Madame President,

From the outset I would like to congratulate you, , and all the members of the Bureau, on your well-deserved election. We can assure you of our determination to work closely with you and all other delegations in a collective effort to succeed in realizing the lofty objectives of this World Conference.

At the same time, Madame President, I would like to express our gratitude to the Government of South Africa for undertaking the very difficult task of hosting this Conference and for the extremely warm and generous welcome extended to us.
I would also like to express our appreciation to the Secretary General of the Conference Mrs Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, for her tireless and determined guidance during the long preparatory process leading to the convening of the World Conference.

Madame President,

It is indeed significant that a conference that focuses on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance takes place at the dawn of the 21St century in Africa, the continent whose people were subjected to the most abhorrent practices of racial discrimination and oppression. The continent whose people experienced slavery in the context of the slave trade, a practice that casts shame on a civilization which tolerated or even embraced it. Where colonialism manifested its ugliest face and in which its negative consequences, as in many other parts of the world, are still obvious.

It is even more symbolic that this conference takes place in South Africa, the country whose people having experience the dehumanizing policies of apartheid in a racist state, fought a long and heroic struggle that culminated in the defeat of apartheid and the victory and freedom of its people.
Cyprus, throughout its history of ten millennia and to this very day has not been immune from these abhorrent practices and dehumanizing policies that stain the history of human civilization.

The people of Cyprus have experienced through the millennia the evils of colonialism, massive violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, military invasions and ethnic cleansing. Since 1974, the United Nations and other international bodies have adopted scores of resolutions calling for:

--The termination of the foreign military occupation of the northern part of the island that separates the people of Cyprus on a racial basis.

--Respect for the demographic character of the island that is being altered through the illegal importation of tens of thousands of colonists

--Respect of the human rights of the Cypriots, which are massively violated due to the foreign occupation.

Only recently, the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in its observations to the periodic report of Cyprus, inter alia, reaffirmed "the importance of putting an end to the foreign occupation of Cyprus so that all human rights and freedoms will be enjoyed by all Cypriots, irrespective of their ethnic origin..... in particular the rights to freedom of movement and residence, and to own property throughout Cyprus" (Decision1(59), Doc. CERD/C/59/Misc.19, 13 August 2001)

As a result of our own historical experience, we feel very strongly about the need to bridge the gap between declarations and practical measures, between intensions and actions. This is why we believe that the two main documents of this conference, the Declaration and the Program of Action are equally important, interdependent and mutually complimentary. The value of the two documents will depend on how we can transform into concrete action the principles and values we adopt.

We believe that compliance and accountability, honouring the commitments we enter into, reestablishing the rule of law where and when it is violated, and holding to full account those responsible for these violations, are of vital importance for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Madame President,

We are gathered here today, the nations and peoples of the world, as one family, sharing the same fundamental values of equality, liberty, democracy, human dignity, justice and tolerance. We are here not only to confront the past, but primarily to ensure that the future will not allow any repetition of the sins of the past. This conference provides us a timely opportunity to join forces in order to achieve that.

We are here this week to agree on the best practical ways of ensuring full respect to these values. Our goal may be rather ambitious and our success will depend on our collective effort and determination to achieve consensus on the substance as much as on the language of our documents, in which we shall consider the past and chart our future course of action.

With a sense of collective responsibility that is indispensable for the success of this Conference, let us fulfill the vision of making this a Conference of actions and not just words. A Conference that can shape and embody the spirit of the new century, based on the shared conviction that we are all members of one human family.

Thank you, Madame President

28 August 2001