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Op-Ed: Why the U.S. Should Care About a Cyprus Solution?

Press Releases

October 25, 2010—No. 64 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed: Why the U.S. Should Care About a Cyprus Solution?

WASHINGTON, DC—The following Op-Ed by AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis was published in The National Herald 10-15-10, The Hellenic Voice 10-20-10, The Greek News on 10-19-10 and The Hellenic News of America 10-9-10.


Why the U.S. Should Care About a Cyprus Solution?

by Nick Larigakis

October 9, 2010

A few weeks ago the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, visited Washington, DC to inaugurate the new Smithsonian Exhibit “Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilizations.” The exhibition features more than 200 artifacts, covering nearly 11,000 years of history that range from items from the earliest villages to masterpieces of medieval religious art and give an overview of the islands’ unique culture. It is a wonderful exhibit and I recommend that everyone who visits Washington to take in this exhibit.

In addition to the exhibit, President Christofias took advantage of his visit to also meet with a number of officials to bring them up to date on the Cyprus issue. One of those visits was to the world famous Brookings Institute, a leading think-tank which focuses on international issues, where he gave a speech to a distinguished Washington audience.

After the speech I was having a causal discussion with someone who asked me, “What do you tell someone who asks why should the United States care about solving the Cyprus issue?” Inferring that since there is peace on the island and no one is shooting at each other, isn’t the U.S. better off directing its interest and resources in other more overt conflicts around the world? A fair question from an uneducated perspective! I responded and further offered to send the person our recently financed American Hellenic Institute Foundation PBS documentary “Cyprus Still Divided: A U.S. Foreign Policy Failure.

However, I started to wonder how many more people in Washington, and elsewhere, ask the same question!

First and foremost, the on going Cyprus tragedy stems from an illegal invasion and illegal occupation that has now continued for over 36 long years. There is strong evidence that points out that key U.S. policymakers were aware that the invasion and more importantly of the second more brutal Turkish invasion that solidified a 40% land grab and made refugees out of 170,000 Greek Cypriots in their own home-land, would occur.

Many observers believe the United States had the power to prevent the Turkish invasion and later to compel Turkey to withdraw its troops, but Washington did neither of those things. Today, more than 36 years later, the Turkish army continues to occupy the northern third of Cyprus in violation of international law, and Turkey has illegally settled occupied Cyprus with more than 180,000 Turks from Anatolia.

The hour-long AHIF documentary reveals a recently declassified 1974 State Department memorandum in which then Secretary of State Kissinger wrote: “There is no American reason why the Turks should not have one-third of Cyprus.”

Further, fundamental to the Cyprus issue is the total disregard of the rule of law, the U.N charter, NATO charter, customary international law, relevant Security Council Resolutions, and for purposes of American policy, the most damaging of all—the violation of our own U.S. laws, which do not allow for our weapons to be used for offensive purposes, as they were used in 1974 by our NATO ally, Turkey, in its illegal invasion of Cyprus and continue to be illegally used in its occupation today.

By virtue of how 20th century world history has unfolded and by having the good geographic fortune of being isolated against hostile enemies, the United States has had the opportunity to become the world’s leading super power whose moral compass has always been one that mostly has been pointed in the right direction.

However, that moral compass cannot and should not be selective. If the United States today is looking to promote democratic principles and the rule of law in other areas of the world, its credibility becomes compromised if it does not first promote these concepts in Cyprus, as for example, it did in Kuwait against Iraq. And as a matter of law, the same violations committed by Iraq in its invasion of Kuwait were the same violations that Turkey committed in its invasion of Cyprus.

While I’m not advocating an armed U.S. intervention in Cyprus, the U.S. has a moral and a legal obligation to continue to press Turkey to remove its 43,000 occupation force from Cyprus and not to equate the victim, the Republic of Cyprus, on the same level as the aggressor Turkey. This makes a mockery of any other peace initiatives that the U.S. pursues around the world.

By abandoning the rule of law and its principles, the United States had a role in causing the present division of Cyprus and therefore has a major responsibility in reunifying the Republic of Cyprus.

On a more practical point, the projection of U.S. interests in the southeastern Mediterranean depends on the stability of the region. Therefore the U.S. has an important stake in fostering good relations between two NATO allies, Greece and Turkey, in achieving a just and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem.

However, Turkey’s continuing occupation and intransigence regarding Cyprus damages U.S. interests.

Therefore, Cyprus continues to be the acid test for Washington. In this regard, it needs to ratchet up its interest to finding a solution that’s just and viable and that does not reward aggression. What’s right is also good for U.S. interests and sends a message to the world that the U.S. does not compromise its principles, such as the rule of law, support for international law and the codes and declarations of international institutions such as the UN and NATO.


Nick Larigakis, is the Executive Director of the American Hellenic Institute.


For additional information, please contact Demetra Atsaloglou at (202) 785-8430 or at For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at