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Associations

AHI Issues Statement on Somber 48th Anniversary of Invasion of Cyprus

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) released the following statement on July 20 remembering the somber 48th anniversary of NATO member Turkey’s brutal invasion of the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union.

For 48 years, the Republic of Cyprus and its people, have endured an illegal occupation by over 40,000 Turkish troops, and massive violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by Turkey. AHI calls for the immediate removal of all Turkish troops from the Republic of Cyprus. With their presence, Turkey continues to violate U.S. law when it transfers American-made weapons from mainland Turkey to Turkish-occupied Cyprus. Congress must put a stop to this illegal transfer of weapons or otherwise it is complicit in breaking its own laws.

Additionally, Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus has had an impact on the ability of The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) to access certain Turkish military installations to excavate the remains of Cypriots missing since the tragic events that occurred on the island for proper identification. More than 800 Greek Cypriots, including four American citizens, remain missing and a large majority of these cases remain unresolved.

Turkey’s threats and acts of aggression toward Cyprus continue 48 years later. Challenges to the sovereignty of Cyprus are unacceptable and clearly demonstrate that Turkey is a force of instability in the Eastern Mediterranean. In October 2020, Turkey re-opened the beach in Varosha, the fenced-in area of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus which Turkey has occupied since it unlawfully invaded the Republic of Cyprus. This action violates United Nations resolutions and international treaties to which the U.S. and Turkey are signatories. Specifically, Turkey is in violation of the 1979 High Level Agreement between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities that stated that priority should be given to the resettlement of Famagusta, of which Varosha is a subdivision, under UN auspices.

Furthermore, President Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar have spoken openly about their support of a “two-state” solution regarding Cyprus–the permanent partition of the island. As such, President Erdogan’s attempt to change Varosha’s status demonstrates a lack of interest to resume serious settlement talks in favor of pursuing tangible steps to advance a “two-state” solution regarding Cyprus, which contravenes the positions of the United Nations and the U.S. government. The United States must condemn President Erdogan’s support for illegally re-opening the beach in Varosha and overt promotion of a two-state solution for Cyprus.

In addition, Turkey’s activities in occupied Cyprus threaten regional stability and the interests of the United States and Western Alliance. In 2021, Turkey announced the development of the former Lefkoniko Airport into an aerial drone base by moving drones onto the complex. From occupied Cyprus, the drones are in range of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, posing a danger to allies of the United States. Separately, Turkey has encroached illegally into the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus with its survey and drill-ships that accompanied by Turkish warships. These acts violated Cyprus’ sovereignty and international law. At the time, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades termed Turkey’s illegal bid to drill in Cyprus a “second invasion.”

The United States government must send a strong message to President Erdogan that Turkish troops and settlers must be removed from Cyprus and the antiquated rights of guarantees must be abandoned. The Treaty of Guarantee, which would allow for future unilateral Turkish military interventions, is completely unacceptable and contradicts the governing principals of a European Union member state. Such actions would be significant confidence building measures in the peace process. Although recent congressional action to press the Biden administration to place Cyprus as a high foreign policy priority, and specifically to urge action on Varosha, is appreciated, any positive resolution to the Cyprus problem cannot be foreseen until the United States presses Turkey to forgo its intransigence and unhelpful provocations. The Cypriots themselves should have ownership of the process and the Cypriot people should arrive at a solution that is for the Cypriot people; a bizonal, bicommunal federation, as well as a solution that embodies the full respect of the principles and laws of the European Union, of which Cyprus is a member. Advancing these positions will underscore support for the rule of law and respect for international law. It will demonstrate the United States’ dedication to solving the Cyprus problem.

Moreover, this is not the Cyprus of 48 years ago. Cyprus has made tremendous strides and is viewed today by the United States as a strategic partner because of its commitment to counterterrorism and security as evidenced by 2018’s Statement of Intent agreement with the United States. Since then, several important steps have occurred. The United States provides International Military Education and Training (IMET) program funding to the Republic of Cyprus. Cyprus has assigned a defense attaché to the Embassy in Washington. The Cyprus Center for Land, Open-Seas, and Port Security (CYCLOPS), an innovative security site that has been partially funded by the U.S., began operations this year. The U.S. has implemented a partial lifting of an arms prohibition on Cyprus. However, the arms prohibition must be fully and permanently lifted. Cyprus must be removed from the list of countries to which arms sales are prohibited under International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) because it has met the two conditions required to fully lift the embargo as codified in the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019. Finally, Cyprus is a signatory to the United States’ Proliferation Security Initiative.

In addition, Cyprus has strengthened bilateral relations with Israel and plays an integral role in an Eastern Mediterranean trilateral partnership with Israel and Greece; a partnership that at times includes the United States in a 3+1 framework. Turkey’s aggression in Cyprus’ EEZ and its gunboat diplomacy only serve to hinder Cyprus’s further development as a key contributor to security in the Eastern Mediterranean, the broader region, and Europe. Therefore, in the context of the United States’ enhanced relations with the Republic of Cyprus, AHI calls on the United States to condemn strongly Turkey’s illegal drilling activities in Cyprus’ EEZ, and further, place sanctions upon Turkey for such illegal activities.

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