31ST ANNIVERSARY OF TURKEY'S ILLEGAL OCCUPATION OF CYPRUS -- (House of Representatives - July 21, 2005)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, yesterday July 20 marked the 31st anniversary of an illegal and inexcusable act by Turkey. Thirty-one years ago yesterday Turkish military forces illegally invaded Cyprus, forcing nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes. And these Greek Cypriots became refugees in their own country and have remained refugees for the past 3 decades.
Mr. Speaker, the U.N. Security Council resolved in both 1974 and 1975 that the Turkish occupiers had to facilitate the safe return of all refugees to their homes. For 31 years, Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has defiantly refused to abide by these U.N. resolutions.
Furthermore, in December of 1996 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that refugee Titina Loizidou be given access to her property in the occupied territory. And once again this court ruling was met with defiance from the Turkish occupiers.
After waiting for 2 years for Turkey to comply, Loizidou then went back to the European Court again and this time asking that the Turkish government compensate her for the property. The European Court ruled the Turkish government should pay Loizidou 458,000 Cyprus pounds. And it has now been 7 years and the Turkish government still refuses to comply.
Mr. Speaker, Turkey's intransigence is unacceptable and must come to an end. Earlier this year I joined the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Bilirakis) and the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Maloney), the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, in introducing legislation that would put this House on record in support of the European Court's decisions and expressing our desire that the Court hear more cases regarding illegal seizures of Cypriot property by the Turkish Cypriot regime. Turkey's refusal to comply with these court decisions should not go unnoticed by this House, and that is why it is important that we pass this important resolution.
Mr. Speaker, Cypriot-Americans are among the refugees that are being denied access to their property by Turkey. Since these Americans cannot return to their illegally seized property, I believe these Cypriot-Americans should be allowed to seek financial remedies with either the current inhabitants of their land or the Turkish government itself.
So earlier this year I introduced the bipartisan American Owned Property in Occupied Cyprus claims Act. The legislation authorizes the President to initiate a claims program under which the claims of U.S. nationals who Turkey has excluded from their property can be judged before the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. If this commission determined that Cypriot-Americans should be compensated for their property, negotiations would then take place between the United States and Turkey to determine the proper compensation. My legislation would also empower U.S. District courts to hear causes of action against either the individuals who now occupy those properties or the Turkish government.
Passage of this legislation is particularly crucial today as reports show sharp increases in the number of unlawful investments of occupied properties and a construction boom on land that continues to be owned by approximately 170,000 Greek-Cypriots, many of whom are now U.S. citizens. The source of this disturbing trend is the decision of the Turkish occupation regime to permit current possessors of property to transfer such property to third parties. And today there is a mistaken impression among buyers of such properties that unlawful investments in occupied territories will be safeguarded in the future.
As a result, a secondary market involving transactions in legal properties has arisen, as illegal occupiers of the land have begun to sell their alleged ownership to third parties, including corporations and Europeans.
Now, Mr. Speaker, these actions only exacerbate the difficult property issues that must be addressed before the Cyprus issue can be solved. And it is important that in looking at this conflict, both the United States and the United Nations do not forget Turkey's 30-year defiance of U.N. court decisions relating to the illegal seizure of property. Some 200,000 refugees have waited 31 years to either return to their homes or to receive proper compensation. And, Mr. Speaker, it is my hope that direct negotiations will begin again soon, and that we can finally end Turkey's 31-year illegal occupation of Cyprus.