Cyprus 36th Anniversary of Invasion
Congressman Gus M. Bilirakis
July 19, 2010
Madame Speaker, for nearly 36 years, the people of Cyprus have endured an illegal occupation and massive violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by Turkey after it invaded a sovereign nation 36 years ago tomorrow.
It breaks my heart to hear the stories of how the occupied north has been devastated. How the Turkish occupiers have converted chapels in Kyrenia into bars and tourist information centers. How once beautiful churches have been converted into mosques. How the UN peacekeepers on the island have watched for 36 years as the Turkish army has laid landmines and can only sit and note what’s being done – a peacekeeping force operating with no mandate to stop the lawlessness. It breaks my heart that families forcibly removed from their homes had all of their personal and real property stolen from them. More heartbreaking than anything are the persons missing since 1974 whose families still grieve knowing they will never be at peace until their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers
are accounted for and whose bones must be laid to rest.
Yet the Turkish government still refuses to cooperate. To us their actions are unacceptable – that is why we will continue to fight and persist in our efforts to reunify Cyprus and make the island whole again and heal the wounds.
A solution to the Cyprus problem must come from the Cypriots themselves and must serve first and foremost the interests of the Cypriots. The key to a successful outcome of the negotiating process and reunification of the island remains with Ankara, since a solution to the Cyprus problem cannot be reached without Turkey’s full and constructive cooperation.
Turkey must give the new Turkish Cypriot leader the freedom to negotiate a solution.
Turkey must start with the removal of its occupation troops and illegal settlers from Cyprus.
The role of the United Nations and the international community is to provide assistance and support the process.
The process should not be subjected to false timeframes.
The United States has publicly supported a solution of the Cyprus problem and specifically a bicommunal, bizonal federation. As a close ally of Turkey, the US should use its influence to push Turkey to actively support the process and the reunification of the island as a bicommunal and bizonal federation.
And the U.S. must also push Turkey to withdraw its occupation forces.
The Government of Cyprus continues to work for the genuine reunification of Cyprus and integration of its people and economy in the context of a functional and viable settlement –
a solution which will bring peace, prosperity and a better future for all the citizens of a united Cyprus within the EU.
A solution of the Cyprus problem that reunifies the island, its people, the economy, its institutions in a bizonal, bicommunal federation is in the best interests of all Cypriots.
Madame Speaker I urge this body to pressure Turkey to remove its troops from Cyprus, remove its settlers, and come to the negotiating table in good faith to find a solution that is just for the Cypriot people. Let’s hope we are not recognizing the 37th anniversary of the invasion this time next year.
I yield back my time.