AHI Marks 41st Anniversary of Turkish Invasion of Cyprus with Congressional Briefing
WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) marked the 41st anniversary of Turkey’s illegal invasion of the Republic of Cyprus by hosting a congressional briefing to discuss the current state of affairs on the island at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, July 22, 2015. The briefing’s forum allowed members of Congress to share their perspectives on the Cyprus issue, prospects for a solution amid the current settlement talks, and how Cyprus can be advanced on the policy agenda of Capitol Hill.
“For 41 years, the people of Cyprus have endured an illegal occupation and massive violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by Turkey, an ally of the United States,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “The briefing provided us with the viewpoints of Congress’s leading authorities on foreign affairs, our leaders of the Hellenic Caucus, and legislators who are deeply concerned about the Cyprus issue. We thank them for their insights on the issue and their support for Cyprus.”
The briefing, held in cooperation with the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, featured: U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), co-chair, Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues; U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), co-chair, Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues; U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), ranking member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs; U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), former chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs; U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs and co-chair, Congressional Hellenic Israeli Alliance; U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs; U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs; U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), member, Committee on Foreign Affairs; U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), ranking member, House Committee on Budget; U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), as speakers.
Also making presentations were: Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the U.S. George Chacalli and Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Christos Panagopoulos. AHI President Larigakis moderated the briefing.
Highlights of Members’ Statements
Congressman Chris Van Hollen:
“We are not going give up, and we know after the recent elections in the north there is some opportunity here, but we also know from past experience that the Turkish government remains the key to getting an agreement.”
Congressman Joe Crowley:
“I am absolutely convinced that justice will prevail…As we commemorate the 41st anniversary, we as a nation, the United States, must continue to recognize that Cyprus cannot be divided. We need to find a way to bring it together, to not recognize the invasion as legitimate, it was an invasion, it was unlawful and that doesn’t change. But I have hope that with a new day brings a new discussion and opportunity for the reunification of Cyprus.”
Congressman Albio Sires:
“I’ve been to Cyprus, and it is an invasion that is illegal. I’ve been here ten years. I think every year, at least two or three times, I have been invited to Turkey. I haven’t gone because I am a believer that if I stand for an issue that I am not going to go there and shake hands with people who I disagree with on the issue. I’m here to support you, and I admire your efforts. You just don’t give up and that’s how it should be.”
Congresswoman Dina Titus
“I really just wanted to come by and thank you all for being here on the Hill, to remind Congress that after 41 years our country is still divided, our land is still occupied, our families are still displaced, our churches are still threatened and Turkey is still our enemy. Yet, after 41 years, our resolve is strong, our will is determined, and our hopes are high. And like that barbed wire on the green line, we are connected on this fight and we always will be.”
Congressman David Cicilline
“I’m hoping that the positive signs that we’re starting to see…next year we’ll be celebrating the unification of Cyprus. We have to make sure Turkey stays in this conversation and recognizes that the United States could play a role to helping to encourage the progress of these discussions. We owe it to the people of Cyprus to make sure we do that.”
Congressman Ted Deutch
“[This anniversary is] an important day for the world. Any attention that we can bring to commemorate, know what happened, and understand the importance of what continues to happen in Cyprus…too many lives have been disrupted and too many families have suffered. Ultimately for those of us who care about our rights, an issue we don’t talk about enough here in Washington frankly, the fundamental rights that have been denied now for too long in Cyprus.”
Congressman Gus Bilirakis:
“I’m not going anywhere until we resolve our issues. We have an obligation and a duty to be great citizens of the United States but also to never forget our people in Greece and Cyprus. We need to get the word out that Cyprus is number one. They’ve done everything that the United States has asked them to do; therefore, they are a tremendous ally in the region.”
