New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides was the main speaker of a special event organized via ZOOM by the International Coordinating Committee “Justice for Cyprus” (PSEKA), to commemorate the 46th anniversary of the Turkish Invasion. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Elliot Engel, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, Bob Menendez, Ranking Democrat at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ted Deutch, chairman, House Middle East Subcommittee, Congressman Chris Smith and David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) have also spoken.
Philip Christopher, President of PSEKA and Andy and Mike Manatos of Manatos & Manatos were the moderators, while greeting were made by the Presidents of
AHEPA, George Horiates, American Hellenic Institute (AHI), Nick Larigakis, Federation of Cypriot American Organizations Kyriakos Papastylianou and Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) executive director Endy Zemenides.
In opening the event, PSEKA President Philip Christopher condemned the continued occupation and islamisation of the occupied north part of Cyprus. Philip Christopher said that today Turkey continues to violate Cyprus’ EEZ and creates problems with every neighboring country.
“Turkey has become an unreliable and uncontrollable ally of the United States and it is time for us as American citizens to demand Turkey to be held accountable”, the President of PSEKA said.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi called unjust the continuing Turkish occupation of part of Cyprus stressing that for 46 years, the forced division of the island has challenged the conscience of the world.
“There are not quick fixes to this complex issue, but we must continue advancing a balanced reunification that considers the concerns of all of the people of Cyprus. As a longtime member of the Hellenic caucus, the just reunification of Cyprus has been a top priority for many of us in both sides of the aisle”, Speaker Pelosi said.
Referring to Turkey, Nancy Pelosi said that “its strategic location does not give them license to kill and to invade; license to uproot; license to violate human rights. We just have to hold them accountable.”
Pelosi praised the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act that became law last December, because it fosters stronger ties between U.S., Israel, Greece and Cyprus and facilitates energy sector cooperation and mutual security and prosperity.
“We are pleased that the FY2021 appropriations bill builds on the Act with a 2 million dollars for Eastern Mediterranean partnership joint dialogues between the governments of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel,” Pelosi said.
In concluding, the Speker of the House said the House Democrats are united in the effort to find a resolution, hold Turkey accountable for this illegal occupation and end this injustice.
“Together we can build a future where the Cypriot people can live in peace and where the children can grow and thrive.”
Foreign Minister Christodoulides said the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, is undoubtedly a turning point and an open wound in the history of the country and its people.
“Turkey found the pretext to impose its partitionist plans against Cyprus following the coup of July 15, 1974, and viciously invaded Cyprus, violating all rules of international legality, including the UN Charter. The consequences, devastating and enduring”, he said.
Minister Christodoulides described the tragic results of the invasion and occupation, with close to 200.000 Greek Cypriots forcibly and tragically displaced and to this day prevented from returning to their homes; thousands of Greek Cypriots killed, with a number still missing, including US citizens, their families still looking for answers purposefully held back by the Turkish government and military.
“The implementation, in violation of international law, of a deliberate policy of altering the demographic, cultural and religious character of the occupied areas. Turkey’s recent arbitrary decision to change the status of Hagia Sophia, in an effort to distract public opinion internally, despite reaction by the international community, is unfortunately all too familiar for us in Cyprus”, Christodoulides said, condemning the colonization of the occupied areas with more that 160,000 settlers from Anatolia, while 40,000 Turkish occupying troops are still illegally stationed in Cyprus.
Addressing the new Turkish aggression against Cyprus, in the sea surrounding the island, he said, that instead Turkey in this challenging times of the fight against the pandemic to come together to fight the common enemy, it has opted to take advantage of the situation, further escalating its provocative, illegal actions.
“In what can only be described as severe escalation of Turkey’s policy of violations of the sovereign rights of Cyprus, Turkey’s 6th illegal drilling operation in less than a year is underway. This time Turkey’s actions take place within a block in our EEZ just 51 NM off the southwestern shores of Cyprus, and 154 NM – that is triple the distance – from the shores of Turkey. This is a block duly licensed by Cyprus to European companies, and within an area delimited, fully in line with international law, between Cyprus and Egypt.”
The Foreign Minister underlined that this activity, coupled with heavy militarization of the seas around the island by the Turkish navy, is putting the security and stability of the region at risk.
He also explained that Turkey’s provocations do not take place in a vacuum, but rather aim to promote Erdogan’s hegemonic ambitions.
