Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to recognize the 37th anniversary of Turkey's illegal occupation of Cyprus. I hope that my colleagues in the House of Representatives will join me in calling for an end to this occupation.
On July 20th 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus in violation of international law and at great cost to the citizens of Cyprus. Turkish troops established a heavily-armed force which occupied the northern part of Cyprus and continues to occupy close to 37 percent of Cyprus' territory. The invasion forced nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriots to flee their homes and made one-third of the Cypriot population refugees in their own country.
Turkey continues to illegally occupy northern Cyprus with a force of approximately 43,000 troops. This incredible number of troops amounts to almost one Turkish soldier for every two Turkish Cypriots. The military occupation of northern Cyprus continues in the face of international pressure to achieve a peaceful settlement.
While military occupation of northern Cyprus continues to be a constant threat to peace, the forcible expulsion of Greek Cypriots and U.S. citizens has resulted in the mass colonization of their homes and property. At the time of the invasion this amounted to almost one-third of the total population of the island being expelled and having their property taken. Once again this illegal colonization comes in defiance of international calls on Turkey to take action to stop the illegal occupation and ensure the return of properties to their rightful owners.
In fact, since 1974 more than 75 resolutions have been adopted by the U.N. Security Council and more than 13 by the U.N. General Assembly calling for a withdrawal of Turkish troops and the return of refugees to their rightful homes. However, the Turkish government continues to remain defiant, plainly ignoring these calls to withdraw and continuing to display blatant disrespect towards Greek Cypriots and their property.
We continue to see Turkey pursuing policies that not only hurt its relations with nations that should serve as true democratic allies, but also policies that hurt regional stability. I have been an outspoken opponent of Turkey's irresponsible regional relations, which in many ways negatively impact the United States. Turkey plainly disrespects international law and provides support to rogue nations and organizations that threaten the United States and our regional partners.
It is unfortunate that I must again this year say enough is enough and ask my colleagues to join me in taking principled steps to prevent further destabilizing actions by Turkey. As a member of the Hellenic Caucus, I have long advocated for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from northern Cyprus and called on Turkey to support a settlement that comes from the Cypriots themselves.
Cypriot President Christofias has begun meetings with Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Eroglu and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in attempts to come to a peaceful settlement. The leaders have agreed to intensify their diplomatic contacts in order to establish a practical plan for overcoming the major remaining disagreements. It is my hope that this agreement will come in a fair and expeditious manner that is in the best interest of the Cypriot people.
The U.S. must also do its part to foster a united Cyprus. It is in the best interest of the United States, and I believe all involved parties to ensure that the goal is a reunified Cyprus where Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots live together in peace and security. A successful settlement effort must build on the work towards a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality that represents U.N. Security Council resolutions. In the end, Cyprus must have a single sovereignty and single citizenship which all Cypriots can enjoy.
Now is the time for Turkey to show that they are willing to take a sincere approach to allowing a peaceful resolution to the dispute. The leadership in Ankara must show that the will and support behind a peaceful settlement is in the best interest of Turkey and that it is fully supported. Without such a signal by the Government of Turkey, a final settlement will continue to dwindle as Turkish settlers pursue the policies of their home nation. The Government of the Republic of Cyprus has shown their willingness to work constructively with the Cypriots towards a reunified island. It is time for Turkey to do the same.
Mr. Speaker, today I am reintroducing legislation that is just one step towards achieving justice for those who have been unfairly expelled from their rightful property in occupied Cyprus. My legislation, the American Owned Property in Occupied Cyprus Claims Act, will enable U.S. citizens who own property in the Turkish-occupied territory to seek financial remedies with either the current inhabitants of their land or the Turkish government. Passage of this legislation will not only return rights to U.S. citizens but send an important message to Turkey and the international community that the status quo cannot stand.
Mr. Speaker, as we remember the 37th Anniversary of Turkey's illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus, I remain hopeful a united Cyprus can become a reality. However, the United States can not be complacent in this goal or the protection of its citizens.