Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)
July 23, 2008
Mr. President,, on July 20, 1974, Turkish forces invaded Cyprus. The hostilities that followed led to great destruction of life and property. Today, 34 years later, we pause to mourn those who lost their lives.
Sadly, thousands of Turkish troops are still in Cyprus. The island remains divided, with significant distruct between the two sides.
Since 1974, UN peacekeeping forces have had to maintain a buffer zone between the Turkish Cypriots in the north and the Greek Cypriots in the south.
But today we have renewed hope for a solution to the Cyprus problem. The new peace process underway there offers the brightest opportunity we have had in many years to reunite the island.
The election of the Greek Cypriot leader Christofias in February helped usher in a new era of opportunity.
Along with his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Talat, the two sides are making progress to help the United Nations-led negotiations on the future of Cyprus succeed.
I commend both leaders for showing the political will needed to set the stage for a resolution.
The leaders met for the first time on March 21 of this year. Soon after, in a demonstration of goodwill on both sides, they agreed to open a new crossing at Ledra Street in Nicosia.
The leaders are working together to develop a timeline for future negotiations, including another meeting this Friday, on July 25. I urge both parties to demonstrate their commitment to peace negotiations at that time.
I hope the United Nations will continue to play a constructive role in supporting the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders as they find a way forward.
Cyprus’s goal is to reunify the island as a bicommunal, bizonal federation. Resolution of the Cyprus problems would untie so many other knows, with implications for Europe and beyond. I encourage both sides to use this moment of opportunity, and continue their important work with the United Nations, to achieve this goal.