Reaction to Cyprus Referendum -- (House of Representatives - May 12, 2004)
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, last month the Greek Cypriot majority on the island nation of Cyprus overwhelmingly rejected a U.N. plan that forced them to put too much faith in the government of Turkey. Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. The Greek Cypriot people did not reject reunification of Cyprus. They rejected a proposal by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a proposal they determined was not in the best interests of their nation as it prepared to join the European Union.
After the Annan plan was defeated, Cypriot President Papadopoulos said, "I should emphasize that the Greek Cypriots have not rejected the solution of the Cyprus problem. They are not turning their backs on their Turkish Cypriot compatriots." President Papadopoulos once again called upon Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to work together for a united Cyprus. Both the United Nations and the Bush administration must realize that the
Greek Cypriots are still dedicated to reunification, but they were simply not willing to accept a plan that forced them to accept the good will of the Turkish Government.
Mr. Speaker, before last month's vote, I voiced concern over some of the provisions included in the final Annan plan. I think the overall vote shows who benefited most from this plan, the Turkish Cypriot people and Turkey. I met with the Secretary-General in March to express my concerns with some of the proposals he was planning to include in his final plan. During that meeting, I strongly recommended that the United Nations maintain a presence on the island as long as the Turkish Army remained there.
The Secretary-General assured me that U.N. forces would remain on the island for a considerable amount of time, but his final plan allowed Turkish troops to stay indefinitely without an international presence. This was simply unacceptable. Like most Greek Cypriots, I was extremely worried about the actions Turkish troops would take with the absence of a neutral international presence to keep them in line. I was also concerned that Turkey would not abide by the final agreement and its troops would contribute to further instability and insecurity.
Mr. Speaker, the Annan plan should have called for the removal of all foreign troops and should have eliminated the right of foreign powers to unilaterally intervene in Cyprus. Greek Cypriots were concerned that the plan did not contain ironclad provisions for the implementation of the agreement, especially for those provisions where Turkey's cooperation was necessary. The Cypriots were forced to take the Turkish Government at its word that occupied land would be returned to its rightful owners 3 to 5 years down the line. The Cypriots were forced to take the Turkish Government at its word that the Turkish Parliament would ratify the treaty. And, as I have said, the Cypriots were forced to believe that Turkey would remove its troops according to the timetable in the Annan plan and were forced to deal with the fact that Turkish troops will remain in Cyprus forever with Turkey having the unilateral right to intervene at any time.
Greek Cypriots were also concerned that the Annan plan denied the majority of the Greek Cypriot refugees the right of return to their homes in safety. They were also concerned the plan imposed on them the liability to pay large claims for the loss of use of properties in the Turkish occupied area.
Mr. Speaker, all of these concerns led to the rejection of the Annan plan by the Greek Cypriots in the referendum. But as the Greek Cypriot President said, the Greek Cypriots are not turning their backs on the Turkish Cypriots. Greek Cypriots will continue to hold out hope that a common future for all Cypriots within the European Union will eventually be a reality, but it must happen without any third parties, like the Turkish Government, dictating that future.