Washington, DC July 20 marked the 31st anniversary of the tragic invasion and subsequent occupation of Cyprus by Turkish armed forces. To commemorate the anniversary, U.S. Representative Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the House International Relations Committee, made the following statement to the House of Representatives:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join my fellow colleagues and Greek Cypriots throughout the world in remembering the 31st anniversary of the tragic invasion and occupation of Cyprus by Turkish armed forces.
“On July 20, 1974, Turkey invaded the sovereign Republic of Cyprus and placed 37 percent of its territory under military occupation. Over the past 31 years, two hundred thousand Greek Cypriots have been expelled from their homes and forced to live as refugees. This illegal occupation persists today, infringing upon principles of national sovereignty and violating the Cypriots’ natural right of self-determination.
“On this day, as we remember the victims of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, I urge my colleagues and the world to support the Greek Cypriot concerns about the reunification process. Greek Cypriots want Cyprus united under a plan that will provide a just, fair, and long-term solution to the Cypriot problem. And they deserve nothing less. Any reunification plan must uphold democratic and human rights for all Cypriots. It must resolve property rights issues for Greek Cypriots and it must significantly demilitarize the island. Let me be clear a plan that is unacceptable to 76 percent of Greek Cypriots cannot be acceptable to the United States or to the international community.
“I also urge Congress to use this day of remembrance to honor other victims of Turkish injustice. Today, Turkey continues to violate the religious rights and freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarch, spiritual leader to millions of Orthodox Christians around the world. The Government of Turkey refuses to recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s international status, continues to impede training for the clergy, refuses to reopen the theological institute at Halki, and has confiscated or levied retroactive taxes on Ecumenical Patriarchal properties.
“I am pleased that I was able to include language on the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which passed the House of Representatives today. This language calls on Turkey to immediately eliminate all forms of discrimination, particularly those based on race or religion. It also calls on Turkey to pledge to maintain and protect religious and human rights without compromise.
“Today, I ask my colleagues to join me in solemnly commemorating the 31st anniversary of the invasion of Cyprus. I further ask you to stand firmly with the people of Cyprus in their quest to achieve reunification and justice for Cyprus. The US should not turn its back on the peaceful aspirations of the Cypriot people. Justice dictates that Turkish troops should leave the occupied parts of Northern Cyprus, and that the Cypriot people both Greek and Turkish alike can reunify and enjoy the benefits of peace with justice and the benefits of being member of the EU. ”
For more information, contact Matthew Miller, Communications Director, House Democratic Caucus, Hon. Robert Menendez, Chairman, (email) firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-226-3210 (office), or visit the Congressman's official website at http://menendez.house.gov/
Congressman Robert Menendez is serving his seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives as a representative to New Jersey's 13th Congressional District along the Hudson River. He is the Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, re-elected to a second term by his colleagues on 17 November 2004. In that post, Rep. Menendez is the 3rd-ranking Democrat in the House, the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congressional history and the only one ever elected to a leadership position in either chamber.