When Turkey stormed Cyprus’ shores in the summer of 1974 with tanks and troops, it was clear to the world what was happening: an invasion. And when Turkey refused to remove its troops and people after that invasion, and when it continued to this day to engage in a policy of colonizing Cyprus by settling Turkish citizens there, it was also clear that invasion became an occupation.
Unfortunately, the US State Department doesn’t see it that way. Despite originally using the correct terminology, today it refuses to refer to Turkey’s illegal actions as an “invasion” and “occupation.”
The new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has a chance to change that inaccurate policy. During his confirmation hearing, Secretary Tillerson emphasized that Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine violated international law. That same standard should be applied to Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Cyprus.
Please sign our letter to Secretary Tillerson asking that the State Department use historically and legally accurate language when addressing the invasion and occupation of Cyprus.
Endy D. Zemenides
Dear Secretary Tillerson,
During your Senate confirmation hearing, you correctly pointed out that Russia’s violations of international law in Ukraine constituted an “invasion” and “occupation.” Foreign policy experts have overwhelmingly agreed that the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus is the closest historical analogy to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the parallelism with Russia’s invasion and occupation, the U.S. State Department has steadfastly refused to call Turkey’s 1974 actions an “invasion” and refuses to label its continued presence and illegal settlement of Cyprus an “occupation.” Rather, the Department has used the inappropriate term “military intervention.” This is despite the fact that in internal US Embassy cables from 1975-1980, officials consistently used the terms “occupation,” “occupied areas,” and “Turkish occupying forces.”
The time has come for a change and for using accurate terminology to describe one of the world’s longest occupations. Just as you have recognized Russia’s actions against Ukraine as an “invasion” and “occupation,” we request that you also use the same terminology to describe analogous actions by Turkey against the Republic of Cyprus.