New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, presidential commissioner Photis Photiou, Undersecretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao, and over 25 key members of Congress spoke at the webinar event organized by PSEKA, in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus.
A written message by Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis was read by the Ambassador of Greece to the United States, Alexandra Papadopoulou.
At the event also participated over 25 key members of Congress, including the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel, the ranking member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez, along with both contenders of the Chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Representatives Gregory Meeks and Brad Sherman.
Introducing the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades and Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides, the president of the International Coordinating Committee “Justice for Cyprus” (PSEKA), Philip Christopher, said that during its sixty year history the Republic of Cyprus has suffered so much, with more than 5,000 deaths and 200,000 refugees.
“This country that lost more than 80% of its national income is standing tall today, as a member of the United Nations and a member of the European Union. The Republic of Cyprus has persevered and we are saluting not only the government of Cyprus but also the people of Cyprus, for persevering the invasion and the continued occupation during this past sixty years and they still fight for freedom and justice.”
Mike and Andy Manatos of the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, Supreme President of AHEPA George Horiates and AHEPA National Issues Committee Savas Tsivicos, Federation of Cypriot American Organization president Kyriakos Papastylianou, HALC executive director Endy Zemenides, AJC CEO David Harris, POMAK President Andreas Papaevripidou, Cyprus – US Chamber of Commerce founder Andreas Comodromos, AHI President Nick Larigakis etc were among the leaders of the organizations who offered greetings. Archbishop Elpidophoros of America offered the invocation.
The EU Summit which begins in Brussels is of “vital importance” in ensuring that the verbal assurances of support are finally matched by decisive actions vis-à-vis Turkey,” Cyprus President has said.
Addressing the virtual event hosted by PSEKA, Anastasiades stressed that it is our clear position that decisive action “is the only way for Turkey to refrain from continuing with its gun-boat diplomacy, threats and behavior of intimidation,” recalling the example of the de-escalation in the Aegean.
“In the case of Cyprus,” he said, “unfortunately, so far the policy of rapprochement has fully failed taking also into account that a few days prior to the postponed European Council of 24 and 25 September, Turkey renewed its two illegal NAVTEX within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic and continues with its drilling and seismic activities.”
“Only a determined and strong reaction can deter Turkey from pursuing its expansionist and revisionist policy,” President Anastasiades added, noting that “we are all witnessing of what is now taking place as regards Nagorno – Karabakh and Turkish threats to, yet again, after Syria and Libya, military intervene.”
Furthermore, Anastasiades reiterated “our clear position for the immediate resumption of the peace process from the point it was left off,” adding that for this reason he warmly welcomed the intention of the UN Secretary – General to immediately resume talks after the completion of the internal political process within the Turkish Cypriot community.
He recalled his remarks during his address at the UN General Assembly that “it is imperative to create an environment that will be conducive for constructive and good faith negotiations, on an equal footing and not under conditions of intimidation and threats”.
Anastasiades also recalled recent statements by the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, following the above-mentioned intention of the UN Secretary – General, stressing that such comments “prove once more which is the end-goal of Turkey and why all negotiating processes have failed.”
“An end-goal which is none other than to impose a two-state solution or a confederal system of Governance,” he said.
The President stated that “even with this negative environment of provocative actions and aspirations to reach a solution outside the UN established parameters, I wish to convey my firm commitment and determination to use all diplomatic means available and to exert every effort possible in order to reach a settlement.”
Concluding, Anastasiades extended his sincere gratitude and appreciation to PSEKA and the Cypriot diaspora residing at the United States.
“With your rich and multifaced action at the political, economic, social and cultural aspects of the States, you offer a significant advantage in strengthening the ever-growing relationship between Cyprus and the US, but in particular in advancing Cyprus’ positions and our aim of ending the unacceptable status quo,” he concluded.
Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said that in the face of adversity and the Turkish provocation, our priority remains firmly to address current state of affairs, which will under no circumstances be acceptable as a solution to the Cyprus problem.
“We hope that that following the completion of the election process in the occupied area, meaningful negotiations in a conducive environment aimed at resolving the Cyprus problem and reunifying the island on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation can resume, upon invitation by the UN Secretary General, from where negotiations stopped in Crans Montana”, Foreign Minister Christodoulides said at his prerecorded address.
He also noted that for this, “we rely on the support of the US Government to impress upon Turkey the necessity of refraining from provocative actions and concentrate its efforts to the resumption of the efforts for a settlement in Cyprus, as set out in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.”
Christodoulides underlined that 46 years after the Turkish military invasion, Cyprus is experiencing a new Turkish aggression, this time extending to the sea surrounding Cyprus.
