Washington, DC.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
In a letter to Vice President Joe Biden, prominent members of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives set the “red lines” of a Cyprus settlement, in order to both be fair and have a chance to be accepted by the people in the required referenda.
The red lines are the absence of a system of guarantees and foreign armies and to make sure that the benefits each community will realize in a reunified Cyprus should be in place on day one of a settlement, excluding temporary derogations from EU law, unclear timelines and delayed benefits. Senators Bob Menendez and Mark Kirk were the first who co-signed the letter from the Senate side, while Congressmen Gus Bilirakis and Ted Deutch – co-chairs of the Congressional Hellenic Israeli Alliance (CHIA) co-signed on the part of the House.
The letters were introduced Wednesday for the occasion of the third anniversary of the Congressional Hellenic Israeli Alliance (CHIA) and a grass root join campaign to solicit signatures from members of Congress was launched by members of the Hellenic American National Congress and the American Jewish Committee. On Wednesday, Members of HALC met with Congressmen Bilirakis, Murphy and Wilson. On Thursday, members of the AJC advocated together with HALC mostly with senators and chairmen and high rank members of key-house committees.
Events for CHIA’s third anniversary concluded Thursday evening with a reception on Capitol Hills, with members of Congress and members of both Greek and Jewish Communities.
In the identical letters, the members of Congress clarify that the appeal to Vice President Joe Biden in order to express their support for United States efforts to both encourage and facilitate the reunification of Cyprus, ending 41 years of Turkish occupation and bringing needed stability to a volatile region. And they stress that a sustainable reunification of Cyprus is of vital importance to the United States.
“As you yourself pointed out, the bilateral relationship between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus is “a genuine, strategic partnership, and it holds even greater promise.” You have noted Cyprus’ importance in our “mission to eliminate chemical weapons from Syria and to help prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, its role in Europe and in the regional energy security, and our continued cooperation on search and rescue, crisis response, and counterterrorism.” Since you made those remarks, Cyprus has become a key ally in the fight against ISIL and a leader in regional energy diplomacy efforts.”
The members of Congress underline the increasing importance of the Republic of Cyprus for Israel and the fact that in the increasingly volatile Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has become Israel’s friendliest and most reliable neighbor. They also point out that the cooperation between the two states in energy and in counterterrorism is changing the region for the better.
“With this in mind, we have been following the United Nations sponsored reunification negotiations between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities with great interest and cautious optimism. We encourage any and all support that the United States can provide in seeking a sustainable and enduring settlement to reunify Cyprus, including the financial viability of a potential settlement. The United States must continue its work to ensure that the reunification process in Cyprus is tangibly supported by all to achieve a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation on the basis of the February 2014 Joint Declaration and UN Resolutions.”
They also note certain aspects of the current negotiations that leave them with serious concerns, since they constitute the core of a viable outcome. They also express great concern because on these issues of substance, there is a lack of tangible contributions to the negotiations by Turkey, whose occupation presence is the biggest source of volatility on Cyprus. And since many of these issues of substance have not even begun to be addressed, this fact makes claims of an imminent solution premature.
Reminding Vice President Biden that the United States Congress has long stood ready to support a sustainable and enduring settlement to reunify Cyprus, that the following three “fatal flaws” should be avoided in a settlement:
“A reunified Cyprus cannot be subject to rights of intervention by foreign powers or unnecessary systems of guarantees. Cyprus has become a front-line state for Western security interests, and as both a member of the European Union and strategic partner to the United States it must remain fully independent and free from foreign interference.”
“The presence of foreign armies on Cypriot soil must not be condoned in a reunified Cyprus – even temporarily. Increasing interaction between the two communities and the number of daily crossings of the Green Line in Cyprus prove that Greek and Turkish Cypriots can indeed live in peace together. A new bi-communal federal police force and UN personnel are sufficient to sustain that peace. Foreign armies would only serve as a source of instability.”
“The benefits that each community is to realize in a reunified Cyprus must be in place on Day 1 of a settlement. Temporary derogations from EU law, unclear timelines and delayed benefits would all but guarantee that the required referendum to unify Cyprus would fail.”
The members of Congress stress to Biden that the present opportunity for solving the Cyprus issue cannot be missed, and add that these issues need to be addressed as soon as possible.
“A successful reunification of Cyprus will not only benefit the people of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, it will stabilize a volatile Eastern Mediterranean, make Israel more secure, and further the interests of the United States”.
Finally, they express appreciation for Biden’s personal commitment to supporting the Cyprus talks and advancing the bilateral U.S.-Cyprus relationship and they pledge to remain ready to support a just, functional and viable settlement in Cyprus.