AHI Applauds Members of Congress for Public Statements on 38th Anniversary of Cyprus Invasion
WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) applauds the members of Congress who submitted remarks for the congressional record on the occasion of the somber 38th anniversary of Turkey’s illegal invasion of the Republic of Cyprus.
“We appreciate the members of Congress who took the time to observe the tragic events of July 20, 1974, when Turkey illegally invaded the Republic of Cyprus, and to this day, continues to illegally occupy 37 percent of the island nation,” said AHI President Nick Larigakis. “Their statements detail for the public record the tragic results of Turkey’s invasion and continuing occupation of the Republic of Cyprus, and they reaffirm the call for the withdraw of Turkish troops and a halt to Turkey’s colonization of the Republic of Cyprus. They also identify how Turkey continues to be a threat to Cyprus and Israel which are two nations working in cooperation to explore oil and gas reserves within their sovereign territories.”
The public statements of U.S. Reps. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney, co-chairs, Congressional Hellenic Caucus; U.S. Reps. John Sarbanes (D-MD), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Ed Royce (R-CA), and Niki Tsongas (D-NV) are below.
U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL), Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues Co-Chair
Mr. Speaker, I rise today not only as a Member of this esteemed body, but also as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and as a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues.
I stand before you today to recall a somber anniversary that has pained the Cypriot and Hellenic communities for the past 38 years. Mr. Speaker, even though the tragic events of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus took place long ago on July 20, 1974, the suffering of the victims has not subsided.
This anniversary is a time for America to respectfully remember the brutal Turkish military invasion of Cyprus, to mourn those who lost their lives, and to condemn the continued occupation. Over 5,000 Cypriots were killed in 1974, and more than 1,400 Greek Cypriots, including four Americans of Greek Cypriot descent, still remain missing. Since the invasion, Turkey has established a heavily armed military occupation that continues to control over 30 percent of Cyprus.
Forced expulsions of Greek Cypriots on the occupied land have left nearly 200,000 people displaced. These Cypriots were kicked out of their homes, making them refugees in their own country, Mr. Speaker. These properties have been unlawfully distributed and are currently being used by tens of thousands of illegal settlers from Turkey. To this day, Greek Cypriots are prevented by Turkey from returning to their homes and properties.
Another tragic result of this 38-year occupation is a division among Greek and Turkish Cypriots who have been forcibly separated along ethnic lines. This unnatural division of the island nation is a crime against society and a crime against the people of Cyprus that can only be resolved by ending Turkey's illegal occupation.
Mr. Speaker, 38 years is too long. On the occasion of this anniversary, we need to take a long, hard look at our own commitment toward helping Cyprus reach a lasting and enduring peace free from occupation, division, and oppression. A few years ago, the U.S. House had the wisdom and foresight to unanimously pass H. Res. 405, a measure I introduced which expressed strong support from this body for the implementation of the July 8 agreement. Last month Mr. Engel and I introduced H. Res. 676 to expose and halt the Republic of Turkey's illegal colonization of the Republic of Cyprus with non-Cypriot populations, to support Cyprus in its efforts to control all of its territories, to end Turkey's illegal occupation of Cyprus, and to allow Cyprus to exploit its energy resources without illegal interference from Turkey. The Republic of Cyprus has also worked alongside its European neighbors to bring about a stronger integration of Turkish and Greek Cypriot interests for the good of the island and its people. This has included a partial lifting on the restriction of movement across the cease-fire line that continues to forcibly divide Cyprus.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that because of this continued integration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and the economic and political successes that the Republic of Cyprus so readily wants to share with its neighbors, it is possible to bring closure to this 38-year occupation now as Cyprus takes over the EU presidency, the first time since its succession to the union in 2004.
Cyprus has long been a strong and faithful ally of the United States. It continues to work with us in the global war on terrorism and has supported our efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr. Speaker, 38 years is too long. It's long enough. It is time to have Cyprus, a Cyprus that is once again unified without Turkish occupation troops, foreign illegal settlers, where human rights is fundamental for all Cypriots.
Every legal citizen of the republic of Cyprus, irrespective of national or religious background, is eligible currently to enjoy all rights provided for by the constitution and international convention signed by Cyprus. The only obstacle, Mr. Speaker, is the Government of Turkey.