“At these challenging times for humanity due to the COVID pandemic, when countries have for the most part come together to fight a common enemy, Turkey 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.”
Underway is now that 6th Turkish illegal drilling operation in less than a year, while Turkey continues its illegal, consecutive seismic surveys in the Cyprus’ southern EEZ/continental shelf since January 2019.
“This activity is coupled with heavy militarization of the seas around the island by the Turkish navy, putting the security and stability of the region at risk.”
Christodoulides also pointed out the threats by Turkey and the occupation regime to open the fenced area of Famagusta, in blatant violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in total disregard for the clear calls to refrain from doing so by the international community.
Addressing the current status of Cyprus – U.S. relations, Foreign Minister Christodoulides welcomed the recent US decisions for the partial lifting of the US arms embargo against Cyprus and the inclusion of Cyprus in the IMET programme, as well as the signing during Secretary Pompeo’s visit of the bilateral agreement to establish CYCLOPS, a joint training facility, in Larnaca, that will provide programs open to counterparts from like-minded countries, mainly from the region, in issues relating to Land, Open Seas and Port Security.
“All the regional developments of the last few years, have established Cyprus as a reliable U.S. partner in the regional security structures. It goes without saying that for the good of regional stability, in the context of a solution of the political problem, a reunified Cyprus needs to remain a truly independent state without interference from a third country in its internal affairs, so as to continue to function as a reliable partner and security provider in the region.”
At this critical juncture the need for the US to assume a more active involvement and humanitarian initiatives is more than urgent, Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou has said referring to the humanitarian issue of the missing persons in Cyprus.
In his intervention at the PSEKA webinar, Photiou said that sixty years later there is strong and growing political desire and commitment to deepen and broaden our ties with the United States, in all areas.
“We highly value US interest and active involvement in the efforts to end tensions in our naval zones and resume negotiations to achieve a comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus Question, together with solving long-awaited humanitarian issues which are still pending, such the heartbreaking and painful humanitarian tragedy of the Missing Persons,” he said.
Photiou recalled that 46 years since the Turkish invasion, around 800 Greek Cypriots are still missing as well as two American citizens noting that progress on this serious problem during the past few years is disappointing, to say the least.
He pointed out that Turkey, as the state responsible for their disappearance, according to the relevant European Court of Human Rights’ judgments, is in a position to provide the evidence and information concerning their fate from its military archives and that the Turkish Government has the legal and moral responsibility to co-operate.
“I feel that at this critical juncture the need for the US to assume a more active involvement and humanitarian initiatives is more than urgent,” he stressed.
Referring to the Independence anniversary of October 1st, he said it carries a meaning and significance that transcends time, which is still relevant today: The constant effort of a small island-country to meet the adversities and challenges in its turbulent region and to survive against the aggressiveness of its powerful neighbour.
“Indeed, 60 years later, we remain proud to live in a country that not only survived, but thrived through the past decades, against all odds”, he went on to add.
Photiou also thanked the indispensable contribution of the Diaspora in raising awareness on the criminal injustices committed by Turkey in Cyprus.
“We owe them a great debt for their active and very constructive engagement in providing an effective context 60 years since the formation of our state, for continuing the preservation of our identity, for promoting our rich culture, history and traditions in the US, as well as for sending the clear message that Cyprus remains one of the most predictable, reliable and stable partners of the US in the key region of the eastern Mediterranean” he concluded.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis
The 60th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus gives us the chance to reconfirm our commitment to a united, free and independent Cyprus, worthy of the struggles of its heroes and able to guarantee the future of its children. This is the commitment of Greece as well as his personal commitment, said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in a written message to the webinar organized by the International Committee “Justice for Cyprus” (PSEKA), in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus.
The message was read by the Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandra Papadopoulou.
The Greek Prime Minister paid tribute to the struggle of Cypriot patriots for freedom and independence in all these 60 years.
“Unfortunately, he continues, this independence has been deeply wounded by the Turkish invasion. The ongoing Turkish occupation and the division of Cyprus are a constant open sore for our entire nation. It’s a flagrant violation of the international law and goes against any notion of peaceful coexistence.”
Prime Minister Mitsotakis underlined that Greece supports with its entire means, a mutually agreed and fair sustainable solution to the Cyprus issue, according to the U.N. resolutions and the EU acqis and he called Greece and Cyprus the basic axis of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“Together we have built relationships of trust with all the reliable stakeholders of our region, with a focus on security and energy cooperation. Our stabilizing role has been recognized by our partners. The visits of Secretary Pompeo in Greece and Cyprus send a clear message to every direction”, Mitsotakis said.
