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Comments of Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on March 18, 2006 at AHI’s Annual Awards Dinner
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
March 20, 2006—No. 17 (202) 785-8430

Comments of Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on March 18, 2006 at AHI’s Annual Awards Dinner:

  1. Commended President Tassos Papadopoulos for his initiative in meeting with Secretary General Kofi Annan to restart talks to bring a resolution to the Cyprus problem and for their joint communiqué.
  2. Welcomed the fact that the joint communiqué “specifically mentioned the goal of the demilitarization of the island.”
  3. Called Turkey’s refusal to cooperate with the UN “unfortunate.”
  4. Stated that “It’s important for Turkey and others to understand that the original Kofi Annan plan is dead.”
  5. Stated that “If we’re going to be promoting democracy we have to honor the verdicts of people when they vote…” and “should not punish people for exercising their right to vote.” The Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan Plan by a vote of 76 percent.
  6. Stressed the importance of the rule of law for U.S. interests and that we must uphold the rule of law and international agreements regarding Cyprus.

WASHINGTON, DC—On March 18, 2006 Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) was presented with the American Hellenic Institute’s National Public Service Award at the AHI 31st Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner.

In his acceptance remarks, Congressman Van Hollen thanked the AHI and its founder Gene Rossides for the many years of hard work in support of U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus. “Gene has always had the courage of his conviction, someone who has always stood for principle in international relations and somebody who has time and time again reinforced the importance of the rule of law in international relations. Something we all need a big reminder of these days.”

Please find below the important text of his remarks that specifically address the public policy issues relating to U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus.

Excerpts of Remarks of Congressman Chris Van Hollen

March 18, 2006

At the AHI’s 31st Anniversary Awards Dinner

Capital Hilton Hotel

“One of the things I feel strongly about as a nation is that we do need to rededicate ourselves in international relations to the rule of law. I believe that as a nation we had a great opportunity out of the tragedy of September 11th. Because after that terrible tragedy the world rallied behind the United States. The United Nations unanimously passed a resolution condemning the attacks on the United States. NATO for the first time in its history invoked the article of the Charter that said an attack on one country is an attack on all. Yet if you look around the world today that great support that we had has evaporated, and I think we need as a country to get back to many of our earlier roots in the area of foreign policy. We need to understand that the rule of law is not an ‘a la carte’ selection. You can’t pick and chose when you are going to abide by international law.

I must say for our Ambassadors who are representing the United States overseas I really do feel for them when they are asked sometimes to go to another country and insist for example that people follow human rights provisions, when in fact the United States record unfortunately these days has been tarnished somewhat. And it is especially important that we maintain note of those convictions because when we talk about situations like that in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus we are going to need to depend on the rule of law for our argument.

I want to say with respect to Cyprus I join with my colleagues from the Senate side Olympia Snowe and Senator Sarbanes in congratulating President Papadopoulos on his recent meeting with Secretary General Kofi Annan and his interest in restarting the discussions with respect to bringing a resolution to the Cyprus problem. And in their joint communiqué they specifically mentioned the goal of the demilitarization of the island which we need to continue to remember that the biggest problem in Cyprus is the continuing occupation of the Turkish forces on the island.

That was an important development, unfortunately, if you’ve been reading recently the Turkish government has actually so far spurned the request of a UN Special Representative, Michael Moller, to visit Ankara to begin to discuss these issues. That’s unfortunate but I think it’s important for Turkey and others to understand that the original Kofi Annan plan is dead. It was rejected overwhelmingly by the people in Cyprus that rejected it by a vote of 76 percent.

Now the United States and the Bush administration has been talking about the promotion of democracy. If we are going to be promoting democracy we have to honor the verdicts of people when they vote, and the people of Cyprus exercised their right to vote and they made a decision, and we must make sure as a nation the United States should not punish people for exercising their right to vote.

Now, there are some in the administration, there are some on Capitol Hill that would like to punish the Greek Cypriots for that vote. And, you are seeing more and more discussion about direct contacts between the United States and the North. I mean people visiting Cyprus going in through the North, talking about direct trade with the North.

And when we do that we undermine the position that we’ve always held, we undermine the rule of law and international agreements that were mentioned earlier. We also undermine the efforts of the European Union to make sure that as a condition of entering the European Union Turkey abides by the rules of the European Union. And, one of those rules is that you trade through the legitimate ports of entry.

Now, just last February you probably read that Turkey actually refused to accept a ship with the Republic of Cyprus flag at one of their ports of entry. That, as the European Parliament just voted a couple of days ago, overwhelmingly, that is a violation of the terms under which Turkey would become a member of the European Union.

Now, Turkey’s position is this, they say well look you are not allowing us to directly export to the ports in the north so why should we accept your goods. The difference is they have a legal obligation now. It’s sort of like saying I’ll agree to follow a law but only if you do this. That’s not the way we should be doing business, but we can only come from a position of strength on that issue if we say it is important to abide by the rule of law.

So, I just want to end where I started with the fact that AHI has always stood up for the importance of following the rule of law. And we can’t say one day we are going to follow the rule of law and the other day we won’t because by doing that we undermine our position.

So let me just thank all of you for all you’ve done over many years to support the work of AHI. It’s been a great privilege for me to work with many of you in this room on the fine work that you do. I look forward to continuing to work with you on the days ahead. Thank you very much for this honor.”

“The American Hellenic Institute is proud to have presented Congressman Chris Van Hollen the AHI’s National Public Service Award on March 18, 2006 for his decade of public service to our Nation and his constituents in Maryland, for his outstanding support of the rule of law in international affairs and in particular for its application to Turkey’s aggression against Cyprus and Turkey’s occupation of 37.3 percent of Cyprus, now in its 32nd year,” said AHI President Gene Rossides.

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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.