We Americans, as friends of the Cypriot people, owe it to them to do everything in our power to support peace and an end to Turkey's 38-year illegal occupation of Cyprus.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues Co-Chair
Mr. Speaker, I rise as the founder and co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus to speak on the 38th anniversary of the 1974 illegal Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus. We must ensure that the passage of time does not allow us to forget that the Cyprus issue is the result of an illegal invasion and ongoing occupation.
It is long overdue for Turkey to withdraw its troops from Cyprus so that the island can move forward as one nation. Turkey continues to forcibly occupy more than one-third of Cyprus with more than 48,000 troops. In addition, to date, Turkey has repeatedly ignored many of the United Nations resolutions pertaining to Cyprus and has continued to occupy the island in complete violation of international law.
The destruction of religious and cultural sites and artifacts continues unabated, in a long list of Turkish actions that flagrantly disrespect the rights and religious freedoms of the Cypriot people. In the last Congress, the Hellenic Caucus passed a resolution in the House calling for the protection of these religious sites and artifacts in Turkish-occupied areas. We have also worked on a resolution that has been introduced by Mr. Bilirakis and Mr. Engel, H. Res. 676, which calls for the halt of the Republic of Turkey's illegal colonization of the Republic of Cyprus with non-Cypriot populations. They are moving people onto the island. It is reported there are 500,000 Cypriot phones in the Turkish area. So the population--no one knows how many more people they're moving in. Cyprus is endeavoring to control all of its territory to end Turkey's occupation and to exploit its energy resources without illegal interference by Turkey.
In 2011, they discovered gas in the Cypriot area. The Noble Energy Company, a private energy company from Texas, discovered that a field off the coast of Cyprus may hold as much as 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the first discovery off the divided island nation. This is tremendously important for energy independence and for an ally to be able to support America and our energy needs. The beginning of drilling by Noble prompted Turkey in September to send a vessel accompanied by warships and fighter jets to the area.
Cyprus is divided after Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in 1974. Turkey does not recognize the Greek Cypriot Government. So this is yet another development that the Turkish country has brought to the island of Cyprus. There have been some successes for Cyprus. In May of 2004, Cyprus, with the support of the United States, joined the European Union. And during the second half of this year, Cyprus took over the very important and prestigious position of presidency of the Council of the European Union. This is the first time Cyprus presided over the Council of the EU since it became a member of it in 2004.
I express my strong support for Cyprus and the vital role it is playing in European affairs and the strong ally they have been to the United States.
U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to mark the 38th year of Turkey's invasion, occupation and colonization of the Republic of Cyprus.
On July 1, Cyprus assumed the six-month presidency of the European Union. Turkey, an EU candidate country, refuses to recognize the Cypriot presidency and has acted to ``freeze'' its communications with the EU. While Turkey refuses to recognize Cyprus, the international community has repeatedly called upon Turkey to withdraw from its occupation of the island republic.
In 1974, Turkey invaded the island citing its purported authority to intervene under the Treaty of Guarantee, a treaty meant to guarantee the independence, sovereignty, constitution and territorial integrity of Cyprus. Turkey asserts that the Constitution of Cyprus is ``null and void,'' yet it justifies its invasion and decades' long occupation of Cyprus upon the Treaty of Guarantee, a treaty which obligates Turkey as a guarantor power to uphold the Cypriot Constitution and preserve the country's independence and territorial integrity.
During Turkey's 38 year occupation of the northern third of Cyprus, it has engaged in the systematic destruction of the island's Hellenic, Christian and Turkish Cypriot heritage. Turkey is extinguishing the voice of the Turkish Cypriots, the community that co-existed with Greek-Cypriots for nearly 500 years until Turkey invaded and forcibly divided the two communities. Turkey's treatment of the indigenous peoples of Cyprus betrays a broader impulse which is manifest in discrimination against Christian and other minorities in territories under its control. Turkey's conduct is so egregious that this year the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom designated it as ``a country of particular concern.''
