Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

July 24, 2008

   Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, on July 20, 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus. Thirty four years later, Turkish troops continue to occupy 37 percent of the land on Cyprus. During the occupation, some 180,000 Cypriots became refugees and over 5,000 Cypriots were murdered.

   The European Court of Human Rights recently found Turkey guilty of violating the European Convention on Human Rights. Notably, 26 year-old Solomos Solomou, was killed on August, 14, 1996 after being shot three times by Turkish snipers while trying to climb a pole in order to remove a Turkish flag from its mast. The killing happened after the funeral of his cousin, Tassos Isaak, who was himself beaten to death on August 11, 1996 by a Turkish mob while taking part in an anti-occupation demonstration.

   On March 12th of this year, I sent a congratulatory letter to the newly elected Cypriot President Christofias. In addition to a new President in the Republic of Cyprus, his election represents a new direction for the Republic of Cyprus. I commend President Christofias for the intensification of efforts to reach a just, viable, and functional solution to the Cyprus problem. I believe this is a unique time to capitalize on the commitment made to find a solution and I am optimistic that the working groups and technical committees will prepare the necessary groundwork for full-fledged negotiation. However, I also believe that any solution that will reunite the island, its people, its institutions and its economy and must come from the Cypriots themselves.

   On September 25, 2007, I introduced S. Res. 331, which calls on the United States Government to initiate a new effort to help Turkey understand the benefits that will accrue to it as a result of ending its military occupation of Cyprus. In addition, the resolution urges the Government of Turkey to immediately begin the withdrawal of its military occupation forces. Ultimately, it is on their shoulders to prove their good will and I hope they do so promptly.

   As Cypriot-Americans join with Cypriots from throughout the world to help to rebuild their homeland, and as they seek to secure an economically prosperous state free of illegal occupation, I will stand by them. I will work to ensure that the Turkish occupation comes to an end.

   This week, we remember those who perished on Cyprus, and honor those who survived and who continue to live under Turkish occupation. We have not forgotten and our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.

   Remembering together the events of July 20, 1974 in solidarity gives reverence to historical events we cannot afford to forget as we move forward to a peaceful, just solution and a hopeful tomorrow.