Nearing a Half Century of Occupation is Inconceivable
Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas has issued a statement on the 49th anniversary of the illegal invasion of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey that occurred July 20, 1974 and subsequent ongoing illegal occupation:
“Today we observe a dark day–the 49th anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation of the Republic of Cyprus, a U.S. strategic partner, by the Republic of Turkey, an unreliable NATO-member country under the Erdogan regime.
“To this very day this act remains an intolerable one; an act that is a gross violation of the rule of law, human rights, and democratic ideals. We pause to remember the innocent civilians who lost their lives and the individuals who went missing, including five American citizens, four of whose investigations remain incomplete. The illegal invasion and occupation caused the displacement of 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees who to this day are unable to return to their homes which is also a violation of human rights as determined by the European Commission on Human Rights. Moreover, Turkey’s restrictions upon religious freedom and destruction of Cyprus’ cultural and religious heritage in Turkish-occupied Cyprus have been well-documented by the U.S. Helsinki Commission, the Law Library of Congress, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and several media publications.
“It is our hope the two sides resume their dialogue and work to resolve difficult issues to achieve a just and viable settlement. Unfortunately, Turkey’s provocative and hostile acts, and constant assault on international law, threaten the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and do not bode well for the resumption of settlement talks. Recently, these provocations have come in the form of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s public calls for a ‘two-state solution’ and the reopening of Varosha.
“We also do not forget that Turkey has acted aggressively in Cyprus’ designated exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with drillships and warships that in certain instances amounted to gunboat diplomacy. It led to then-Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to call Turkey’s intention to drill a ‘second invasion.’ It also threatened the potential to achieve energy security for Europe and multinational energy firms, including American ones.
“We outright condemn Turkey’s history of provocative actions and aggression and deem them unacceptable.
“Furthermore, Turkish intransigence in the quest for a settlement must end. Turkey must abandon its insistence to be a Guarantor Power of a reunified Cyprus, essentially the right to intervene, especially as the security of all Cypriots in a unified, EU-member Cyprus would be provided by the EU. Again, we urge the U.S. government to convey a strong message to Turkey that it must play a constructive role in the movement of confidence-building measures, which includes the removal of 40,000 Turkish troops from the island. We maintain our longstanding contention that these troops would serve a better purpose elsewhere, especially to NATO, as opposed to Cyprus.
“These actions are in the best interests of the United States, which has conveyed appreciation for the strategic partnership it has with the Republic of Cyprus; a partnership that has included enhanced defense and security cooperation. The United States’ investment in the Republic of Cyprus’s International Military Education and Training program and the opening of a U.S.-funded regional security training center, are testaments. More must be done. The time is now for the United States to make the lifting of its arms prohibition on Cyprus a permanent measure and not one that is up for annual review.
“Despite these troubling circumstances, we restate our call for a reunified Cyprus with a single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship; and with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded as described in the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. We contend such a solution is in the best interest of all Cypriots and must emanate from Cypriots themselves without arbitrary timetables. A just and viable solution to the division of Cyprus will strengthen the Eastern Mediterranean and bring peace and security to the region.
“As we inch inconceivably toward almost a half century of division and injustice, we adamantly state, ‘enough!’ We renew our call for the Biden administration to prioritize the Cyprus issue and to pressure Turkey on the matter; not to appease it with a proposed sale of F-16 jet fighters. The occupation of Cyprus must be addressed by the Administration and the West with the same level of focus, engagement, and diplomatic resources they devote to Ukraine, whose invasion by Russia draws a parallel to the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey.
“This time, next year, we proudly will be in Cyprus for the 102nd AHEPA Family Supreme Convention to stand with the Republic of Cyprus and all Cypriots. Our hope is we will no longer need to observe this solemn anniversary, but instead, celebrate the anniversary of a settlement. AHEPA remains committed to doing all within its power, and pledges to continue to work with all like-minded organizations, to keep the Cyprus issue in the public eye until a just and viable solution that benefits all Cypriots is realized.”