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AHI president answers Turkish Cypriot Op Ed piece

The Hill, a newspaper with a focus on the U.S. Congress, published on its website, a guest blog rebuttal authored by American Hellenic Institute (AHI) President Nick Larigakis titled, "Response to Turkish Cypriot's Opinion Piece." 

The rebuttal appeared on the website’s Congress Blog, which is The Hill’s forum for lawmakers and policy professionals, July 23, 2014.  AHI President Larigakis wrote the commentary in response to a July 21 op-ed  written by Mr. Ahmet Erdengiz.

In response to the op-ed, Larigakis set the record straight on Turkey’s illegal invasion of Cyprus on July 20, 1974, the establishment of a pseudo-state in the north by Turkey in 1983, and the defeat of the flawed Annan Plan in 2004.  He concludes by asserting that a firm and lasting settlement may be within reach, but only if Turkey plays a constructive role and does not manipulate the settlement process.

“Turkey can start by removing its occupation troops and colonists from the island,” Larigakis concluded. “Turkey can let the Cypriots themselves come to an agreement to reunify Cyprus.  Turkey’s interests are not that of the people of Cyprus.  Turkey’s interests are that of Turkey.”

The Larigakis response:

Response to Turkish Cypriot’s Opinion

By: American Hellenic Institute President Nick Larigakis

The opinion piece, “Hope for a peace settlement on Cyprus” by Ahmet Erdengiz is fundamentally flawed and littered with historical inaccuracies.

This past Sunday, July 20, marked Turkey’s 1974 brutal illegal invasion of the Republic of Cyprus.  The invasion occurred in two phases. The first, July 20, was in violation of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, the UN Charter, the NATO Treaty, and customary international law. On August 14, three weeks after the legitimate government of Cyprus was restored, Turkey launched its second phase, grabbing another 33 percent of the island to expand its occupation to nearly 40 percent of Cyprus’s sovereign territory, which it continues to illegally occupy today.

In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot leadership unilaterally declared the establishment of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”  This declaration, which the international community viewed as an attempt to dismember Cyprus, was condemned as illegal and invalid by several UN Security Council resolutions that called upon all states to refrain from recognizing the “TRNC” and from assisting or facilitating it in any way.  Today, only Turkey recognizes the secessionist entity.

Furthermore, the Annan Plan that was placed to a vote in 2004 was fundamentally flawed.  The plan lacked the viability to provide a just and lasting resolution to the division of Cyprus.  It also incorporated unacceptable last-minute demands submitted by Turkey.  In democratic fashion, the Cypriot people—both Greek and Turkish—rejected the plan; not a solution. 

In his opinion, Erdengiz seems concerned about the Turkish Cypriot community.  If he truly has a concern about the community, it should be directed toward Turkey and its policies on Cyprus which have endangered Turkish Cypriots.  For example, Turkey has brought illegally 180,000 Turkish colonists/settlers to Cyprus which has changed the demographics of the island and of the Turkish Cypriot community. This act is in clear violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949.  Moreover, Turkey illegally maintains 43,000 occupation troops on Cyprus.  In 2011, Turkish Cypriots protested Turkey’s austerity measures, drawing harsh criticism of the Turkish Cypriot community by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Evidently, Erdengiz fails to mention that Turkish Cypriots themselves have a problem with Turkey’s policies. 

I also remind Erdengiz of the public statement made by Vice President Joe Biden during his historic visit to Cyprus in May. His strong affirmation that the United States “recognizes only one legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus, and my [the vice president’s] visit and meetings throughout the island will not change that…It is the position of the United States of America, and it’s the position of the entire world—save one country” can be viewed as the United States finally getting realistic with Turkey on a public stage.  Unfortunately, the vice president’s statement went over the head of Erdengiz. 

Finally, I could share Erdengiz’s optimism that a firm and lasting settlement is within reach, but this would only be the case if Turkey does not manipulate the settlement talks, but rather, play a constructive role. Turkey can start by removing its occupation troops and colonists from the island.  Turkey can let the Cypriots themselves come to an agreement to reunify Cyprus.  Turkey’s interests are not that of the people of Cyprus.  Turkey’s interests are that of Turkey.