It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all this evening at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for the opening of the photographic exhibition “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Through the Years”.
Allow me to start by expressing my deep appreciation to His Excellency, the President of the Republic, Mr Nicos Anastasiades, who has kindly accepted the invitation to be with us tonight to inaugurate the exhibition. We are honoured by his presence.
I wish to also acknowledge the presence tonight of my esteemed predecessors, former Ministers of Foreign Affairs Nicos Rolandis, George Iacovou, Ioannis Kasoulides, Yiorgos Lillikas, Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis and Markos Kyprianou. I thank them warmly for being here and I pay tribute to each one of them, as well as to the former Ministers who are no longer with us ― Spyros Kyprianou, Ioannis Christophides and Alekos Michaelides ― for their invaluable contribution to the history and evolution of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an institution of the modern Cyprus State.
As you will shortly have the opportunity to see for yourselves, the photographic exhibition we are inaugurating this evening is not a conventional one. It is rather a timeline of the life and action of this Ministry in the service of the Republic of Cyprus and all Cypriots, starting from Independence in 1960 up until the end of 2017, immediately prior to the completion of the term of my predecessor. Its narrative flows from over 500 photos that have been sourced from various archives.
As you will see for yourselves, due to the nature of the issues that a Foreign Ministry traditionally handles, this timeline is linked very closely with the most crucial moments in the history of the State, making the exhibition all the more interesting. It is a visual, historical journey through the milestones in the history of the Republic of Cyprus:
The Foreign Ministry has been at the forefront of developments throughout this period and has played an active and instrumental role in shaping the destiny of Cyprus.
- from Independence and the establishment of the Foreign Service,
- to the struggle to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic on the international stage,
- to the accession of Cyprus to the great family of the European Union, and
- its transformation in recent years into a pillar of peace, security and stability in the broader region of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, and a bridge between Cyprus’s immediate region and Europe.
Indeed, the exhibition bears testament to the long way the Cyprus Foreign Service has come since its establishment in 1960:
- From the accreditation of the first seven Cypriot Ambassadors abroad in 1961, to the network of 55 Diplomatic Missions worldwide that we shall have in 2019.
- From the appointment of the first female Cypriot Ambassador in 1993, to the tens of women diplomats who have since been posted as Heads of Cyprus Diplomatic Missions all over the world.
- From a primarily monothematic foreign policy, dictated by the existential threat posed by the illegal foreign invasion and occupation, to a multifaceted, confident, outward-looking foreign policy of an EU member State, which also serves the number one goal of reunifying the island and its people. A European country at the crossroads of three continents that is the initiator of positive partnerships and networks of cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
As a former career diplomat, I consider myself extremely privileged to have been part of this journey. My first-hand experience over the past 20 years, as well as my research as a political historian, leave me with no doubt of the remarkable progress and transformation that has been achieved in the Ministry. At the heart of this transformation is the hard work, dedication and sacrifice made by the people who have worked for this Ministry throughout this period.
As Minister of Foreign Affairs, I therefore wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the Diplomats, administrative and other personnel, who have served both here at headquarters and in our Diplomatic Missions abroad throughout these years, for their outstanding contribution to their country.
Amongst the people who have served the Foreign Ministry with dignity and commitment, and who have contributed to this remarkable journey, there are many Turkish Cypriots in the early years ― as you will see when you browse the exhibition. They have served as Ambassadors, diplomats and non-diplomatic personnel, working side by side with their Greek Cypriot, Armenian, Maronite and Latin colleagues, in the service of our common country, the Republic of Cyprus. I am not old enough to have witnessed this but I remain optimistic that one day, hopefully soon, this co-existence will resume. We shall never relinquish our efforts to work towards the goal of reunifying Cyprus and its people in a functional European member state, on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and in accordance with International and European Law.
The exhibition is presented in three languages, Greek, Turkish and English, making it more broadly accessible. It will remain on display and open to the public until the end of the year, leading us into the year 2020 and the commemorations for the 60th Anniversary of the Republic of Cyprus. This is part of our policy to bring the Ministry and its every day work, closer to the public, by increasing the level of our transparency, interactivity and engagement with the public. As part of this same effort, the opening ceremony tonight is being broadcast live on the Ministry’s Facebook page.
Prior to closing, I would like to acknowledge and congratulate the small but committed team behind this exhibition that has worked for months, researching the archives, and putting the puzzles pieces that made today’s exhibition possible. I wish to specifically mention the curator, Anna Marangou, the designer Andri Andreou, as well as coordinators Demetris Samuel and Eleni Apeyitou from the Ministry, for their outstanding contribution. I thank them warmly, along with all others who have worked and contributed as members of this team.
Last but certainly not least, I wish to express my sincere appreciation to all my predecessors, all former Ambassadors and everyone else who has granted access to their personal archives for purposes of the exhibition.
With these words, I once again thank all of you for taking the time to join us on this important occasion and I hope that you will enjoy visiting the exhibition.