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U.S Representatives Support Cyprus and Condemn Turkey in Special Order Session on Cyprus
August 6, 1998 No. 35/98


On August 3, 1998 the United States House of Representatives held a special order session to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The session was convened by Representative Mike Bilirakis (R-FL). The American Hellenic Institute congratulates Representative Bilirakis on the holding of this session and for his leadership in Congress on the Cyprus problem.

Representative Bilirakis highlighted the fundamental stakes for American interests in Cyprus. He said:

"It is fundamentally important to have international stability in the global economy. A divided Cyprus continues to cause tension between Greece and Turkey. The Aegean Sea is home to the world's busiest shipping lanes. Cyprus is in a key strategic location relative to the Mediterranean region and the Suez Canal which is instrumental in supplying oil and other materials vital to the stability of the entire region...A divided Cyprus also weakens American security interests in the region and serves as a source of instability in an important part of the world."

Themes stressed by the Representatives included:

Turkish Aggression
Representative Donald Payne (D-NJ): "Aggression should not be allowed after 24 years to still remain. Territory taken by war should be returned."
Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): "This act of terror has brought nothing but sadness and sorrow."
Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY): "We must continue to fight against injustice in Cyprus. We must continue to provide aid to Cyprus to help that country deal with the terrible problems caused by more than two decade of Turkish occupation. And, above all, we must continue to keep the plight of the Cypriots on the minds of everyone around the world."
Representative Michael Bilirakis (R-FL): "Turkey continues to illegally occupy more than one-third of Cyprus with 40,000 troops. The current status quo is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable that the United States and the international community, while publicly denouncing the invasion and occupation, allow it to continue...It is time to demand, I repeat, demand a solution in Cyprus."

Turkish Military Government
Representative Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Chairman, House International Relations Committee: "Cyprus cannot be held hostage to problems within Turkey. I think that it is imperative for our government to make it crystal clear to both the Turkish civilian government and the military that Turkey's most vital long-term interests cannot be served without Turkey acting effectively to solve the Cyprus dispute. I am not convinced that all in the Turkish leadership truly believe that the U.S. is absolutely serious about resolving Cyprus, and the message needs to be reinforced."

Representative Robert Andrews (D-NJ): "The time has come to focus on Ankara and not on the puppet government in northern Cyprus. It is very clear to me that the decisions are made in Turkey and they are in fact made by the Turkish military leadership."

Representative John Porter (R-IL): "The answer to this long-running tragedy lies in Ankara... We have to stand clearly on the side of international law and peaceful settlement of disputes, and against lawlessness and aggression. The records of both the United States Congress and the United Nations General Assembly are clear: the illegal occupation of Cyprus must end."

Turkish Responsibility for the Negotiation Deadlock
Representative Bilirakis: "The Turkish side remains intransigent in its refusal to renew negotiations and continues to threaten Cyprus with military action...Turkish demands have become so inflexible that we are no closer to a Cyprus solution today than we were two decades ago."

Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) "Turkey continues to reject the Cypriot government's proposal for demilitarization of the island, a proposal that is supported by both Congress and the Clinton Administration... Turkey's new demands represent a clear step backward and must be met with equal resolve by those who support an independent and sovereign state of Cyprus."

Representative McGovern (D-MA): "The Government of Turkey and its proxy on Cyprus have a long history of ignoring international law...Most recently the Turkish side demonstrated again its disrespect for international law when, on May 3, it abruptly declared Greek Cypriots must meet three new 'pre-conditions' before any meaningful negotiations to resolve the Cyprus crisis could begin. This move undermined efforts by U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to revive peace negotiations and brought a public rebuke from the Ambassador."

Representative Visclosky (D-IN): "Unfortunately, Turkey refused to negotiate in good faith. As Mr. Holbrooke put it, 'There is no doubt that the Turkish side was responsible for the collapse of the talks.'"

Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY): "I call on the leaders of Turkish-occupied Cyprus to recognize the will of the international community and make positive steps towards ending the stand-off which has plagued the once-peaceful nation of Cyprus for twenty-four years. Mr. Denktash must end his demand that the illegitimate Turkish Cypriot Republic be recognized before he agrees to negotiations with Mr. Clerides. and Turkey must not aggravate tensions in the region by threatening the use of force against the nation of Cyprus."

