WASHINGTON DC.- (GreekNews)
The U.S. Administration has caught off guard the Greek American lobby on Friday, passing without any reaction through the House Appropriations Committee a package of 30,5 million dollars direct financial aid to the Turkish Cypriots. According to Reuters, the Bush administration proposed to Congress that the aid come from funds that have already been approved for other projects but have not been used. Congress had until Thursday to reject that proposal.
Neither the Greek and Cypriot Embassies in Washington, nor the major Greek American organizations and politicians have signaled any warning, despite the fact that back in May, during the PSEKA Conference, some concerns were raised about the possibility, after a pro-Turkish resolution was tabled in the International Relations Committee, that the administration would move through the appropriation process.
Most recently 99 members of Congress co-signed a letter to the President Bush on Cyprus, supported by the Co-chairpersons of the Hellenic Caucus.
“The administration’s proposal is approved,” said to Reuters, John Scofield, spokesman for the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.
US Department of State Spokesman Richard Boucher commented the House for its decision saying that “the United States has planned on providing $30.5 million this year, in fiscal year ’04, to aid the economic development of northern Cyprus and the economic integration of the island in support of eventual reunification”.
According to Boucher, this package will have a variety of measures, including programs in support of financial restructuring in small and medium enterprises in the occupied northern Cyprus and continued bicommunal activities to promote reconciliation.
“The funds will be available to start implementation of these programs this year”, he said. He also clarified that the 15 million dollar assistance to the Republic of Cyprus in the form of bicommunal and educational exchange programs, will be continued.
The spokesman was unable to give further details on the exact mechanism of the distribution of the aid package, but he explained the measures are not aimed to punish anybody.
“We are taking steps to ease the isolation of Turkish Cypriots. We’ve announced a series of steps already and will continue to announce things as appropriate”.
Replying to a question on who is responsible for the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, the Greek Cypriots or the presence of the Turkish Army, he said neither one.
“This is not about recognition, this is not about the Turkish, this is about supporting the Turkish Cypriots, who sought to join a new arrangement that would get all Cypriots into Europe”.
Explaining further that the US is not changing its policy towards the recognition of a the pseudostate, he said:
“It’s about a community that’s been isolated by the world, by the trading nations of the world because of bureaucratic and other procedures that prevented them from selling their goods directly; that prevented them from using their ports and airports directly; and that basically isolated them; that didn’t recognize some of their procedures and certificates and things like that, so they couldn’t sell vegetables without a proper certificate.
We think that it’s time for the international community to find ways to have certificates for their vegetables. We think it’s time for the international community to find ways to fly in and out of their airports. We think it’s time for the international community to find ways to use their ports and to let them travel more freely, as most people — as other people from Cyprus already do.
This is not about a legal, formalistic diplomatic recognition policy. It’s not about a state. It’s about letting people trade, about letting people travel. It’s about letting people become more a part of Europe, since they have evidenced their own desire to become more a part of Europe”.