WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), co-chair and co-founder of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, spoke on the House floor on July 25 during a Special Order organized by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), the co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus, to highlight the importance of the U.S.-Cyprus relationship. Maloney represents one of the largest communities of Greek Americans in the country. Her remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to show my strong and unwavering support for the U.S.-Cyprus relationship.
“As co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus, I would be remiss if I did not mention the tragic wildfires that tore through Greece yesterday, killing dozens, and injuring and displacing hundreds more. I am heartbroken by the loss of life and destruction these rapidly moving fires left in their wake, and I send my deepest condolences to the Greek people at this time. I know that the Hellenic American community – many of whom are my constituents – are affected by this disaster as well and have already begun efforts to help.
“I want to thank my fellow Hellenic Caucus co-chair Representative Gus Bilirakis for organizing this special order hour. I founded the Caucus with his father, former Representative Mike Bilirakis in 1996. And it remains one of the largest and most active caucuses in Congress.
“Cyprus is one of our staunchest allies in the world. Strengthening our alliance must remain a constant foreign policy priority for the United States.
“We just acknowledged a solemn anniversary last week – it has been 44 years since the illegal invasion by Turkish troops in the northern third of the nation of Cyprus. And to this day, the island and the people living on either side of the UN-monitored buffer zone remain separated. There are some 40,000 Turkish troops occupying northern Cyprus today.
“They pose a looming threat that the Cypriot people have been forced to live with every day.
“Negotiations on reunification are unfortunately stalled for now, after some signs of progress early last year.
“Turkish troops are undeniably a hinderance to peace. No just and lasting settlement for either Greek or Turkish Cypriots can be achieved with the presence of the Turkish military.
“We are here today to show the support of the U.S. Congress for a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation that is in the best interest of the United States, the entire eastern Mediterranean, and most of all, Cypriots themselves.
“Two years ago, I joined a Congressional delegation to Cyprus. As we toured along the buffer zone or ‘Green Line’ that partitions the country, the ‘ghost towns’ of Famagusta and Varosha illustrated the drastic impact that a divided Cyprus has on its people. It was a visualization of the opportunities lost, the time wasted, and development forgone because of this extended conflict.
“Some may not be aware that the buffer zone is patrolled by UN Peacekeeping forces. The U.S. must maintain its financial support for this mission.
“It is an effective investment in peace, especially now.
“There are numerous examples of Turkish aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean. Violations of Greek airspace and territorial waters are commonplace.
“Turkey continues to intimidate and interfere with the companies operating in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone – and violate Cyprus’s sovereign claims to its territory.
“Fortunately, there are near-term initiatives that Congress is pursuing right now to defend Cyprus’s stability and sovereignty.
“The NDAA Conference Report released Monday includes a provision to study lifting the arms embargo on Cyprus that has been in place since 1987.
I think we need to go much further than that. I think the embargo should be lifted today. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of Rep. Cicilline’s bill to do that, and this study will hopefully be at least a step in that direction.
“The NDAA also prohibits the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. That provision is long overdue.
“Cyprus is a vital U.S. partner in global and regional security, economic cooperation and energy development.
“I am very proud to champion this relationship in Congress through the Hellenic Caucus, and to have the support of so many of my Hellenic American constituents in that effort.
“I yield back.”