WASHINGTON, DC — On July 7, 2004, the American Hellenic Institute hosted a Noon Forum on “Cyprus: 30 Years Later – An Assessment of the Annan Plan and Where Do We Go From Here” at the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill in remembrance of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The event was held in cooperation with the Congressional Hellenic Caucus and its co-chairs, Representatives Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis welcomed the guests and thanked the members of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus for their support in sponsoring the noon forum, and for their ongoing efforts in promoting Hellenic American issues in the U.S. Congress. Mr. Larigakis introduced the speakers, who included members of Congress Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Rep. Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), and Christopher Hitchens, Greg Copley and AHI President Gene Rossides.
Collectively, the members of Congress enumerated (1) the serious flaws of the fifth and final version of the Annan Plan, (2) supported the Greek Cypriots’ “No” vote, and (3) expressed their deep disapproval with U.S. State Department comments attacking the Greek Cypriots and plans to punish the Greek Cypriots and reward the Turkish Cypriots following the Cyprus referenda.
Rep. Frank Pallone emphasized that, among its other failings, the Annan Plan did not provide for a “workable government” and “unbelievably allowed for outside intervention and the presence of outside troops indefinitely on the island.”
Rep. Rob Andrews also stated that the plan was unworkable and “did not call for the demilitarization of Cyprus; it called for the continuing militarization of Cyprus.” Mr. Andrews expressed his disappointment “with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and with the UN reaction to the vote that took place this spring.” He emphasized that the Greek Cypriots must not be penalized for exercising their democratic right to vote. He stated “justice is required, not proximity to justice.”
Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R-FL), the next member of Congress to speak., is Co-Chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus. He reiterated his colleagues’ concerns with the punitive measures expounded by the U.S. State Department. He expressed deep disappointment that, following their democratic vote, the Greek Cypriots were characterized as obstructionists. He emphasized the efforts that the Congressional Hellenic Caucus has recently made, including a letter to President George W. Bush, Secretary Colin L. Powell and Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the aftermath of the Cyprus referenda. Mr. Bilirakis, the author of the letter, pointed out that it was signed by 95 members of Congress. That letter states in part:
“The Greek Cypriot voters have made clear that the suggested settlement plan failed because it did not provide for:
Guarantees to ensure the complete implementation of commitments under the plan;
The removal of foreign troops on Cyprus and the elimination of the right of the guarantor powers to intervene in Cyprus;
A property recovery system that recognizes the rights and interests of displaced Greek Cypriots, and a property compensation system that does not force Greek Cypriots to pay for their own restitution;
The right of all Cypriots to buy property and to live wherever they chose without being limited by ethnic quotas; and
A viable, functional government free of built-in deadlocks and voting restrictions based on ethnicity.
The Government of Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot community have emphasized that they are committed to the reunifying Cyprus as a bizonal, bicommunal federation with democratic and human rights for all Cypriots.”
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) faulted the U.S. State Department’s policy of prioritizing geopolitical strategic alliances over human rights. Congressman Sherman stated that, in light of the historical record of Turkey’s illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus and its gross human rights violations, he: (i) opposes any resolution punishing Greek Cypriots for their democratic vote, (ii) opposed the transfer of U.S. naval vessels to Turkey, which were used in the invasion of Cyprus, (iii) opposes U.S. aid to Turkey and Turkish Cypriots, and (iv) supports a workable and lasting resolution of the Cyprus issue that will reunify the country.
Renowned author and editor Christopher Hitchens provided a concise overview of Turkey’s grave violations of international treaties and democratic norms including the “European common principle of non-aggression” by invading and occupying Cyprus in 1974. He reminded the audience of the destruction, killings and rapes committed by the Turkish military in their aggression in 1974 and thereafter. He reiterated that the Annan Plan would not have provided a solution for Cyprus, and accordingly, he supported the “No” vote of Greek Cypriots.
Gregory Copley, Editor of Defense and Foreign Affairs, offered insight into the flawed and unbalanced process leading up to the Annan Plan referenda. Mr. Copley explained that the fifth and final version of the Annan Plan, drafted primarily by Great Britain and the U.S., was flawed and presented to the Greek and Turkish Cypriots under “an impossible deadline.” Further, the Annan Plan itself was devised and imposed on the Greek and Turkish Cypriots by means of a “top-down structure” which removed the Cypriots as the primary actors in the resolution process.
AHI President Gene Rossides enumerated the numerous flaws of the Annan Plan. He explained that the Annan Plan, contrary to the assertion of Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman that it was “fair and balanced,” was “unfair, unbalanced, unworkable, not financially viable, rewarded the aggressor, Turkey, and punished the victims, the Greek Cypriots.” Mr. Rossides advocated that the U.S. should, in its own best interests, “apply the American principles of majority rule, the rule of law and protection of minority rights to Cyprus.” He urged Congress to hold “hearings on the matter followed with legislation.” He said that the legislation should include “conditions on any aid to Turkey, economic sanctions and an arms embargo until Turkey removes its armed forces and settlers from Cyprus and tears down the Green Line barbed wire fence.”