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Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) Commends President Tassos Papadopoulos on “New U.N. Initiative for Cypriot Reunification”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
March 16, 2006—No. 15 (202) 785-8430

Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) Commends President Tassos Papadopoulos on “New U.N. Initiative for Cypriot Reunification”

WASHINGTON, DC—On March 9, 2006, Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) spoke on the Senate floor and commended the President of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos “for promoting a new U.N.-sponsored initiative to resolve the division of the island of Cyprus.” Please find the text of her important statement below.

NEW U.N. INITIATIVE FOR CYPRIOT REUNIFICATION—(Senate - March 09, 2006)

Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, I rise today to commend the President of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, for promoting a new U.N.-sponsored initiative to resolve the division of the island of Cyprus. Cyprus has been divided for more than 30 years, following a 1974 invasion by Turkey. The time is ripe for resolving this longstanding split, and I applaud President Papadopoulos for taking the initiative to end the division.

On February 28, 2006, President Papadopoulos met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and proposed that the U.N. appoint a special envoy for Cyprus to lay the groundwork for negotiations to end the division of Cyprus. President Papadopoulos also proposed a number of cross-community confidence-building measures to strengthen the foundation for reunification. After the meeting, Secretary-General Annan and President Papadopoulos issued a joint statement agreeing on the resumption of bicommunal discussions on the technical aspects necessary to prepare the ground for full peace negotiations.

There have been significant developments in Cyprus over the past 2 years that make this the right time for reunification. Nearly 2 years ago, Cyprus joined the European Union, and in that time, the Government of Cyprus has promoted the opening up of several crossing points through the U.N.-patrolled cease-fire line. As a result, the Government of Cyprus has transformed the everyday realities on Cyprus to that unlike any other divided nation.

Unlike other divisions with which my colleagues may be familiar, such as East and West Berlin, the people of Cyprus are able to cross the dividing line to visit their ancestral lands, work, and shop. Indeed, since the opening of crossing points, there have been more than 9 million incident-free crossings. Every day, more than 10,000 Turkish Cypriots cross from the occupied territory to the government-controlled area to work. This increased economic activity and trade across the dividing line has contributed in more than doubling the per-capita income of the Turkish-Cypriots in the past 2 short years.

As confidence building measures, President Papadopoulos has proposed to take additional steps to build on the gains of the past 2 years. The Government of Cyprus has already proposed the reopening of the occupied Port of Famagusta and the return of the adjacent city of Varosha to its original inhabitants; a ``ghost'' city that has been abandoned since the 1974 Turkish invasion. Famagusta would operate under the joint administration of the two communities, bringing the two communities closer together, and also under the EU's regulatory auspices, enhancing trade opportunities. President Papadopoulos has also proposed to open additional crossing points to make travel and trade between the two communities easier.

Last week, the European Union announced economic aid to the Turkish Cypriots of 139 million eurodollars--approximately $165 million. The Government of Cyprus had pushed strongly for this aid, despite unfortunate attempts by others to attach preconditions and political stipulations to its release. This aid from the EU further demonstrates the positive effect of Cyprus's EU membership on the prospects for reunification.

I applaud the steps that the Government of Cyprus and President Papadopoulos have taken to encourage a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus division. His meeting with Secretary-General Annan is a positive first step toward the resumption of reunification negotiations. On Cyprus today, the two communities are closer together than at any time since the invasion. Although prior reunification efforts have failed, the developments of the past 2 years offer the greatest prospect for a peaceful and lasting solution to the division.

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For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or [email protected]. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.