“There can be no doubt that Turkey’s actions in the maritime zones of Cyprus form part of its overall revisionist policy exemplified, by its expansionist action in Syria, its interventions in Libya, its recent invasion in Iraq, as well as its illegal actions in Greece’s maritime zones and airspace.”
Christodoulides also mentioned Turkish military involvement in Libya, noting that the increased Turkish air and naval activity in Eastern Med clearly signals that Ankara is determined to pursue its strategic goals in the region and is prepared to enforce this through military means.
“Turkey’s employment of gunboat diplomacy, its aggressive neo-Ottoman vision, its belligerence against rule of law must alarm the international community that needs respond in a coherent, firm manner to Mr. Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian, erratic behavior.”
Cypriot Foreign Minister called Turkey a dangerous spoiler in an area where many nations come together in cooperation.
“It is simply not enough for the international community to verbally reject Turkey’s actions. It must act in solidarity, and with determination, before it is too late. The United States, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and a key player, has a particularly important role to play in exerting its influence on Turkey to de-escalate, not only in support of its partners, but also for the benefit of the whole region, and to protect its own interests, which are at stake”, Christodoulides said.
In closing, he mentioned the significant steps that have been taken in recent years in elevating Cyprus-United States relations.
“Cyprus has invested significant political capital in our relations with the United States because we believed in the importance of tangibly enhancing our long standing partnership to a strategic level, always on a positive agenda, to the mutual benefit of both countries and of our region.”.
He pointed out specifically to the importance of the security dialogue which has been expanded with many of our neighbors.
“We have become increasingly involved with a common purpose to enhance the stability and peace in the eastern Mediterranean. In short, the developments of the last few years in the field of security in our very volatile part of the world have shown Cyprus to be a reliable partner in the regional security structures. Mr. Erdogan’s revisionist, aggressive policy threatens all that has been achieved in the region. The international community, the United States, have a duty not to allow Mr. Erdogan to transform the region into a source of conflict and destabilization.”
In a statement issued on the 46th anniversary of the Turkish invasion, AHEPA Supreme President George G. Horiates said:
“Today we observe a somber day–the 46th anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation of the Republic of Cyprus by the Republic of Turkey, an unreliable NATO-member country under the Erdogan regime. To this very day this act remains an intolerable one; an act that is a gross violation of the rule of law, human rights, and democratic ideals. We pause to remember the innocent civilians who lost their lives and the individuals who went missing, including five American citizens, four of whose investigations remain incomplete. The illegal invasion and occupation caused the displacement of 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees who to this day are unable to return to their homes which is also a violation of human rights as determined by the European Commission on Human Rights. Moreover, Turkey’s restrictions upon religious freedom and destruction of Cyprus’ cultural and religious heritage in Turkish-occupied Cyprus have been well-documented by the U.S. Helsinki Commission, the Law Library of Congress, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and several media publications.
“It is our hope the two sides resume their dialogue and work to resolve difficult issues that include security and guarantees. Unfortunately, Turkey’s provocative and hostile acts, and perpetual assault on international law, threaten the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus, which is a United States strategic partner and European Union member, and does not bode well for the resumption of settlement talks.
“Turkey’s ongoing presence and aggression in Cyprus’ designated exclusive economic zone (EEZ), with drillships and warships, has amounted in certain instances to gunboat diplomacy. It has led to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to call Turkey’s intention to drill a ‘second invasion.’ The very notion of Cyprus enduring a second invasion is unconscionable. We welcome further European Union consideration to impose political and economic sanctions on Turkey for its illegal activities in Cyprus’ EEZ. We have stated our support for the U.S. to follow suit and welcomed U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Judith Garber’s ‘deep concern’ about Turkey’s ‘provocative step’ that raised tension in the region.
“Further, Turkish intransigence in the quest for a settlement must end. Turkey must abandon its insistence to be a Guarantor Power of a reunified Cyprus, essentially the right to intervene, especially as the security of all Cypriots in a unified, EU-member Cyprus would be provided by the EU. Again, we urge the U.S. government to convey a strong message to Turkey that it must play a constructive role in the movement of confidence-building measures, which includes the removal of 40,000 Turkish troops from the island. We contend these troops would serve a better purpose elsewhere, especially to NATO, as opposed to Cyprus.