Turkey, a nation of nearly 80 million people, has with each passing day altered the cultural heritage and demographics of Cyprus, a country of 1 million people. In 1974, Greek Cypriots numbered 506,000 and Turkish Cypriots numbered 118,000. Since then, Turkey has engaged in a radical alteration of the island's demographics. Turkey has resettled nearly 200,000 mainland Turks and garrisoned 45,000 Turkish soldiers in the occupied areas. Turkey's forced colonization of the occupied areas is eradicating the native Turkish Cypriot community and supplanting it with a Turkish community whose culture and national consciousness is foreign to the indigenous and unique Greco-Turkish culture of Cyprus.
The presence of Turkish troops is justified by the pretext that Turkey is protecting Turkish Cypriots. Yet 58,000 Turkish Cypriots voluntarily carry Republic of Cyprus passports, Turkish Cypriots utilize health care facilities and other services in the Republic of Cyprus, and more than 18 million crossings over the green line have occurred without incident. The reality is that each day Turkish Cypriots are forced by the presence of 45,000 Turkish troops to idly watch as their culture and identity is overtaken by mainland Turkish colonialists.
Recent discoveries of natural gas off the coasts of Cyprus and Israel have seen these two democracies engage in a cooperative and productive manner for the development of the only Western, democratically controlled energy source in the region. Where Israel and Cyprus have conducted themselves as peaceful democracies, Turkey is using its presence in occupied Cyprus to challenge Israeli interests in the region. It was not so long ago that Turkey held itself out as an ally of Israel.
Cyprus is the canvas that reveals the true face of Turkey--occupier, colonizer and foe of Western democratic values. It is time for this Chamber and the United States to stand with the people of Cyprus and demand that Turkey withdraw its troops and ``cease and desist'' from its unlawful colonization of this small and peaceful country.
U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to call my colleagues' attention to the 38th anniversary of Turkey's unlawful and tragic invasion of Cyprus. Turkey's occupation, which began on July 20, 1974, left thousands of innocent Greek Cypriot civilians without their homes, their land, and their families. It is crucial for us to commemorate this unfortunate situation and assist the people of Cyprus in reaching a solution.
Many of the Cypriot generation who suffered the invasion have not lived to see justice or a resolution to this conflict. Although many of the survivors have had the opportunity to return to their homes on the northern side of the island, it was only to discover them occupied by Turkish settlers.
Only Turkey recognizes the occupied northern side of the country as a Turkish Cypriot state, but it does not even provide a valid standard of living to their own citizens. This was made evident through the recent demonstrations by Turkish Cypriots who have displayed their own dissatisfaction with the Turkish occupation. More recently, Turkey has threatened the use of force to stop Texas-based Noble Energy from drilling for oil and gas off the shores of Cyprus and to blacklist any businesses that work with Cyprus for natural resource extraction.
Meanwhile, the Turkish government has begun to sow instability throughout its region. Turkey recognizes the terrorist Hamas government in Gaza and even received its leader in the Turkish parliament earlier this year--disturbing hypocrisy from a state that receives US support for its own fight against terrorism. Turkey also demands that Israel end its naval blockade of Gaza, despite the deadly security threat Hamas poses to Israel. Turkey's repeated, flagrant criticism of Israel is particularly troubling and potentially destabilizing.
Turkey continues to deny the Armenian Genocide during which 1.5 million Armenians perished and has threatened punitive measures against the United States if Congress recognizes this tragic event. Since 1993, Turkey has maintained a destabilizing blockade of Armenia.
The time has come for Turks to end their threats and denials, withdraw their troops, and return the territory that is not rightfully theirs. That way, the Cypriots--and the Cypriots alone--can make the decisions affecting their future.
U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA)
Mr. Speaker, July 20 marks the 38th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of the island of Cyprus. That invasion claimed the lives of about 5,000 Cypriots. In the neighborhood of 200,000 people were forcibly expelled from their homes during that time period. To put that in perspective, that was one-third of the population of the country. If this were to happen in the United States, it would be the equivalent of about 100,000 people becoming refugees in their own land.
As we stand here today, that occupation continues. There are over 30,000 Turkish troops on the island. They are stationed on over one-third of Cyprus. Sadly, that occupied area of this beautiful land is one of the most militarized areas in the world. I have seen this on both sides of that divide. It is truly tragic that despite the wishes of Cypriots on both sides of that line that this cannot be resolved. And the Cyprus-Turkey issue, unlike many others, is one that the international community has been able to agree on.
