That, in the opinion of this House, the government should support all measures leading to the demilitarization of the Republic of Cyprus in such a way as to enhance prospects for a peaceful and lasting resolution of the dispute regarding Cyprus that would benefit all the people of Cyprus and bring about an end to more than two decades of division on the island.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a saddened heart to speak about a tragedy that has endured for nearly 22 years, a tragedy which highlights the failure of the international community to find a just and viable solution to a grave injustice of this century. Just because it does not make the headlines every week does not mean the Cyprus problem is under control.
A recent shooting in the UN buffer zone of a Cypriot soldier is a clear reminder to all of us that this situation could turn into a crisis at any time.
For me, this motion represents my commitment to human rights and to the peaceful resolution of international conflicts. At a time when respect for the great principles of international law and for basic human rights is an essential requirement for a fair and stable international order, Cyprus remains an unacceptable and tragic exception.
The Cyprus problem involves the illegal occupation of a small country by a large and militarily much stronger neighbour. It involves a violation of international treaties, a systemic destruction of a cultural heritage of an ancient land with thousands of years of history and civilization, and a displacement of more than a third of Cyprus' population and the tragedy of 1,619 missing persons.
What makes the Cyprus issue a particular tragedy is that while numerous conflicts rage on around the world without a solution in sight, the Cyprus problem does have a solution that is within the reach of the international community. This is the demilitarization proposal I am introducing in the House of Commons today.
The United Nations has tried on several occasions to reconcile the two communities, but without success. Let us note the role played in the latest UN initiatives by the Right Hon. Joe Clark as special representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations from May 1993 to May 1996. Unfortunately, no agreement was reached because the Turkish side was not flexible enough. We are now at an impasse.
The continuing presence and overwhelming military strength of the Turkish occupation troops on the island, currently standing near 30,000, is perhaps one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the resolution of the Cyprus problem.
This is an alarming fact that led the United Nations secretary general to describe the occupied area of Cyprus in his December 1995 report to the security council as "one of the most highly militarized areas in the world in terms of the ratio between numbers of troops and civilian population".
This has led to the creation of unstable conditions threatening peace and security not only in Cyprus but in the wider region of the south eastern Mediterranean. Security concerns and anxieties are of crucial importance to both sides and serve to promote continued mistrust which we all know is detrimental to any solution.
What the situation requires is a solution that will take into account the security concerns of both sides, a solution that will help to restore confidence and enhance prospects for a peaceful and lasting solution to this grave problem.
The proposal by the president of Cyprus, Mr. Glafcos Clerides, for the complete demilitarization of the republic of Cyprus is such a solution. Formally submitted to the United Nations in December 1993, this comprehensive plan, if implemented, provides among other things for the disbanding of the Cypriot National Guard and
the handing over of all its arms and military equipment to substantially strengthen the UN peacekeeping force.
The money saved from defence spending would be used to fully finance this force and the remainder of the savings would be reserved for development projects to benefit both communities. This offer is conditional on the parallel withdrawal of Turkish troops and Turkish settlers from Cyprus, as also called for in the UN resolutions-there are a number of them-and the disbanding of Turkish Cypriot armed units.
If implemented, these measures leading to a reciprocal reduction of defence spending and reduction in the number of troops on Cyprus will help to restore confidence between the parties, will meet the security concerns of all parties involved and will enhance the prospects for a peaceful and lasting resolution of the dispute regarding Cyprus. These would benefit all the people of Cyprus and bring an end to more than two decades of division of the island.
Recent developments have made the resolution to the Cyprus problem an issue once again for the international community.
In fact, the European Union was to start six months after the 1996 intergovernmental conference closes, that is to say, in about two years.
As a result, Europe is getting involved more seriously in the resolution of the Cyprus problem. The European Union, the United States and Great Britain have also appointed special representatives. More than at any other time, a solution may be within reach.
The final issue I wish to address is perhaps the most pertinent for the House and its members. Why as members of Parliament should we support this? That is a question everyone will be asking today. The answer is self-evident for me: Canada's longstanding commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts and its regard for human rights violations wherever they may occur. Canadians are no strangers to the Cyprus problem, having been involved in the United Nations peacekeeping forces in Cyprus for nearly 30 years.
We have an opportunity today to lend our respected voice in the international community to bring about the successful implementation of this plan and to send a clear message that the status quo is no longer an acceptable solution.
The proposal has already received considerable support. At a meeting of the Commonwealth nations in November 1995, the heads of government, including our Prime Minister, expressed full support for the proposal by the president of the Cypriot government for the demilitarization of Cyprus. Resolutions have been passed in both the United States Senate and Congress. The European Union has also passed a resolution welcoming the proposal. Most recently, Australia and New Zealand respectively passed resolutions in support of this proposal.
Canada contributed to the United Nations peacekeeping forces in Cyprus for nearly three decades. We have not forgotten this issue nor its importance to all Canadians, in particular Canadians of Cypriot origin.
This motion will reiterate Canada's conviction that only peaceful negotiations can bring disputes to a peaceful and just resolution. Canada has shown leadership in the field of human rights and has stood firm on its commitment to respect for international law. As Canadians we can once again show leadership through the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister by supporting this motion. I invite all members on both sides of the House to support this motion. This will be our first step in finding a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem.
Why should Nicosia remain as the only divided capital city in the world? We have seen the tumbling of the Berlin wall, the commencement of a Middle East peace process. Why can we not work together as responsible members of the international community to bring an end to the Cyprus problem once and for all?
I intend to raise this matter tomorrow in the House in a question to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He has said he will support this motion and will work hard with other members of the Canada-Cyprus friendship committee of the House in order to find a viable and just solution to a problem, a tragedy, that has existed for 22 years.