“These actions are in the best interests of the United States, which has conveyed appreciation for the ‘strategic partnership’ it has with the Republic of Cyprus as demonstrated with the U.S.’ intention to provide Cyprus with International Military Education & Training program funding for the first time. A just and viable solution to the division of Cyprus will strengthen the Eastern Mediterranean and bring peace and security to the region. This is especially important due to the discovery and potential exploitation of hydrocarbon reserves within the Republic of Cyprus’ EEZ by multinational energy firms, including American ones, that could provide Europe with energy security. However, as aforementioned, Turkey has taken aggressive measures toward Cyprus and the multinational energy companies that rightfully intend to explore within Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone. We outright condemn Turkey’s aggression and deem it unacceptable.
“Despite these troubling circumstances, we restate our call for a reunified Cyprus with a single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship; and with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded as described in the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. We contend such a solution is in the best interest of all Cypriots and must emanate from Cypriots themselves without arbitrary timetables.
“We state adamantly 46 years is too long. Our hope is that we will no longer need to observe this solemn anniversary, but instead, celebrate the anniversary of a settlement. AHEPA remains committed to doing all within its power, and pledges to continue to work with all organizations*, to keep the Cyprus issue in the public eye until a just and viable solution that benefits all Cypriots is realized.”
American Hellenic Institute President, Nick Larigakis in a statement said:
“For 46 years, the Republic of Cyprus and its people, have endured an illegal occupation by 40,000 Turkish troops, and massive violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by Turkey. AHI calls for the immediate removal of all Turkish troops from the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey continues to violate U.S. law when it transfers American-made weapons from mainland Turkey to Turkish-occupied Cyprus. Congress must put a stop to this illegal transfer of weapons or otherwise it is complicit in breaking its own laws.
Additionally, Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus has had an impact on the ability of The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) to access certain Turkish military installations to excavate the remains of Cypriots missing since the tragic events that occurred on the island for proper identification. More than 800 Greek Cypriots, including four American citizens, remain missing and a large majority of these cases remain unresolved.
Turkey’s threats and heightened acts of aggression toward Cyprus continue to this very day. They are unacceptable and clearly demonstrate Turkey is a force of instability in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey illegally encroaches into the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus with its survey and drill ships that are accompanied by Turkish warships, in a violation of Cyprus’ sovereignty and international law. Turkey has even expelled research ships of other nations from Cypriot waters, including an Israeli research vessel in December 2019. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades termed Turkey’s illegal bid to drill in Cyprus a “second invasion.”
The U.S. must communicate to President Erdogan that the Turkish troops must be removed from Cyprus. The removal of Turkish troops would be a significant confidence building measure in the peace process. As such, any positive resolution cannot be foreseen until United States policymakers press Turkey to forgo its intransigence, which was on full display at 2017’s Conference on Cyprus in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. There, Turkey’s insistence to maintain the Treaty of Guarantee, which would allow for future unilateral Turkish military interventions, was completely unacceptable and contradicted the governing principals of a European Union member state. AHI maintains the Cypriots themselves should have ownership of the settlement process and the solution should be by the Cypriot people for the Cypriot people. Advancing these positions will underscore support for the rule of law and respect for international law. It will demonstrate the United States’ dedication to solving the Cyprus problem.
Moreover, this is not the Cyprus of 46 years ago. Cyprus has made tremendous strides and is viewed today by the United States as a strategic partner because of its commitment to counterterrorism and security as evidenced by 2018’s Statement of Intent agreement with the United States. This month, the U.S. Department of State announced it intends to provide, for the first time, International Military Education and Training (IMET) program funding to the Republic of Cyprus. Cyprus also is a signatory to the United States’ Proliferation Security Initiative. In addition, Cyprus has strengthened bilateral relations with Israel and plays an integral role in an Eastern Mediterranean trilateral partnership with Israel and Greece; a partnership that at times includes the United States in a 3+1 framework. Turkey’s aggression in Cyprus’ EEZ and its gunboat diplomacy only serve to hinder Cyprus’s further development as a key contributor to security in the Eastern Mediterranean, the broader region, and Europe. Therefore, in the context of the United States’ enhanced relations with the Republic of Cyprus, AHI calls on the United States to condemn strongly Turkey’s illegal drilling activities in Cyprus’ EEZ, and further, place sanctions upon Turkey for such illegal activities.”