There have been 75 resolutions adopted in the Security Council--more than 13 by the General Assembly--calling for the return of the refugees to their homes and to their properties and for the withdrawal of those Turkish troops from Cyprus. President Demetris Christofias has followed through on his promise to make the solution of that problem his top priority. I met with him when I was in Nicosia 3 years ago, and his commitment to finding a solution greatly impressed me in that he had reached out to Turkish Cypriots. I had my own opportunity, when I was in northern Cyprus, to talk to Turkish Cypriots, and they confirmed that their desire was to find a resolution to this problem, to find a way to have Turkish troops leave the island. And there's certainly no lack of good will, I think, in terms of the Cypriot community. So, since 2008, there have been these full-fledged negotiations with leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community. I think that the problem here is that that effort needs a reliable partner, a reasonable partner, and I question whether Turkey is listening in that process. From everything I've seen, they're not listening yet.
I would point out that Cyprus and the United States share a deep and abiding commitment to upholding the ideals of freedom, democracy, justice, human rights, and the international rule of law. After the Lebanon crisis in 2006, if you'll recall, Cyprus served as the principal transit location for people evacuating Lebanon, including our U.S. citizens. I had constituents that went through Cyprus at that time. In the `83 Beirut barracks bombing, it was Cyprus that provided the staging ground for the U.S. evacuation and rescue efforts after that bombing.
But I point out also that since the discovery of gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, the U.S. has advocated including revenue sharing from energy resources in those Cyprus settlement talks, urging that they be shared with the Cypriot community on both sides of that line. It's important to note that there are concrete efforts underway by the heads of the respective communities to reunify. Greek and Turkish Cypriots, alike, want to see that solution. Again, in my view, what stands in the way here is Turkey at the present time, and I wish they would reconsider their position. You can see the extent to which Cyprus is willing to compromise with these newly discovered energy resources. Greek Cypriot leaders are willing, in principle, to share the benefits of future gas production with Turkish Cypriots. Their only request is that revenues not be shared with those 30,000-plus Turkish soldiers on the island, and that's still not good enough for Turkey.
You know, Mr. Speaker, 38 years of occupation, needless militarization in this part of the world, this divide should have ended long, long ago. There is still time to right this wrong. I hope Turkey reconsiders.
U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA)
Mr. Speaker, today marks the 38th anniversary of the illegal invasion of Cyprus by Turkish armed forces. The lengthy duration of this occupation, which consumes nearly 37 percent of Cyprus' territory, is particularly disappointing given the number of multilateral organizations--the UN, NATO and the EU--who have a vested interest in this dispute and who should work in concert to bring about a peaceful resolution. While some progress has been made, there is still much work to be done. Greek Cypriots have been evicted from their property, and cultural and religious desecration has been widespread. The Turkish government cannot maintain this occupation and hope to ever achieve membership in the EU.
Respect for international law and calls for self-representation must be answered with regard to Cyprus. Turkey must live up to its international responsibilities and return all of Cyprus to the Cypriots. Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have supported a variety of initiatives in support of this outcome including sending letters to President Obama and Secretary Clinton applauding the administration's commitment to exercise U.S. leadership in the negotiation for a just solution on Cyprus. We agree that a solution to the Cyprus problem should result in a single, sovereign country within a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. 38 years of discord is long enough; Cypriots deserve a government for them and by them.
Since his election in February 2008, President Demetris Christofias has followed through on his promise to make the solution of the Cyprus problem his top priority and principal concern. In September of 2008, he embarked on negotiations with the then-leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat, under the auspices of the United Nations with U.S. support. He also continued these negotiations with the new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr. Dervis Eroglu.
Unfortunately, despite these negotiations, Turkey has stepped up its efforts to illegally obtain natural resources like oil and natural gas from the Republic of Cyprus' sovereign territory. Furthermore, Turkey's threat of possible annexation of northern Cyprus and Turkey's refusal to be a part of any EU discussion, communication, or policymaking while Cyprus holds the EU presidency does nothing to facilitate progress.
The solution must reunite the island and safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots and the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Cyprus.
The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit independent Greek American public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.
For additional information, please contact Demetra Atsaloglou at (202) 785-8430 or at email@example.com. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.
AHI Applauds Members of Congress for Public Statements on 38th Anniversary of Cyprus Invasion