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Op-Ed on “Cyprus: Does the State Department really want a settlement?”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
July 24, 2006—No. 58 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed on “Cyprus: Does the State Department really want a settlement?”

Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed by AHI President Gene Rossides appeared in the July 15, 2006 issue of The National Herald, page 9 and the July 17, 2006 issue of Greek News, page 40.

Cyprus: Does the State Department really want a settlement?

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried addressed the 17th Annual Cyprus Conference in Washington, D.C. on June 8, 2006. It was an important speech for what Fried said and for what he omitted to say.

At the end of his speech he stated that he welcomed “[f]rank views on ways we can reach our mutual goals. If all parties demonstrated the requisite good will, flexibility, and new ideas, we may be able to persuade the UN Secretary-General to renew his good-offices mission. And that would be an important step toward helping us achieve the vision that binds us together: the vision of a reunited, peaceful and prosperous island for all the people of Cyprus.”

To be frank and candid, Mr. Fried’s speech illustrates the problem which the Greek American community has faced for decades regarding Cyprus, namely, the State Department’s double standard for Turkey on the rule of law and basic American values which damages U.S. interests in general and U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus in particular.

In one of the best books on the Cyprus problem, The Wrong Horse (1977), Laurence Stern, a former Washington Post foreign news editor, wrote (page 7):

“One of the most important keys to an understanding of the Cyprus muddle is the realization that the United States far from being a disinterested broker to the disputes of the past was a deeply involved participant” on Turkey’s side.

While there are positive aspects to Fried’s speech, he failed to deal with:

  1. Turkey’s invasion of and aggression against Cyprus in 1974;
  2. Turkey’s occupation of 37.3 percent of north Cyprus with 40,000 troops, now in its 32nd year;
  3. Turkey’s illegal colonization of Cyprus with 120,000 illegal settlers from Turkey;
  4. the 180,000 Greek Cypriot victims driven from their homes by the Turkish army three weeks after the legitimate government of Cyprus had been restored;
  5. the indictment of Turkey by the European Commission on Human Rights for the murders, rapes and looting by Turkey’s armed forces in 1974;
  6. the Turkish control of the occupied north’s economy;
  7. the Turkish barbed wire fence across the face of Cyprus which, together with 40,000 Turkish troops is the real cause of the Turkish Cypriots isolation.

The following are the positive aspects in Mr. Fried’s speech:

“Let me get right to the heart of our concerns: the division of Cyprus has—to put it simply and plainly—gone on far too long. It is hard to believe that the historic, vibrant city of Nicosia is Europe's last divided city, now separated longer than was Berlin.

American policy has been, is now, and shall remain clear and consistent: we support a settlement establishing a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation which will reunify Cyprus and its two communities into one country. We support and will continue to help energize and guide the UN process to reconcile differences and find common ground leading to a final settlement.

And let me stress to you unequivocally: we do not and will not recognize any government other than the Republic of Cyprus on the island of Cyprus. We are clear about this—none of our policies are aimed at or imply ‘creeping recognition’ of any other political entity. Cyprus is one country. We have, and will have, only one embassy, one Ambassador.”

I welcome these comments. However, the actions of the State Department these past 2 years, since the Greek Cypriots voted down the Annan 5 plan by a 76 percent vote, have been openly antagonistic to the Greek Cypriots, the victims of Turkey’s aggression. Further Mr. Fried, on the National Security Council at the time, was a supporter of the flawed Annan 5 plan which was undemocratic, unworkable and financially not viable, yet the U.S. sided with Britain who was primarily responsible for its biased provisions.

Mr. Fried also made a positive statement regarding Turkey’s “obligations to extend its Customs Union agreement with the EU to the Republic of Cyprus.” He said:

“Turkey must fulfill its obligations to extend its Customs Union agreement with the EU to the Republic of Cyprus by opening its ports to Cypriot-registered ships and planes. Let me be clear: this is an obligation that Turkey has freely undertaken with the EU, and which it must fulfill if Ankara is to keep its EU accession process on track.”

However, he qualified this forthright statement by stating:

“That said, it is in all of our interests to help Turkey fulfill this obligation. This will require creativity on the ports issue that moves beyond zero-sum thinking. Such ideas are currently being explored in Nicosia and Washington and Brussels and throughout Europe by diplomats who are committed to a just and lasting Cyprus settlement that will lead to reunification of the island.”

What “creativity” is required for Turkey to open its ports? If Mr. Fried is genuinely interested in a fair and just settlement of the Cyprus question based on the rule of law and democratic values, then I suggest he publicly tell Turkey:

  1. to remove its armed forces from Cyprus immediately as we told Iraq to remove its army from Kuwait in 1990;
  2. to tear down Turkey’s barbed wire fence separating Greek and Turkish Cypriots;
  3. to return the 120,000 illegal Turkish settler/colonists to Turkey;
  4. to allow the 180,000 Greek Cypriot refugees to return to their homes and property in the occupied area; and
  5. that the State Department supports the policy set forth by Vice President Bush in 1988 when he stated:

“We seek for Cyprus a constitutional democracy based on majority rule, the rule of law, and the protection of minority rights….I want to see a democratic Cyprus free from the threat of war.”

I have trouble believing the State Department really wants a fair and just Cyprus settlement based on the rule of law and democratic norms when Mr. Fried fails to acknowledge the State Department’s actions in 1974 which encouraged the Greek dictator Brig. General Ioannides to initiate a coup against President Makarios of Cyprus which he did on July 15, 1974; and the State Department’s actions which encouraged Turkey to invade Cyprus which it did on July 20, 1974 with the illegal use of U.S.-supplied arms and in violation of the UN Charter article 2 (4).

I have trouble believing the State Department really wants a fair and just Cyprus settlement based on the rule of law and democratic norms when Mr. Fried fails to call for the immediate removal of Turkey’s 40,000 armed occupation forces and its 120,000 illegal settlers/colonists because the failure to do so these past three decades implies the State Department’s support of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and occupation of 37.3 percent of Cyprus since then. Then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger clearly encouraged and supported Turkey’s actions in 1974 and thereafter.

I have trouble believing the State Department really wants a fair and just Cyprus settlement based on the rule of law and democratic norms when Mr. Fried fails to call on Turkey to tear down the Turkish barbed wire fence.

I have trouble believing the State Department really wants a fair and just Cyprus settlement based on the rule of law and democratic norms when Mr. Fried fails to respond to the Cyprus government’s proposal to open the port of Famagusta for joint Greek and Turkish Cypriot operation coupled with the return of Varosha for the resettlement of refugees under the EU/UN.

I believe the State Department’s main interest regarding Cyprus is to avoid having Cyprus be a bar to Turkey’s accession negotiations for entry into the EU.

I hope Mr. Fried proves me wrong. He can easily do so by taking the actions discussed in these comments.

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