AHI Send Letter to Secretary Rice Regarding Forthcoming Trip by Members of Congress to Illegally Occupied Part of Cyprus

WASHINGTON, DC—On May 19, 2005 AHI President Gene Rossides sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice regarding the forthcoming trip by Members of Congress to the illegally occupied area of Cyprus entering through Tymbou airport. The text of the letter follows:

May 19, 2005

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Re: Forthcoming trip by Members of Congress to the illegally occupied area of Cyprus entering through the illegal Tymbou airport.

Dear Madam Secretary:

It has come to our attention that a delegation of U.S. Representatives are planning to visit the illegally occupied area of Cyprus sometime during the first week of June arriving through the illegal Tymbou airport in occupied Cyprus directly from Turkey, which they plan to visit first. The Tymbou airport was built on property illegally taken from its lawful owners during the Turkish invasion.

The American Hellenic Institute (AHI), on behalf of its nationwide membership, is vehemently opposed to this trip through the illegal Tymbou airport which violates the laws of the Republic of Cyprus, U.S. law and international law, and does not serve the best interests of the United States in support of a proper solution to the reunification of Cyprus. Further, this establishes a bad precedent by our elected lawmakers and government officials, who are sworn to protect and uphold the laws of our nation and to respect the laws of other sovereign nations.

The AHI strongly supports congressional visits to Cyprus, including the occupied area of Cyprus in the north, if they are done in a manner consistent with international law and U.S. law. The internationally recognized government of the Republic of Cyprus facilitates such visits from Larnaca airport to the various crossing points in the UN monitored buffer zone. Larnaca airport is a legal internationally recognized airport in the Republic of Cyprus.

Five Members of Congress were initially scheduled to take this trip to Turkey and then to occupied Cyprus. We since have learned that two and possibly three have cancelled their trip to occupied Cyprus.

As of now, we know of two who are still scheduled to go to occupied Cyprus through the illegal Tymbou airport, Rep. Edward Whitfield (R-KY) and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA).

On Friday, May 13, 2005, State Department Spokesperson Ambassador Richard Boucher, in response to questions regarding a U.S. congressional delegation entering occupied Cyprus through an illegal airport, stated:

[i]ts a matter for the delegation to decide…U.S. personnel are allowed to fly into Ercan [Tymbou] airport and there's nothing…stopping them from doing that. They decide what their travel plans are….U.S. personnel, even government personnel have been allowed to fly into Ercan [Tymbou] airport.

As forces around the world continue to challenge our values, principles and laws, a key weapon of democracy is the rule of law. If our own lawmakers and key State Department officials do not support the rule of law, then what example are we displaying for the rest of the world?

By way of background as to why no U.S. citizen should travel into the occupied north through an illegal entry point, we bring to your attention certain facts for your consideration.

To begin, the so-called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" (referred to as the TRNC) is an illegal entity under international law and is not recognized by any nation in the world except for Turkey. Turkey's illegal 1974 invasion of the sovereign Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish army's continuing illegal occupation of 37.3 percent of the island – accomplished with the unlawful use of U.S. arms – are violations of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, article 2 (4) of the UN Charter, and the North Atlantic Treaty.

The Turkish occupation violates several UN resolutions, such as the unanimous UN General Assembly Resolution 3212, passed on November 1, 1974, which called for the removal of all foreign military forces. It also violates Security Council Resolutions, including S.C. Resolution 365, passed on December 13, 1974 endorsing Resolution 3212. Furthermore, the continued presence of Turkish troops and illegal Turkish settlers in the region is illegal.

The airports in occupied Cyprus are located on property that was illegally taken from its lawful owners during the Turkish invasion. Therefore, in addition to the breach of UN resolutions and international law, the intended visit is problematic because of the issue of property rights in northern Cyprus. Under consistent rulings issued by the European Court of Human Rights which were affirmed as recently as April 2005, the only rightful owners of real property in the TRNC are those persons who hold title under the laws of the Republic of Cyprus, which is the internationally recognized government of Cyprus.

The only transfers of title or other interest in real property in the TRNC that are legal are transfers that are accomplished under the laws of the Republic of Cyprus. Since the Turkish military prevents the operation of the laws of the Republic of Cyprus in the TRNC, any transfer is illegal and subject to rescission by the rightful owner. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit applied this principle with respect to personal property that was purported to have been transferred under the laws of the TRNC. This principle applies with even greater force with respect to real property.

These rightful property owners include U.S. citizens. U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) introduced the bipartisan American Owned Property in Occupied Cyprus Claims Act, H.R. 857 on February 16, 2005 with 12 original co-sponsors. The bill vests subject matter jurisdiction in the federal courts to hear causes of action against any person or entity who uses or occupies the real property of any U.S. citizen who holds title to that property under the laws of the Republic of Cyprus.

If Members of the House of Representatives take part in this trip through the illegal Tymbou airport instead of through the legal airport of Larnaca, it places those Members in a position of aiding and abetting the violation of the laws of the Republic of Cyprus, a friendly nation who has helped the U.S. substantially on many important occasions. It further lends endorsement of the illegal occupation and violation of human rights by Turkey in Cyprus.

Finally, this trip would have an adverse effect against the legitimate government of Cyprus. A message would be sent that certain U.S. Congressmen do not support a resolution of the Cyprus problem that is consistent with UN resolutions and the rule of law. A viable solution to the Cyprus problem that is just and equitable to both sides would undoubtedly set a great example for the region, but supporting this trip will only serve to exacerbate the problem.


Gene Rossides

cc: Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns

State Department Inspector General Howard J. Krongard

State Department Legal Advisor William H. Taft IV

For more information about the American Hellenic Institute in Washington, D.C., contact Georgia Economou, Director of Public Relations for AHI, at (202) 785-8430 or at georgia@ahiworld.org, or visit the groups' website at http://www.ahiworld.org. AHI was founded in 1974 following Turkey's illegal invasion and occupation of 37.3% of Cyprus. It is a membership-based organization with members throughout the nation. AHI's core mission is to promote American values and the rule of law in U.S. foreign policy and to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Greece and Cyprus as being in the best interests of the United States. It conducts an active program with Congress in espousing and supporting legislation designed to promote American interests in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean and is registered with the Congress under the Lobbying Act. The AHI Foundation is the first think-tank devoted exclusively to the study of the issues confronting the Greek American community. This organization sponsors conferences, seminars and publishes books and other materials on the issues.

HCS maintains an extensive archives for AHI articles and press releases which visitors may browse under the American Hellenic Institute Releases section of the archives at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/contents.html.

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