At the outset, I would like to express my sincere respect and appreciation to Sir Stelios Hadjioannou, founder of Stelios Philanthropic Foundation, for his initiative to launch and hold these annual Awards in Cyprus.
A landmark event which takes place for the 10th consecutive year, demonstrating the way in which the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots can successfully work together towards a common purpose and a shared vision, as well as the willingness of both communities to enhance their socio-economic bonds.
Indicative of its success and of the will of Greek and Turkish Cypriots to jointly collaborate together and to build together their common future, is the fact that this year, nearly 700 applications were submitted, out of which, 50 are rewarded tonight.
This raises the total amount of money awarded by the Stelios Bi-communal Awards since 2009 to the remarkable grand total of EUR3,250,000.
The impressive outreach and success of these awards should come as no surprise: Greek and Turkish Cypriots jointly worked together for decades, proving that their common denominator, their Cypriot identity and their desire to prosper together, are strong and enduring.
And as we recognise and celebrate today your outstanding achievements, we also honour the core values and principles which all the participating bi-communal teams exemplify: the values of cooperation, creativity, hard work, vision, dedication and excellence; values which are deeply entrenched in the history of Cyprus.
My presence here today sends a clear message that the Republic of Cyprus remains sincerely committed to support such bi-communal initiatives which contribute to our efforts aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement that will end the unacceptable status quo and reunite the country, its people, the economy and institutions.
To this end, your support, as well as the support of other initiatives of the civil society, of non-governmental organisations and of the business community, towards reaching a settlement is invaluable and should be adequately acknowledged.
It is through this bottom-up approach that our peace and reunification efforts are supplemented and strengthened.
And as I have stated a recently at the UN General Assembly in New York, I am certain that you also share my concerns of the consequences of the peace process remaining at an impasse.
To this end, I wish to yet again reiterate our clear position: our side remains ready for the immediate resumption of the negotiating process based on the UN resolutions, the principles of the European Union, the convergences achieved so far, as well as the framework of the six parameters set by the UN Secretary General himself in Crans - Montana.
Our vision remains none other than to reach a viable and functional settlement that will reunite Cyprus in a truly independent state, free of any foreign dependencies, allowing all Cypriots to live in a normal state and work together for the prosperity and security of all.
A settlement which will create a win-win situation for all Cypriots, address the expectations, sensitivities and concerns of both communities and ensure mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and prosperous collaboration between all of its citizens, irrespective of their different ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.
Please allow me to take a moment and pay a well-deserved tribute to Sir Stelios Hadjiioannou. When someone creates a whole business empire at the age of just 28 years old and then receives a knighthood from Her Majesty the Queen at the age of 38 for his exceptional services to entrepreneurship, then we are referring to a role model to the younger generations, not only in Cyprus.
And this is exactly what Stelios is, a role model, a visionary businessman and an emblematic figure to the business community.
But it is his extensive charitable work that sets Stelios apart. A renowned philanthropist, pledging the majority of his wealth to charity, supporting primarily humanitarian activities in the places he lived and worked, on a series of well diversified good causes.
In concluding, I would like to once more congratulate and praise Stelios and his philanthropic foundation for upholding the values of peace and reconciliation in our island, through, amongst others, promoting island-wide cooperation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
My congratulations are also extended to all those to be awarded, who, through their joint ventures and by working together epitomise the mutual benefits of creating together a prosperous future, just as we have done so in the past.
Congratulations, once again, to each one of you! You should all be very proud of your efforts and achievements and I wish you all the best in your future endeavours. And of course, the best to our country."