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Op-Ed: Let’s Show Support for Senator Robert Menendez
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
February 16, 2009—No. 11 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed: Let’s Show Support for Senator Robert Menendez

WASHINGTON, DC - The following Op-Ed by Nick Larigakis appeared in the National Herald, 02-14-09 and the Greek News 02-09-09 and The Hellenic Voice 02-11-09.

Let’s Show Support for Senator Robert Menendez

By Nick Larigakis

February 3, 2009

One of the strongest advocates that the Hellenic American community has on Capitol Hill, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), has come under fire by the organization, Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), for raising the issue of Cyprus to Senator Hillary Clinton during her recent confirmation hearing for Secretary of State.

 

On its website, the TCA lists an article titled “Senator Robert Menendez: Serving Ethnic Politics in Washington.” The article attacks Senator Menendez by stating:

Voicing support for the ‘bi-zonal, bi-communal federation’ solution on the island, Senator Menendez seemed to be ignorant of the fact that this was precisely what 65% of the Turkish Cypriots supported in a referendum in 2004, and which 75% of the Greek Cypriots rejected. Based on obvious concern for the well being of ALL Cypriots, we hope that Senator Menendez will now take the lead in a congressional effort to lift the inhuman international blockade on the Turkish Cypriots and provide an incentive for the solution he so desires…it was politics as usual for Senator Menendez…he faithfully continued to cater to ethnic politics at home.”

Far from “…cater[ing] to ethnic politics at home.” Senator Menendez needs to be congratulated for raising the issue of Cyprus because it continues to be a text book example of invasion, occupation and in the failure of U.S. foreign policy by the State Department and successive administrations over the past three plus decades for support of the rule of law, international law, U.S. law, and human rights. These are the principles that President Obama has indicated will be the cornerstone of his administration.

The TCA article also criticized Senator Menendez for raising the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Members of Congress and especially Senators who serve on the very important Senate Foreign Relations Committee do not take their responsibilities lightly. No U.S. Senator will ever abdicate their responsibility in support of what he or she feels is in the best interests of the United States just to cow tow to “ethnic politics at home.”

However, it is important for constituents to educate lawmakers as to our core issues and present them with the evidence that is needed so that they can make well informed decisions. This is even more important for issues like ours, which do not routinely register on the main stream foreign policy radar.

Our community needs to understand that unfortunately, like it or not, as U.S. foreign policy priorities are concerned, our issues might rank as secondary —at best, and probably tertiary in reality. The case, however, can be made that our core issues are important to U.S. interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus included. It is because of this point that Senator Menendez was compelled to address the issue with Senator Clinton. Basically, he was upholding his oath to protect the interests of the people of the United States-he was doing his job!

Many forget that Senator Biden in 1974 did not view the Cyprus issue in the way he has since. It was due to the Hellenic American community in Delaware, his constituents, that took the time to educate Senator Biden as to the egregious violations of the rule of law and U.S. law that were perpetrated on Cyprus by Turkey with the illegal use of U.S.-supplied arms and how that ultimately compromised U.S. interests in the region.

Turkey’s continuing occupation of Cyprus is an affront to the international legal order and a continuing threat to regional stability. Cyprus is an important nation for U.S. interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. The so-called “Sovereign British Bases” on Cyprus and the British listening posts on Cyprus are on Cypriot territory and have been of significant importance to the U.S. Cyprus is a member of the European Union and a western-oriented country. It is important to U.S. interests that it remain so.

Additionally, the government of Cyprus and the Greek Cypriots, under the leadership of the late former President Papadopoulos, played an exceptional role in evacuating 14,000 Americans from Lebanon during the Israeli-Lebanon conflict in 2006.

The TCA’s article stating that the Greek Cypriots voted against a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation solution is simply false! They voted against the Annan Plan that was stacked against them. They exposed it for what it was: undemocratic, unworkable, not financially viable and not compatible with democratic norms, the EU’s acquis-communautaire, UN resolutions and the European Convention on Human Rights. Further, the plan was harmful to U.S. efforts to build and facilitate democratic efforts in other areas around the world, like Iraq. The U.S. should, and Senator Menendez understands this, in its own best interests be the champion of democratic norms throughout the world, not obvious undemocratic constitutions like the one proposed in the Annan Plan.

Senator Menendez supports a settlement of the Cyprus problem through negotiations based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in a single sovereignty and international personality.  A position that was also advocated by candidate Barack Obama in October 2008 when he stated:

“As president, [I] will show U.S. leadership in seeking to negotiate a political settlement on Cyprus. [I] believe strongly that Cyprus remain a single, sovereign country…within a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation…A negotiated political settlement on Cyprus would end the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus and repairs the island’s tragic division while paving the way to prosperity and peace throughout the entire region.”

This will, of course, also best serve U.S. interests in the region.

The reference to “the inhuman international blockade on the Turkish Cypriots” is another blatant falsehood! The international isolation of the Turkish Cypriots is imposed by Turkey by the virtue of the barbed wire fence that cuts across the face of Cyprus and supported by the 43,000 illegal Turkish troops who continue to occupy illegally nearly 40% of Cyprus today. Remove the troops and take down the fence, and whatever isolation exists in the occupied area of the north will vanish overnight.

Senator Menendez is man of great integrity and moral values. His actions as an esteemed member of the U.S. Senate are consistent with his obligation to support and defend the constitution of the United States and his constituents. And as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he never acts in way that might compromise the interests or jeopardize the security of the United States.

Let us all stand up and applaud him for serving our interests as Americans.

If you too wish to send a message expressing your support for Senator Menendez, please go to: http://menendez.senate.gov/contact/contact.cfm. Or write to 317 Senate Hart Office Building, Washington D.C. 20510. (202) 224-4744. Fax (202) 228-2197.

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For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at pr@ahiworld.org. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.