RECOGNIZING THE 33RD ANNIVERSARY OF TURKEY'S ILLEGAL INVASION OF CYPRUS -- (House of Representatives - July 17, 2007)
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, tonight I join some of my colleagues on the House floor to remember a horrific act taken by Turkey against the citizens of Cyprus 30 years ago. On July 20, 1974, the nation of Turkey violated international law when it brutally invaded the sovereign Republic of Cyprus. Following the Turkish invasion, 200,000 people were forcibly displaced from their homes, and a large number of Cypriots, who were captured during the invasion, are still missing today.
Until 3 years ago, both Democratic and Republican administrations here in the U.S. consistently condemned the Turkish government for its illegal occupation and pressured the government to come to the negotiating table in an attempt to finally reunify Cyprus.
Past administrations understood that the invading nation of Turkey was to blame for the division and should therefore be punished accordingly. As a result, past administration specifically forbid trade with the illegal government of the occupied north. Our government also prohibited direct flights into the occupied north. As long as Turkey continued its intransigence and refused to leave Cyprus, U.S. administrations correctly believed they should not be rewarded.
While this has been consistent U.S. policy, I have grown increasingly concerned that over the past 3 years we have witnessed a blatant shift in Cypriot policy from the Bush administration, specifically from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The Bush administration is punishing Cyprus for overwhelmingly voting in a democratic election against the United Nations Annan Plan.
The U.S. State Department and Secretary Rice seem more interested in rewarding those who illegally occupied the northern third of the nation back in 1974, than in actually reunifying the island. Over the past 2 years, our State Department decided to allow Americans to fly into the occupied north in direct violation of international law and the law of the Republic of Cyprus.
I joined many of my colleagues from the Congressional Hellenic Caucus in objecting to this action. The State Department responded by saying that it was interested in encouraging the elimination of unnecessary restrictions and barriers that isolate and impede the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community.
Unfortunately, it didn't end there. The State Department pursued the option of resuming trade with the occupied north, a direct violation of both domestic law in Cyprus and international law.
I am deeply concerned that the State Department's drastic policy reversal towards the government, and the people of the occupied north, will only delay reunification of the entire island. If the U.S. allows direct trade through routes in the north, what incentives do the illegal occupiers have to make any concessions? It's as if the State Department has completely forgotten who is responsible for the invasion of Cyprus in the first place.
Mr. Speaker, the Annan Plan was unfair to the Cypriots in many ways, but the issues of property were the ones of most concern to many of the Cypriot Americans that I have talked to. 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 the land or the Turkish government itself.
Earlier this year I introduced the bipartisan American Owned Property in Occupied Cyprus Claims Act. This 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 U.S. 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.
For 35 years now the people of Cyprus have been denied their independence and freedom because of a foreign aggressor. I urge all of my colleagues to join me in remembering what the Cypriot people have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of the Turks.
I also urge my colleagues to join me in pressuring the Bush administration to return to a policy that once again takes into consideration that entire 33-year history of this conflict. The people of Cyprus deserve nothing less.