Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
July 22, 2008
Mrs. MALONEY of New York. As cochair and cofounder of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, I wish to extend my support to Cypriots of Hellenic descent here in our country, on Cyprus, and all around the world as we mark the tragic 34th anniversary of the 1974 illegal Turkish invasion of Cyprus. I have commemorated this day each year since I became a Member of Congress.
For the past several years, the Hellenic Caucus has been very engaged on the issues facing this divided island. Many members of the Caucus remain concerned about the continued occupation and division of the Republic of Cyprus.
Turkey illegally invaded Cyprus in 1974. As a result of the Turkish invasion and occupation, 160,000 Greek Cypriots, amounting to 70 percent of the population of the occupied area and over a quarter of the total population, were forcibly expelled from their homes, and approximately 5,000 Cypriots were killed. More than 1,400 Greek Cypriots, including four Americans of Cypriot descent, remain missing and unaccounted for since the Turkish invasion.
Famagusta was a thriving port city in Cyprus until 1974. Its industrial sector supplied vital jobs to the nearby population, and it was an important tourist destination. In 1973, 88 percent of all imports and 73 percent of all exports went through Famagusta. Tragically, a few short weeks after Turkey invaded Cyprus , Famagusta was bombed relentlessly by Turkish troops. I have many constituents that I represent who told me about that fateful day, how they had to crawl out on their hands and knees begging God for their life. They want desperately to return to their homes.
Many Greek Cypriots fled, as my constituents did, in terror, and the city was sealed off with barbed wire fences by Turkish forces. I have been to and seen the 113 miles of barbed wire, and we hope that this barbed wire will finally be removed.
Ultimately, 45,000 citizens of Famagusta became refugees in their own country, losing their land, businesses, homes and neighborhoods. Today, 34 years later, Turkey continues forcibly to occupy more than a third of Cyprus, with more than 43,000 illegal Turkish troops.
The peaceful and cooperative spirit and the person-to-person, family-to-family interactions between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots is an encouraging sign for the successful reunification of Cyprus. However, it is time for Turkey to remove its troops from the island so that Cyprus can move forward as one nation undivided.
As a member of the European Union, Cyprus is playing a vital role in European affairs, while also strengthening relations with the United States. It has joined with us on issues important to our own security, including the fight against terrorism and other forms of international crimes.
Cyprus was the very first EU member to join the ship boarding protocol of President Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative, particularly important because Cyprus has one of the world's largest commercial shipping registries.
As Cyprus developed into a regional financial center, the government moved aggressively and put in place strong anti-money laundering legislation. On March 21, 2008, President Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Talat agreed to establish working groups and technical committees as a stipulation in the July 8, 2006 agreement for which the House of Representatives expressed its full support by passing H.R. 405 last year.
On April 3, 2008, the Ledra Street crossing point opened. I have introduced legislation which expresses the strong support of the House of Representatives for the positive actions by the Republic of Cyprus aimed at opening additional crossing points along the cease-fire line, thereby contributing to efforts for the reunification of the island.
I strongly support legislation introduced by my colleagues, including H.R. 1456, introduced by Congressman Pallone, which would enable U.S. citizens who own property in the Turkish-occupied territory of the Republic of Cyprus to seek financial remedies with either the current inhabitants of their land or the Turkish Government.
I strongly support H.R. 620, introduced by my good friend, Representative Sires, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that Turkey should end its military occupation of the Republic of Cyprus.
The U.S. must play an active role in the resolution of the serious issues facing Cyprus. And I hope that the process moves forward in preparation for new comprehensive negotiations leading to the unification of Cyprus within a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. In fact, in May, Representative Bilirakis and I sent a letter to Secretary Rice urging her to invite the Cypriot President to the U.S. for an official state visit.
The people of Cyprus deserve a unified and democratic country, and I remain hopeful that a peaceful settlement will be found so that the division of Cyprus will come to an end.
In recognition of the spirit of the people of Cyprus, I ask my colleagues to join me in solemnly commemorating the 34th anniversary of the invasion of Cyprus.
Long Live Freedom.
Long Live Cyprus.
Long Live Greece.