Monday, July 20, 2015

AHEPA Marks 41st Anniversary of Invasion, Occupation of Cyprus

AHEPA Marks Somber 41st Anniversary of Invasion, 
Occupation of Cyprus

Once Again, AHEPA Calls for Removal of Turkish Troops from Cyprus;
Urges Their Placement on Turkey's Porous Border with Syria

WASHINGTON (July 20, 2015) -- John W. Galanis, supreme president, American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), a leading membership-based association for the nation's millions of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes, issued the following statement on the 41st anniversary of the illegal invasion and subsequent occupation of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey that occurred July 20, 1974:

"Today we mark a somber day--the 41st anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation of the Republic of Cyprus by the Republic of Turkey.  This was, and remains to this very day, an intolerable act; one that is a gross violation of the rule of law, human rights, and democratic ideals. We pause to remember the innocent civilians who lost their lives and the thousands who went missing, including four American citizens whose investigations remain incomplete.  The illegal invasion and occupation caused the displacement of 170,000 Greek Cypriot refugees who to this day are unable to return to their homes which is also a violation of human rights as determined by the European Commission on Human Rights. Moreover, Turkey's restrictions upon religious freedom and destruction of Cyprus' cultural and religious heritage in Turkish-occupied Cyprus have been well-documented by the U.S. Helsinki Commission, the Law Library of Congress, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and several media publications.

"After Turkey's encroachment of Cyprus' exclusive economic zone during a seven-month period stymied settlement talks, the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot community resumed talks in May.  We are encouraged by the resumption of settlement talks and the effort by each side's leadership to promote reconciliation between the communities, which should pave the way for just and viable agreement. We also recall Vice President Joe Biden's words of encouragement for a settlement that he conveyed on his historic visit to Cyprus last year and call on high-level U.S. government officials to re-engage with the Republic of Cyprus and lend their attention to the goal of reunifying Cyprus now that talks have resumed.

"However, the key to a successful settlement rests in Ankara. We once again call on the U.S. government, as we do every year at this time, to convey a strong message to Turkey that it must provide the Turkish Cypriot community with the necessary freedom to negotiate a solution within the United Nations framework. Equally important, Turkey must play a constructive role in the movement of confidence-building measures and facilitate the removal of 40,000 of its troops from the island.  Thus, on this somber anniversary, we again call on Turkey to begin the removal of its troops from Cyprus. We contend these troops would serve a better purpose, especially to NATO, in another theatre or perhaps along Turkey's porous border where aspiring jihadists flock to Syria to join ISIS, as opposed to Cyprus where there have been more than 18 million incident-free crossings by Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

"Therefore, we restate our call for a reunified Cyprus with a single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship; and with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded as described in the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.  We contend that such a solution is in the best interest of all Cypriots, and must emanate from Cypriots themselves without arbitrary timetables.

"We call for these actions in the best interests of the United States.  A just and viable solution to the division of Cyprus will strengthen the eastern Mediterranean and bring peace and security to the region.  This is especially important with the discovery and potential exploitation of hydrocarbon reserves within the exclusive economic zones of the Republic of Cyprus and Israel by energy firms, including an American one, that could provide the EU and other United States allies in the region with energy security.  Furthermore, a just and viable solution will aid Turkey's candidacy to become a member of the European Union.

"Today, we say 41 years is too long.  Our hope is that we will no longer need to observe this 'black anniversary,' but instead, celebrate the anniversary of a settlement.  AHEPA remains committed to doing all within its power, and pledges to continue to work with all organizations, to keep the Cyprus issue in the public eye until a just and viable solution that benefits all Cypriots is realized."

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Founded in 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia, to protect individuals from the evils of bigotry and discrimination, AHEPA is the largest and oldest grassroots association of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes with more than 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, Greece and Cyprus.   

The mission of AHEPA is to promote the ancient Greek ideals of Education,Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence through community service and volunteerism.  

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