“Turkey is turning the occupied areas of Cyprus into a Muslim fundamentalist entity”, Greek Americans warned members of Congress. A new push for the adaption of Res. 676.
Washington, DC.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
The dangers of the continued colonization of the occupied areas of Cyprus by Turkey, not only to the demographics of the island, but to the whole area, were raised by Greek American leaders during a series they had last Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, on the occasion of the 38th anniversary of the Turkish invasion.
The delegation was headed by the Presidents of PSEKA and Cyprus Federation, Phil Christopher and Peter Papanicolaou, Andy and Mike Manatos of the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, Zenon Christodoulou etc. who met with over 20 members of Congress, US Senator Robert Menendez and the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Philip Gordon.
The Community leaders alarmed the members of Congress that Turkey is turning the occupied areas into a Muslim fundamentalist entity and even with the solution, without solving the problem with the settlers, in few decades the whole Cyprus is going to be an Islamic state.
Speaking to the “Greek News”, Philip Christopher said “We came here because of the 38th anniversary of the invasion. As we do every year, we have visited congressmen and senators. We have also had a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon and we attended the confirmation hearing of the ambassador designate to Cyprus, John Koenig.”
The president of PSEKA pointed out the leadership of the Greek American Community is pushing for the adaption by the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate of the resolutions against colonization.
“We wanted to bring into the attention of the Congress the danger of the colonization. This US administration will be responsible for taking an ancient Christian state and making it into a Muslim fundamentalist state, unless it will make something immediately.”
Philip Christopher also said that they pointed out to both the members of Congress and Philip Gordon, how the Cypriot gas exploitation could benefit both communities, if a just solution is found.
The president of PSEKA calls on every member of our community to get in touch with their members of Congress and ask them to support Resolution 676.
Philip Christopher also expressed frustration with the Obama administration, for not being ready to put pressure on Turkey.
“That’s why we are coming to Congress asking its members to hold hearings with the Assistant Secretary of State, to alert and put pressure on the administration.”
President of Cyprus Federation of America Peter Papanicolaou told “Greek News” that the delegation had several meeting in Washington, starting with Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon.
“We had a good discussion with him, since he had just returned from Cyprus. We exchanged ideas about the current situation in the island.”
In spite the fact we are in an election year, the Obama administration is not doing anything on Cyprus.
“Our impression after meeting with Philip Gordon is that the administration’s policy regarding Cyprus is unchanged, they just express support for the UN negotiation process. We don’t have any indication that they are willing to disturb Turkey on anything in regards to the Cyprus issue”, Papanicolaou said.
The President of Cyprus Federation was critical on the former Ambassador Frank Urbancic.
“I don’t think we will ever find a US ambassador as bad as him. We are still trying to figure out what were his problems with both Cyprus and the Cypriot Americans”.
On the new ambassador designate John Koenig, he expressed satisfaction with the answers he offered during his testimony.
“There was no red flag and we are expecting, after he receives his confirmation, to meet with him and open a channel of dialogue and communication. This dialogue will benefit both the United States and Cyprus.”
Amongst the leading members of Congress they have met on the Hill, were the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Iliana Ross – Lehtinen, ranking member Howard Berman and Senator Robert Menendez.
“We discussed with them things we could pursue in the near future about the Cyprus issue. This year we are focusing on the colonization of the island. Turkey has brought lately huge numbers of settlers from Anatolia, changing even further the demographics of Cyprus”, Papanicolaou pointed out.
On the views the Greek American delegation exchanged with over 17 members of Congress, during a round table discussion on the Hill, he said “We have explained our concerns and they promised to follow up on the issue with the administration.”
Given the already huge numbers of settlers in the occupied areas of Cyprus, we have asked Mr Papanicolaou to explain what difference this move could make now on the island.
“It’s about time to alert the United States and other countries, especially those in the area and especially Israel, to realize the danger of having in the occupied areas this expansion of mosques and Islamic centers, in the last few years. It is obvious they are trying to change the demographics of the island, something that is against the interests of the United States and other countries in the area.
It seems that right now nobody pays too much attention. But if you visit the occupied areas, the number of mosques and Islamic center you will see is unbelievable. Sometimes you are wonder if there are enough people to fill them with. It’s obvious Turkey has a plan, assisted by the Saudis and other Islamic countries.”
The members of Congress who attended the luncheon discussion were:
Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Ed Royce (R-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY).
Opening the discussion, Philp Christopher briefed the members on the present developments on the Cyprus problem, including Turkish threats in the Eastern Mediterranean and the importance of EU presidency.
The president of PSEKA pointed out the danger of the continued colonization, in relation to the distraction of the Cyprus religious and cultural heritage. He has also characterized the colonization as the “second Turkish invasion of Cyprus”.
“It’s clear to us what the present Turkish administration is trying to accomplish, when we hear Davutoglu to say “even if there weren’t any Turks in Cyprus we should invent them”, or when Erdogan suggests publicly to the Turkish Cypriots “you have to give birth to more children, if you don’t want us to bring people from mainland Turkey”.”
Christopher suggested to the members to call Phil Gordon and seek answers to their concerns.
Many members asked question on the gas exploitation and the financial crisis, while all of them asked for suggestion on how to push the administration.
Elliot Engel showed no surprise for the State Department’s inactivity.
“They haven’t done anything Turkey invaded Cyprus”, he said.
Engel blamed the State Department for being bias against Israel and he characterized the alliance between Cyprus and Israel and important one.
Mike Grimm expressed satisfaction for the bipartisanship of the support effort and called on everyone to take advantage of this and inform all the members of Congress. He has also stressed the importance of the energy issues.
Shelly Berkley said she is not “counting on the Turks to have a revelation, because they don’t act logically”.
She suggested that the members should figure out how they can better make an impact on the rest of their colleagues.
Andy Manatos pointed out the impact of the report by the Helsinki Committee, on the destruction of the Cypriot cultural and religious heritage.
John Sarbanes congratulates the leadership of the community for their 38 year struggle to keep the issue alive in Washington. He stressed the importance of the Cypriot gas exploitation and the need for Turkey to receive a strong message that she cannot continue the provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“With such acts, Turkey cannot be seeing as a responsible player in the area”.
Steve Rothman characterized the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean as very critical and suggested that “if there is a strategic alignment in the region, Cyprus should be a part of the deal.”
Carolyn Maloney said that a legitimate census should take place in the occupied areas, because the numbers don’t much, as even the Turkish Cypriots complain.
“We should push the administration to seek a legitimate census”, Maloney said.
Ted Deutch stressed the importance of the role of Cyprus to the EU, a fact that very few fully understand.
Gus Bilirakis offered an update on resolution 676 and the efforts by the Turkish lobby to kill it.
“It’s an opportunity to see who our real friends are in Congress”, Bilirakis said, urging the community to call on their representatives and ask them to support the resolution.
He also underlined the importance of informing the members of Congress of the EEZ issue.
Ed Royce who visited Cyprus and met with President Christofias, said there is clearly a mentality difference between the Turkish Cypriots and the settlers.
“Many Turkish Cypriots feel the Turkish army is an occupational force”, he said.
His impression from visiting the occupied areas was that there is a radicalization of Islamic fundamentalism.
Finally, Carolyn Maloney invited the members to participate in the special order, in commemorating the 38th Anniversary of the Turkish invasion.