Cyprus's Sovereign Right of Self-Defense
Representative Andrews: "The decision by President Clerides to try to defend the free people of Cyprus is self-defense and not provocation and I am disappointed that our government has gone on record indicating its reluctance to see that happen. The proper policy should be for us to recognize the right of the free people of Cyprus to have that self-defense."

Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA): "Now Turkey threatens to attack Cyprus if the S-300 missiles are deployed. With regards to the missiles, one cannot deny a Nation's right to self-defense: Cyprus is a nation with small National Guard and no air force to speak of facing an occupation force of more than 35,000 troops and Turkish fighters within striking distance. To his credit, President Clerides has offered repeatedly to cancel the missile order in exchange for demilitarization and genuine talks."

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL): "In addition to the oppressive police-state conditions the Cypriot people must endure in the illegally occupied areas of the island, the Turkish side and others are expressing concern and opposition to the Cypriot plan to acquire the S-300 defensive missiles. This is like attacking the victim from trying to defend itself...It is the sovereign right of any nation, including Cyprus to defend itself. It is not Cyprus that is the destabilizing element in this area but Turkey which is being provocative and amassing excessive military force in the illegal occupied areas of Cyprus."

Representative Gilman: "War-mongering threats from Turkish officials regarding the delivery of the S-300 missiles to Cyprus later this year are unacceptable."

The Withdrawal of Turkish Troops and Demilitarization
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL): "We in the U.S. Congress and the American people want Cyprus to be free of foreign troops, united, and living in justice and peace, so we must keep up intransigent pressure on all parties to continue working towards a solution."

Representative Thomas Manton (D-NJ): "The six fighter planes recently sent by Turkey to the occupied North is unacceptable. Peace cannot thrive on this island until Turkey agrees to fully cooperate by withdrawing its troops and returning their homeland to the Greek Cypriots and allowing them to live as they see fit and accorded the full human rights of a free nation."

Representative Steven Rothman (D-NJ): "The cause of peace for Cyprus, the cause of freedom for Cyprus and the pursuit of unified Cyprus is in sum not a complicated matter. To solve the Cyprus problem we need only to secure one vital element and that is the complete and unconditional withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island."

Representative Pallone: "Turkey continues to reject the Cypriot government's proposal for demilitarization of the island, a proposal that is supported by both Congress and the Clinton administration."

The Need for a Forceful U.S. Initiative
Representative Michael Pappas (R-NJ): "I hope and I pray, as I know many of us do here in this country, that the vision of a peaceful resolution on Cyprus is not lost. I urge this administration to be more active in seeking the peaceful resolution that is so desperately needed."

Representative Robert Andrews (D-NJ): "President Clerides, frankly to his own political disadvantage, offered disarmament, offered massive investment in the northern part of Cyprus so that its economy could rise and offered a long-term policy of cooperation and rapprochement. I believe that these are the terms that Turkey should accept, these are the terms that could lead us to peace, and I believe that we as Americans should be on record as saying that we fully embrace these positions and concur with their aims."

Representative Donald Payne (D-NJ): "It is not in the interest of U.S. foreign policy to reward Turkey, which I think is what we have been doing, for its hostile and inflexible stance towards Greece and Cyprus. It only serves to encourage Turkey to continue its opposition to progress in the region."

Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI): "This Congress needs to take direct steps to indicate support for Cyprus. Only when we, in Congress, show our strong support for a unified Cyprus will the necessary changes occur."

Representative John Porter (R-IL): "We have spent yet another frustrating and futile year waiting for the Administration to follow through on its promises to give resolution of this long-running problem its full attention. American policy towards Cyprus and the Aegean region can best be described as drift and react. We drift along while problems boil up, then react to the crisis du jour without a moral context of a policy framework. If we genuinely hope to solve the Cyprus problem, which has plagued us for nearly a quarter of a century, we must change this haphazard approach."