all, a matter of principle because we know what it means.
We know as a result of the Turkish invasion of 1974 and 49 years of continuing occupation of 36% of its territory.
Above all, we are suffering daily provocations by Turkey. I have already briefed the presidents of the parliaments of Council of Europe member states of the latest violent incident in the buffer zone near Pyla against the British peacekeeping soldiers.
We know all too well what living under the threat of an autocratic neighbour means. Yet, the international community’s response has not been analogous vis-à-vis Turkey.
Cyprus is too small to be divided, so we are calling on Turkey to sit at the table of negotiations, abandon the ridiculous rhetoric about a “two-state” solution and proceed with the agreed framework in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations.
Might is not right when international legality is violated.
Ukraine must not become another frozen conflict, which is why I am saying what is happening in my country after 49 years.
It is also imperative that we take urgent action to alleviate the suffering of the victims of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The violations of children’s rights are alarming. Ukrainian women are exposed to a multitude of threats, including sexual violence and human trafficking.
Are we doing enough?
They need our continued support, and Ukraine will have our support. Gender-sensitive policies can greatly contribute to strengthening the social fabric of Ukrainian society and, thereby, to reconstruction efforts.
Agreeing to a roadmap to support Ukraine’s resilience-building and reconstruction must remain a top priority. Supporting Ukraine’s European aspirations is essential in this respect.
The signing by several national parliaments, including the Cyprus House of Representatives, of memoranda of understanding with the Verkhovna Rada provides a useful framework of cooperation for promoting institutional capacity building and good governance while making society more inclusive for women, youth, and other underrepresented groups.
Legislation, initiatives, cooperation, good governance. The international community needs to continue supporting Ukraine’s reconstruction efforts.
And at the same time, we must devote all our energy to effectively stop the war in Ukraine.
We must also put an end to Azerbaijan’s aggression in Armenia and Turkey’s illegal and expansionist claims in Cyprus.
So, are we doing enough? And if we really want to pass from the rhetoric to actions, let’s be honest and give hope for justice to prevail.
Address by Annita Demetriou, President of the House of Representatives at the European Conference of Presidents of Parliaments of the Council of Europe