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Statement On Vice President Joe Biden’s Visit To Cyprus

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Statement On Vice President Joe Biden’s Visit To Cyprus

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                CONTACT: Georgea Polizos

May 28, 2014—No. 33                                            (202) 785-8430

 

 

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute commends Vice President Joe Biden’s historic visit to Cyprus, May 21-22, 2014.

 

The Republic of Cyprus is an important ally for the United States and a key strategic partner on counter-terrorism and security measures. AHI has advocated for the United States to properly recognize Cyprus’s importance as a strategic partner, which has been clearly evident from numerous examples, including: the evacuation of nearly 15,000 American citizens from Lebanon to Cyprus during the Israel-Lebanon conflict in July 2006; Cyprus being the first EU nation to sign the United States’ Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI); Limassol port being used by U.S. military personnel deployed in the region for R&R; and Cyprus’s aim to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace.  Although overdue, AHI welcomes Vice President Biden’s statement describing the United States – Cyprus relationship now as “a genuine, strategic partnership” that “holds even greater promise.” The vice president acknowledged Cyprus’s role in support of the mission to eliminate chemical weapons from Syria and to help prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

 

Furthermore, AHI maintains that the United States can play a crucial role in finding a Cyprus settlement by getting realistic with Turkey and eliminating its double-standard policy that has rewarded Turkish aggression and ignored countless violations of the rule of law in the Republic of Cyprus.  Vice President Biden’s strong affirmation that the United States “recognizes only one legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus, and my [the vice president’s] visit and meetings throughout the island will not change that…It is the position of the United States of America, and it’s the position of the entire world—save one country” as stated in remarks upon his arrival to Cyprus can be viewed as the United States finally getting realistic with Turkey on a public stage.  However, the vice president refrained—at least publically—from calling for the removal of Turkish troops from the island or the return of Turkish settlers in Cyprus to Turkey, both of which would have addressed Turkish aggression and violation of the rule of law in Cyprus. 

 

The May 12, 2014 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights that ordered Turkey to compensate the victims of its 1974 invasion of the Republic of Cyprus is yet another indictment of Turkey’s violation of international law and the rule of law when it illegally invaded the Republic of Cyprus. Therefore, to reiterate, AHI’s position on a Cyprus solution is to:

 

support a settlement through negotiations based on a bi-zonal, bi communal federation in a state with a single sovereignty and international personality, incorporating the norms of a constitutional democracy embracing key American principles, the EU acquis communautaire and EU Founding Treaty, UN resolutions on Cyprus, the pertinent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and of other European Courts -- as is the best interests of the United States;

 

call for the immediate withdrawal of Turkey’s 43,000 occupation troops illegally in Cyprus;

 

call for the return of the 180,000 illegal Turkish colonists/settlers in Cyprus to Turkey to illegally that changed the demographics of the island and of the Turkish Cypriot community, which is in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949;

 

call for the return of the sealed-off section of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants by Turkey as noted in UN Security Council resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992) and the 1979 High Level Agreement between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, which stated that priority should be given to the resettlement of Famagusta under the UN auspices.  This position was recently reaffirmed by the European Parliament in a written declaration issued February 2012;

 

call for the restoration of property illegally taken in the northern-occupied area of Cyprus to their rightful owners, and payment by Turkey to the owners for deprivation of the use of their property;

 

urge the U.S. government to direct Turkey to tear down the green line barbed wire fence across the face of Cyprus that makes Nicosia the last divided capital in Europe;

 

contend Ankara must not manipulate negotiations on Cyprus;

 

call on Ankara to normalize relations with the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union (a body to which Turkey aspires to join), and as agreed to by Turkey in the Ankara Protocol (which would extend Turkey's customs agreement with the EU by opening its ports to goods from Cyprus);

 

and call on the Turkish Government to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which is part of the acquis communautaire, without further delay, and recognize the full legitimacy of the Republic of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone; and further, call on Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of all nation states, including those relating to the exploration and exploitation of natural resources in territories or waters under their sovereignty.

 

In this regard, AHI welcomes Vice President Biden’s call for a Cyprus settlement based upon a “bi-zonal, bi-communal federation” and for his encouragement for settlement negotiators “to discuss a package on Varosha and Famagusta.”

 

Going forward, AHI believes the United States can contribute positively to the settlement process by being a catalyst that propels negotiations, monitoring the negotiations as they progress, and can further exert its influence by calling out or becoming engaged at the appropriate times when certain parties or outside parties become intransigent. AHI also believes the United States must emphasize that the interests of Cypriots must be kept at the forefront of a settlement.  In this regard, AHI strongly applauds Vice President Biden’s statement, “…ultimately, the solution cannot come from the outside.  It cannot come from the United States or anywhere else; it has to come from the leaders of the two communities, and from the compelling voices of the civic society leaders I heard from today.”

 

Finally, AHI is pleased Vice President Biden recognized Cyprus emerging in context of its geostrategic importance thanks to significant energy finds and its sustained relations with Israel, and of course, Greece.  This has taken center stage with recent developments in Ukraine and Russia’s role as a top supplier of gas to Europe.  “Cyprus is poised to become a key player…transforming the eastern Mediterranean into a global hub for natural gas,” the vice president said during a lunch hosted by President Nicos Anastasiades, according to an Associated Press report.  However, AHI cautions that a Cyprus settlement should not be a hasty one and come at the expense of the rule of law for the sake of gas exportation.

 

Prior to his trip, Vice President Biden held a briefing with leaders of the Greek American community at which AHI President Nick Larigakis participated.

“It was a productive briefing that allowed for exchange of ideas,” Larigakis said.

 

The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American think tank and public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.

 

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For additional information, please contact Georgea Polizos at (202) 785-8430 or at pr@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org and follow us on Twitter @TheAHIinDC

 

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