WASHINGTON D.C..- Several members of the US House of Representatives in statements before the Congress, last week, expressed serious concerns with the Annan plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, which was put to referenda on 24 April. At the same time they have send a strong message to the administration and the Greek American Community, that if the Cypriot people choose to reject the Anna plan, they will continue to work to find a just and fair solution to the problem faced by the people of Cyprus.
Congressman Michael Bilirakis said in a statement that he believed ”the final version of the plan which was submitted on March 31, 2004, is unbalanced and biased against the Greek Cypriots.”
Bilirakis – Hellenic Caucus co-chairman – noted ”there are a number of provisions in the Annan plan that do not alleviate the basic fears of the Greek Cypriot community. These concerns were not appropriately resolved and may very well lead the Greek Cypriots to reject the Annan plan, he said.
Regarding securing he said ”the final version of the Annan plan provides for an indefinite presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus” and ”according to the plan, the number of troops will gradually decrease to 650 over a period of fourteen years.”
”However, their continuing presence and intervention rights would make a full and genuine independence of Cyprus impossible,” he added.
Furthermore he noted that the Annan plan provides for the continuation of the Treaty of Guarantee.
”However, the Annan plan fails to specifically clarify that this treaty does not authorize military intervention. It is a critical point because Turkey insists that it will continue to have the right to intervene militarily in Cyprus. This Turkish arrogance increases the Greek Cypriot fear of a repetition of the 1974 invasion and its tragic consequences,” he added.
Bilirakis expressed the belief that the UN Secretary General’s plan would significantly alter the demographic character of Cyprus by permitting the vast majority of approximately 115,000 Turkish settlers, who are now illegally in Cyprus, to stay in Cyprus.
On the issue of property rights, Bilirakis noted ”the Greek Cypriots will be paying for, to a large extent, their own loss of property.”
He also noted that he did not believe the Annan plan was balanced, adding ”we should not be surprised if the Greek Cypriot people do not support it.”
He added that if the plan is voted down, it would be an indication that the Greek Cypriots, whose country suffered an illegal invasion in 1974, and a community which has for three decades advocated for a settlement, felt that they would be giving up far more than they would be gaining. “And that cost is just too high,” he concluded.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, in a speech on Wednesday, informed the members of Congress of her efforts and the letters she and 45 more members send to Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, to express their hope that any agreement to reunify Cyprus would explicitly recognize, among other provisions, property rights, the demilitarization of Cyprus, the establishment of the legal obligations of the guarantor powers (Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom), and the presence of United Nations troops throughout a transitional period.
Carolyn Maloney ed a delegation of members of the Hellenic Caucus to meet with Secretary General Kofi Annan to discuss the negotiations regarding the reunification of Cyprus before it enters the European Union on May 1st.
“We expressed, she said, our support for the Secretary General’s leadership in bringing the parties to the bargaining table, but expressed concerns regarding some of the issues that remained open: property rights, governance, free movement between Greek and Turkish areas of the island, and the pace of demilitarization of the island. We stressed the importance of having a central government that has the ability to make decisions, and we expressed concern about limitations on the ability of Cypriots to travel unimpeded to all areas of the island”.
Maloney said the Greek Cypriots, who have worked continuously to end the forcible division of the island through a viable and lasting settlement, have several valid and important concerns with this final plan, which may lead them to reject it”.
In conclusion, she stressed that “no matter what the Greek Cypriots decide on April 24, I will continue to support them in every way possible”.
Last Thursday, Congressman Frank Pallone called a special order and various members of the House spoke, or sent their statements.
Pallone, who was one the members that met Annan to discuss the plan, expressed serious reservations about the final plan because it forces the Cypriot people to put too much faith in the Turkish Government. “When Cypriots go to the voting booth on the 24th,
they are forced to take the Turkish Government at its word that the Turkish parliament will ratify the treaty. The Cypriots are forced to take the Turkish Government at its word that occupied land will be returned to its rightful owners 3 to 5 years down the line, and the Cypriots are forced to believe that Turkey will remove its troops according to the timetable in the Annan plan and are forced to deal with the fact that Turkish troops will remain in Cyprus forever with Turkey having the unilateral right to intervene at any time”.
He said the final Annan plan gives Turkey too much opportunity to either delay or not implement critical property and security issues in the years to come.
Pallone warned this is the decision of the Cypriot people alone, and outside forces should not attempt to scare or threaten them into voting a certain way.
“Whatever the outcome, it is important the international community and the United States honor that decision and work to ensure Cyprus’s future remains bright”.
Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart stressed that there should be no pressure on the outcome of these elections.
“If the Greek or Turkish Cypriots reject the Annan Plan, then negotiations will ultimately continue. This vote will not be the last chance to have a reunited Cyprus”.
He explained the goal of the process must be to attain a just and lasting solution, not a rushed solution.
“I know the people of Cyprus are being made to feel that this is the only way to achieve a solution, but that is not true. This is the way to achieve a pressured solution. In the end, it may be too much to ask that concerns that have been unresolved for 30 years be effectively settled in a process that lasted less than 3 months”.
Mr Balart said that he has very serious reservations about the Annan Plan that he has expressed in writing to both General Secretary Annan and Secretary Colin Powell.
In concluding, he send a message to the people of Cyprus, that their in the US Congress will never abandon them.
MARTIN T. MEEHAN
Congressman Martin Meehan of Massachusetts said the Annan plan, which was originally drafted by the Secretary General in November of 2002, has undergone five major revisions to accommodate the demands of Mr. Denktash. I’m concerned that the proposal sacrifices too many of the Greek Cypriots’ needs in return for Mr. Denktash’s acquiescence.
The Annan plan would authorize Turkish troops to remain in Cyprus indefinitely, threatening the security and stability of the island. While the number of troops would gradually decrease to 650 over a period of 14 years, their continuing presence and intervention rights would prevent Cyprus from achieving full sovereignty”, he said.
Meehan described Annan plan as a positive starting point on the path toward a negotiated settlement, but it is not an ending point.
“In order for a solution to the Cyprus problem to succeed, the rights of both parties must be equally guaranteed”.
Congressman Menendez expressed a series of reservations about the plan, saying that he is deeply concerned the plan will not provide a fair, just and long-term solution. He also said that “all Cypriots should be assured that they have the right and the obligation to express their true views, and will receive the full backing of the international community and members of the US Congress, whatever the outcome”.
Critical to the Greek Cypriots was in his statement, Doug Bereuter, chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe.
“During the floor debate last year, this Member expressed the sincere hope that in 2004 we would be celebrating the first anniversary of a united Cyprus, not the 30th anniversary of a divided one. Regrettably, this hope may not be realized. Although the U.N. plan is scheduled to be voted on in a referendum on April 24, the recent very disappointing decision by the president of Cyprus to recommend a “no” vote to Cypriots may have doomed the best chance to reunify that country in a very long time”.
Bereuter also praised the Turkish Cypriots for strongly favoring the yes vote and Ankara for having played a most positive role in moving the process forward.
“Both should be commended for their actions and resolve. It is unfortunate that, in a reversal of positions, it may now be the
Greek Cypriots who will block unification”.