Prime Minister Mitsotakis said that at the other end of constructive activity by Greece and Cyprus lies the Turkish behavior, which puts in question the sovereign rights of Greece and Cyprus.
“However, he added, Turkey does not get away with all its illegal behavior anymore. Greece and Cyprus are facing together the existing challenges and I am certain that our efforts will bear fruits in the near future”, the Greek Prime Minister said.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Brian Bulatao
The United States remains committed to the goal of a comprehensive settlement that will reunify the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation; it will end decades of division and will benefit all Cypriots as well as the wider region.
That was the message of the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao, at the webinar organized by PSEKA, in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus.
Mike Manatos of the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes who presented Bulatao, said that the No 3 at the Department of States hierarchy is a personal friend of Secretary Pompeo since their army service and he is of Philippine, Greece and Polish descent.
Congratulating on behalf of the Secretary of State the President and the Foreign Minister, as well as the people of the Republic of Cyprus, for the 60th anniversary of the nation’s independence, Bulatao said that the United States and the Republic of Cyprus enjoy robust and vibrant diplomatic, security and economic partnership.
“We are proud to build strong ties with nations like Cyprus that share our values.
The U.S. Undersecretary of State reminded a similar statement by Secretary Pompeo, during his September visit to Nicosia, when he said about the bilateral relationship that it has never been better.
“The United States views the Eastern Mediterranean region of growing importance, where we are working with the Republic of Cyprus and other partners to promote stability, security and prosperity. This year we broke new ground in our bilateral security relationship with the Republic of Cyprus, including lifting some defense trade restrictions and launching the International Military and Education Training program”, Undersecretary of State Buratao said.[
Senator Bob Menendez (D, NJ) stressed that during the past few years, we have made significant progress in the United States-Cyprus partnership and there remains enormous potential to grow even more.
“The Eastern Mediterranean Energy and Security Partnership Act of 2019 is the cornerstone for U.S. policy in the region and has provided an institutional framework for cooperation among the United States, Cyprus, Greece and Israel. The law has broad bipartisan support and will serve as the foundation for the America’s strategic focus on the region for years to come”, said Menendez, the mastermind behind the EastMed Act.
Menendez pointed out that this landmark law has one overriding message: the U.S. should be much more present in the Eastern Mediterranean in support of our friends.
“I was glad to see that Secretary Pompeo followed the law by establishing an International Military Education Training program with Cyprus and partially lifting the arms restrictions on the country. The lifting of the arms restrictions is not about security alone. It is about treating an EU country with the respect it deserves. And it is an acknowledgement of the sovereign right that Cyprus has to defend itself.”
Senator Menendez slammed Turkey’s interference in Cyprus’s affairs, stressing that this impedes progress towards peace.
“Turkey’s illegal occupation remains the source of instability on the island. We can see Turkey’s destabilizing effect with its efforts to change the demographics of Cyprus by sending Turkish citizens to settle in the north. We see it with Turkey’s disgraceful behavior in Varosha as it prepares to economically exploit the area. And we very clearly see it with Turkey’s illegal exploration in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which not only undermines security in the region, but also poses challenges for Western energy companies working there.”
Sending a strong message to the Trump Administration, Menendez said these malign activities by Turkey underscore what he would hope to be obvious:
“Erdogan should not be considered a partner to the United States, and he should not be considered an ally. The sooner that every single person in our government from the top on down realizes this, the safer we will be.”
In a highly emotional speech, the outgoing Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel told the participants that freedom and democracy cannot be taken for granted and he praised the Greek American leaders for their long struggle for freedom of Cyprus.
“Although today we are commemorating Cypriot independence from the U.K. in 1960, we must be mindful that independence is not always certain. The brutal 1974 invasion by Turkish forces has led in decades of division and occupation; and Turkey’s aggressive actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, even now, threaten Cypriot and Greek sovereignty. Unfortunately, President Erdogan appears not only unwilling to compromise with Cyprus and Greece, but also unwilling to to reverse his increasingly antidemocratic and destabilizing behavior throughout the region and within his own country.”
Eliot Engel stated his commitment to continue calling out Turkish aggressive dangerous behavior what it is and to demand that president Erdogan returns Turkey to the community of responsible, democratic and free nations.
The Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee and author of the law for the 6 U.S. missing persons during the Turkish invasion in Cyprus, told the participants that the United States and Cyprus have never been closer than they are now.
“Whether on energy, security, trade, partnership with Israel and other countries in the region and our common commitment to core democratic values, we stand together. I expect this enduring partnership to mature and grow even closer for the next sixty years of Cypriot independence”, Eliot Engel said.