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:
“The Hellenic American community is one of the most active and effective advocacy groups on the Hill – always engaged and promoting the issues that impact the U.S., Greece and Cyprus. And today we are here to commemorate the 41stanniversary of the illegal invasion of Cyprus by Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of Greek Cypriots have been displaced and countless others impacted by Turkey’s constant meddling in the internal affairs of Cyprus...the time for this to end is now. We need to redouble our efforts and we need to remain fully engaged in promoting the reunification of Cyprus to make sure that this dream that so many have been waiting 41 years for finally becomes a reality.”
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney:
“Today’s event is truly a sad one where we honor a dark day in the history of the world, the effects of which created an island that is divided to this day…walls have come down in so many places but still the wall stands in Cyprus…41 years is enough. We have to end this…It is time for Turkey to withdraw its troops from Cyprus so that the island can move forward as one nation. There can be no settlement with Turkish troops – over 40,000 of them – running around the island. But the change in leadership this year for the Turkish Cypriots; however, is reason to be cautiously hopeful that we will make real progress in reunifying Cyprus.”
Congressman John Sarbanes:
“Perhaps the ingredients are there for us to achieve some meaningful progress with respect to unifying Cyprus…as long as the discussion is going on between the two leaders of these communities and there are CBMs in place, there’s a reason to be hopeful. As long as it may take, we are going to achieve an end where things are resolved. The ultimate reunification of the island of Cyprus, I think, is in the destiny of that island, I think that it cannot be denied. I don’t believe that the reality that Erdogan seems to want to create is sustainable, and I think as long as it may take we are going to achieve an end where Cyprus is unified once again.”
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas:
“Perhaps it’s the future of Cyprus or Greece that brings you here but I would like to encourage you to think more broadly about getting engaged because we need new members coming from the Greek American community who bring the passion and the interest on some of these issues that are naturally part of who you are…On the issue of Cyprus it’s obviously taking us altogether too long. We’re here today to commemorate the 41st anniversary. Forty-one years is altogether too long. I remain hopeful…that we are in a new and different place and the Hellenic Caucus certainly does work hard to make sure this issue remains on the forefront. It takes all of you coming…to bring that issue to us.”
Congressman Brad Sherman:
“Even though these are tough times…but that does not mean it’s the time to ignore the actions of Turkey, not only in Cyprus, but also with churches, church property, and with the Ecumenical Patriarchate…It is obviously in the world’s interest that the natural gas and petroleum available in Cypriot waters be explored and Turkey [continues to] interfere with that effort. In doing so, they’ve declared that they control the waters off of southern Cyprus while at the same time occupying northern Cyprus…I look forward to getting your input as to how we can be effective at this difficult time and how we can be effective with a particularly difficult government in Ankara.”
Congressman Eliot Engel:
“The Turkish invasion of Cyprus happened with U.S. complicity…Turkey has a terrible record not only with regard Cyprus but with regard to many other things in the Middle Eastern region. I think that as a NATO ally, or supposed NATO ally, Turkey needs to be called to the carpet for its actions and for what it has done. It’s very important that the United States stand with Cyprus. An undivided Cyprus needs to happen. I think the United States needs to exert some leadership here and that we need to make sure that this illegal [invasion] which divides an island, which divides a country, is ended. The good thing, of course, is that no country has recognized the northern part of Cyprus – only Turkey. And Turkey couldn’t get anybody else to recognize it. But Turkey’s got no right to lecture other countries or to tell other countries what to do when you look at its record in Cyprus. This will always be a priority issue for me until the last illegal Turkish soldier leaves Cyprus. We need to leave Cyprus to the Cypriots. This is not an issue for one party or another; it’s an issue of simple peace and justice. The occupation needs to end – the sooner the better.”
The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American public policy center and think tank that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.
For additional information, please contact Georgea Polizos at (202) 785-8430 or at email@example.com. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at https://www.ahiworld.org and follow us on Twitter @TheAHIinDC.
AHI Marks 41st Anniversary of Turkish Invasion of Cyprus with Congressional Briefing