Successful British Turkish Cypriots were among the guests at a Buckingham Palace event hosted by Prince Charles to “celebrate the Cypriot diaspora in the UK”.
Baroness Hussein-Ece, artist Tracey Emin, businessman and Dragon’s Den star Touker Süleyman, lawyer Emma Edhem and former British Ambassador to Iceland Alp Mehmet attended the glitzy do.
Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his wife Andri and prominent British Greek Cypriots such as Lord Adonis, ex-Dragon’s Den judge Theo Paphitis and Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous were also there.
A delegation of South Cyprus officials were present too, including Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides and High Commissioner to the UK Euripides Evriviades.
There was no official representation, however, from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which the UK does not recognise as a separate state.
In a speech at the reception, held on Monday evening, 4 March 2019, the Prince of Wales said that it gave him the “greatest possible pleasure” to “celebrate the British Cypriot community, and the indispensable contribution that people of Cypriot descent make to the life of this country and across the Commonwealth”.
“I could hardly be more delighted that so many of you have come to Buckingham Palace this evening to demonstrate our shared pride in everything that binds us together – British and Cypriot, of whatever heritage,” he said.
The heir to the throne continued: “Over the years, the tides of history brought us ever closer together, and in the years following the First World War, during which Cypriot servicemen fought with great courage, more and more Cypriots came to these shores as well.
“Their numbers increased after the Second World War, during which, once again, Cypriot men and women stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us in defence of our shared values.”
There was no mention in the Prince’s speech, however, of the hundreds of British servicemen killed at the hands of Greek Cypriot EOKA terrorists – who demanded the island be handed over to Greece – in the 1950s, after which the UK granted Cyprus its independence.
The Prince of Wales drew laughter from the guests when he compared Margate – where Tracey Emin was raised – and Southend to the South Cyprus party resort of Ayia Napa.
“I am told that some early British Cypriot communities were established in seaside towns such as Southend and Margate, which I can only imagine were the closest thing they could find in this country to Ayia Napa!” he joked.
Prince Charles also paid a “special tribute” to President Anastasiades for his “leadership” on “global challenges which affect as all”.
The reception included an exhibition of maps of Cyprus dating back to the 1870s and Bronze Age artefacts from the island.
“I truly hope that one day we will be able to exhibit them in a reunited Cyprus,” Mr Anastasiades said in his speech.
Asked to comment on the reception by T-VINE, guest Alp Mehmet, a retired diplomat who became the first person born abroad to become a British ambassador in 2004, said:
“It was kind of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to invite those of us originating from Cyprus’s Turkish community to last Monday’s splendid reception at Buckingham Palace.
“I believe there were also others hailing from the Armenian and Maronite communities.
“No doubt this reflected the fact that Cyprus has since time immemorial been a multi-ethnic island and not simply a Greek island with a sprinkling of minorities, of which the Turks happened to be the largest.
“If Cyprus’s political leadership would only also accept this basic principle of equality and embrace a degree of flexibility, we could perhaps begin to look forward to some sort of long-term, sustainable, resolution to the never-ending Cyprus problem.”
Writing on Twitter Baroness Hussein-Ece, the first person of Turkish Cypriot heritage to become a member of the House of Lords, said: “It was a pleasure to attend this reception which celebrated our shared heritage, & hear the Prince of Wales give an extremely sensitive & inclusive speech. #Cyprus #BritishCypriots.”
Ms Edhem, who successfully represented Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a libel action against the Daily Telegraph in 2011, also took to Twitter.
“Super evening at Buckingham Palace by generous invitation of HRH the Prince of Wales and as a guest of His Excellency the High Commissioner of Cyprus,” she wrote.
“Enjoyed meeting the President of Cyprus, Tracey Emin, Touker Suleyman and many more friends.”
The Cyprus High Commissioner to the UK Mr Evriviades told T-VINE, “the Cyprus Celebration event hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace brought together Cypriots that live, work and contribute to the British society, business, arts, culture, science, education, media and politics.
“It showcased the diversity of our homeland as well as its significant contribution to the diversity and multiculturalism of the United Kingdom. It was a true celebration of the island of Cyprus, its rich history, its contribution to the Commonwealth as well as a token of appreciation for the entire Cypriot Diaspora in the UK”.
The unprecedented “Celebration of Cyprus” reception was organised as part of a four-day visit to Britain by Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, as the guest of the British Government.
It happened to coincide with the 55th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 186, passed on 4 March, 1964, which effectively recognised the Greek Cypriots as the “Government of Cyprus” – and hailed the start of the Turkish Cypriots’ isolation from the international community.
A statement from the British High Commission in Cyprus described the visit by Mr Anastasiades as the “highest level visit ever by a Cypriot President to the UK”.
Mr Anastasiades also met Prince William and Prime Minister Theresa May and was granted the honour of a private audience with the Queen.
It is believed to be the first time that a Cypriot leader – Greek or Turkish – has had a private conversation with the British monarch.
The one-to-one meetings last approximately 20 minutes. No written transcript or recording is made.
Top photo: Prince Charles talks to Cosh Omar at Celebrating Cyprus, Buckingham Palace, 4 March 2019. Photo © Tas Anasti