WASHINGTON, DC – The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) on July 20 remembers the somber 47th anniversary of NATO member Turkey’s brutal invasion of the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union. The statement follows:
Today, the Republic of Cyprus faces its greatest threats from Turkey since 1974. 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 in 1974. 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 Recep Tayyip 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, European Union, and the U.S. government. In addition, Turkey’s activities in occupied Cyprus threaten regional stability and the interests of the United States and Western Alliance.
According to well-documented reports, Turkey is transforming 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 drillships that were 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. However, Turkey, instead of helping to provide stability by promoting a just settlement supported by both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, continues to insist on antiquated and obstructive stances, such as its insistence to maintain the Treaty of Guarantee with a right of future unilateral Turkish military intervention. A just Cyprus solution should be in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions calling for a bizonal, bicommunal federation, as well as for a solution that embodies the full respect of the principles and laws of the European Union, of which Cyprus is a member state. The new state of affairs ought to safeguard that a reunified Cyprus would have a single international legal personality, a single sovereignty and a single citizenship. 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. Specifically, the United States must pursue both bilateral and multilateral sanctions against Turkey should President Erdogan announce, during his visit to the occupied area, additional measures to advance a two-state solution on Cyprus, including further provocations regarding Varosha.
Moreover, this is not the Cyprus of 47 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 provided International Military Education and Training (IMET) program funding to the Republic of Cyprus for the first-time last year. 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., is scheduled to begin operations in January 2022. Also last year, the U.S. implemented a partial lifting of an arms prohibition on Cyprus. However, the arms prohibition must be fully and permanently lifted, and Cyprus must be removed from the list of countries to which arms sales are prohibited under International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). 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.
For 47 years, the Republic of Cyprus and its people, have endured an illegal occupation by 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 996 Cypriots, including four American citizens, remain missing and a large majority of these cases remain unresolved.
More information is available online: https://www.ahiworld.org/.