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AHI Disappointed in Obama Administration’s Recent Actions regarding Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Georgea Polizos
March 26, 2013—No. 23 (202) 785-8430

AHI Disappointed in Obama Administration’s Recent Actions regarding Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean  

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) has issued the following statement expressing disappointment with recent Obama administration statements regarding Turkey and Israel which the Institute believes are detrimental to the best interests of the United States in the eastern Mediterranean.

“The Obama administration views Friday’s apology by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for the Gaza flotilla raid in 2010 as a positive step forward in the region. In his March 22 statement on the development, President Obama said, ‘…we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security.’

“Whatever diplomatic benefits may flow from the apology, the fact remains that Turkey:  (1)  continues to occupy 37% of Cyprus with 43,000 illegal troops and over 180,000 illegal settlers now in its 39th year;  (2)  has expressed and continues to express hostility toward any effort by Cyprus to extract energy reserves from its EEZ in coordination with the efforts of Israel to likewise extract energy reserves from its EEZ; all with the aid of the U.S.-based Noble Energy firm. Addressing the diplomatic issues between Turkey and Israel without addressing Turkey’s aggression against Cyprus and the Turkish provocations on the energy extraction issue is both unconstructive and unwise. The Obama administration should take Turkey at its word when the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement a day after the president’s statement that warned of a ‘new crisis in the region’ if Cyprus plans to utilize future revenues from energy resources as economic collateral as part of a national investment fund aimed at fending off a default.  Turkey’s statement is unacceptable to the United States and should be unacceptable to Israel.

“If the Obama administration’s goal is to promote regional peace and stability, then AHI contends the president and his administration need to go a step further in their push to achieve this goal. Instead of just asking the United States’ most faithful ally, Israel, to apologize to the United States’ most unreliable ally, Turkey, President Obama must also ask Turkey to apologize for its provocative actions in the eastern Mediterranean that have been, and continue to be, a constant threat to peace and stability in the region. Will Turkey apologize to Cyprus for 38-plus years of invasion and occupation? Will Turkey remove its 40,000-plus occupation force and 180,000 illegal colonists from Cyprus? Will Turkey cease its ongoing violations of Greece’s sovereignty in the Aegean Sea? How can the Obama administration overlook and dismiss the concerns of two dependable allies in the region, Greece and Cyprus, as it looks to advance regional peace and security?  AHI urges President Obama to demand that Turkey apologize to Greece and Cyprus and to demand that Turkey  end its provocative actions in the region notwithstanding what Turkey needs to do to ensure freedom of religion and religious tolerance for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all religious minorities.”

State Department Statement Reiterates “Support for Cyprus’s right to explore energy in its offshore areas.” 

“Furthermore, the State Department has reiterated its previous position, the right of Cyprus to exploit its energy reserves within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).  In a press briefing on March 22, 2013, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stated:  

‘As a general matter, the United States supports Cyprus’s right to explore energy in its offshore areas. We continue to support, at the same time, a Cypriot-led negotiation process, under the UN’s good offices, as I said, to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. We believe that the island’s oil and gas resources, like any of its resources, should be equitably shared in the context of an overall settlement. But again, these are decisions that have to be made with all of those factors in mind.’

“Nuland’s statement reconfirms the U.S. position that was issued on September 29, 2011 by State Department Spokesman Mark C. Toner:

‘The United States supports Cyprus’s right to explore for energy. Having a U.S. company involved in developing the energy resources of Cyprus is also positive. The United States continues to support strongly the Cypriot-led negotiation process, conducted under UN good offices, to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. That has not changed. We continue to believe that the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement. And we don’t believe that developing offshore energy resources need hinder those reunification talks.’

“The Obama administration should denounce the Turkish Foreign Minister’s statement of March 22, 2012.  

“Finally, it was just last month that Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdoğan branded Zionism a ‘crime against humanity.’ The Obama administration responded appropriately as Secretary of State John Kerry stated, ‘We not only disagree with it, but we find it objectionable.’  AHI hopes Secretary Kerry is instructed to remind Prime Minister Erdoğan that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled the Turkish invasion and continued occupation of Cyprus violates international laws of human rights.”

The American Hellenic Institute is an independent non-profit Greek American public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.

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