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Congressman Mike Bilirakis’ important statement on House floor in opposition to Annan Plan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
April 21, 2004—No.31 (202) 785-8430

Congressman Mike Bilirakis’ important statement on House floor in opposition to Annan Plan

WASHINGTON, DC—The AHI brings to your attention the following statement which was made on the House floor on April 21, 2004 by U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R-FL), Co-Chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus. The American Hellenic Institute commends Congressman Bilirakis for his compelling and substantive statement in opposition to the "unbalanced and biased" nature of the fifth and final version of the Annan Plan. The full text of Congressman Bilirakis’ statement follows:

The Honorable Michael Bilirakis
Special Order Regarding the Annan Plan for Cyprus

April 21, 2004

"Mr. Speaker, for all of my 22 years in Congress I have constantly and loudly proclaimed the need for a peaceful reunification of the Republic of Cyprus. That unification must be just and balanced.

Thus, I rise here today to voice my serious concerns with the Annan Plan for the reunification of Cyprus. I believe that the final version of the plan which was submitted on March 31, 2004, is unbalanced and biased against the Greek-Cypriots. While I understand that the final decision is to be determined by the Cypriot people this Saturday, I would like to stress my concerns with the plan.

There are a number of provisions in the Annan plan that do not alleviate the basic fears of the Greek-Cypriot community. These concerns were not appropriately resolved and may very well lead the Greek-Cypriots to reject the Annan plan.

Security is a major concern for both communities. Although previous versions of the Annan plan called for the complete withdrawal of Greek and Turkish forces once Turkey joins the European Union (EU), the final version of the Annan plan provides for an indefinite presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus. According to the plan, the number of troops will gradually decrease to 650 over a period of fourteen years. However, their continuing presence and intervention rights would make a full and genuine independence of Cyprus impossible.

The Annan plan provides for the continuation of the Treaty of Guarantee. This treaty gives the guarantor powers (Turkey, Greece, United Kingdom (UK)) the right to unilaterally intervene in order to preserve the "constitutional order" of the United Cyprus Republic and its constituent states. However, the Annan plan fails to specifically clarify that this treaty does not authorize military intervention. It is a critical point because Turkey insists that it will continue to have the right to intervene militarily in Cyprus. This Turkish arrogance increases the Greek-Cypriot fear of a repetition of the 1974 invasion and its tragic consequences.

The United Nations (UN) Secretary General's plan would significantly alter the demographic character of Cyprus by permitting the vast majority of approximately 115,000 Turkish settlers, who are now illegally in Cyprus, to stay in Cyprus. More specifically, the plan provides that 45,000 of the settlers from Turkey will automatically become citizens of the United Cyprus Republic. In addition, it gives the right to a large number of settlers to remain in Cyprus as permanent residents and after four years to apply for Cypriot citizenship. Through this arrangement, Turkey will be able to considerably influence internal decision making of the United Cyprus Republic.

The Annan plan sets complicated and restrictive provisions regarding the right of Greek-Cypriot refugees to return to their homes in the north. More specifically, for those Greek-Cypriots who wish to return and permanently live in the Turkish-Cypriot Constituent State or TCCS, a restrictive moratorium of six years will be implemented. For the first 19 years or until Turkey's accession to the EU, the number of Greek-Cypriots who wish to permanently live in the TCCS will not be able to exceed 18 percent of its total population. After that time period, they will not be able to exceed 33.3 percent of the total population of the TCCS. This restriction will be permanent.

The Annan plan establishes a system based on permanent ethnic division, while denying fundamental democratic rights to a segment of the population. The Greek-Cypriots who will be permanently living in the TCCS and have its internal citizenship status, will not have the right to participate in the elections for its 24 representatives in the federal Senate.

Additionally, the Annan plan fails to provide the necessary guarantees regarding the timely return of territories in the northern part of the island to the Greek-Cypriot Constituent State or GCCS. On numerous occasions, I have expressed concerns that while in the transitional period, these territories should be under the control of the United Nations to ensure that the process of returning this land is irreversible. Currently, the language in the plan makes their return dependent upon the good will of Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots since they will maintain control of those territories.

On the issue of property rights, the Annan plan allows for one-third restitution and two-thirds compensation for property owned in the north by Greek-Cypriots who will be losing the use of their properties. The funds for the restitution will be guaranteed by the Federal State. However, nine-tenths of the Federal State's resources will derive from Greek-Cypriots and the remainder from Turkish-Cypriots. This means that the Greek-Cypriots will be paying for, to a large extent, their own loss of property.

In addition, compensation for the property will have to be paid by the constituent states. This means that Greek-Cypriot refugees will have to request compensation from the Greek- Cypriot Constituent State. Again, Greek-Cypriot taxpayers, who were the victims of the invasion, will be paying for their own loss of use of property.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to state that the Greek-Cypriots are asked to "trust" the Turkish government and to "have faith" that the Turkish-Cypriot leaders will keep their promises. The problem is that since 1974, neither the leaders of the government of Turkey, nor Mr. Denktash, has ever given the Greek-Cypriots any reason to trust them.

Each side will decide whether the plan would be beneficial for them and for the future of their children. Even though both sides knew they were not going to get everything they wanted, each side was guaranteed a fair plan and one that would be immediately functional. Unfortunately, I do not believe the Annan plan is balanced and we should not be surprised if the Greek-Cypriot people do not support it.

The Cypriot people hold the future in their hands. During this difficult time, it would be inexcusable for foreign governments or organizational heads to exert excessive pressure or to issue ultimatums to the people and President of Cyprus to vote one way or the other. They must be free of pressure and free to vote with their conscience.

If the plan is voted down, it would be an indication that the Greek-Cypriots, whose country suffered an illegal invasion in 1974, and a community which has for three decades advocated for a settlement, felt that they would be giving up far more than they would be gaining. And that cost is just too high."

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For additional information, please contact Vivian Basdekis at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information on AHI, see our Web site at www.ahiworld.org.