Over 25 key members of Congress participated at the PSEKA webinar for the Cyprus Independence 60th Anniversary, CNA - Apostolos Zoupaniotis - USA/New York 01/10/2020
Over 25 key members of Congress, including the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel, the ranking member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez, along with both contenders of the Chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Representatives Gregory Meeks and Brad Sherman, participated at the webinar organized by PSEKA, in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus.
Introducing the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades and Foreign Minister Niκos Christodoulides, the President of the International Coordinating Committee “Justice for Cyprus” (PSEKA), Philip Christopher, said that during its sixty year history the Republic of Cyprus has suffered so much, with more than 5,000 deaths and 200,000 refugees.
“This country that lost more than 80% of its national income is standing tall today, as a member of the United Nations and a member of the European Union. The Republic of Cyprus has persevered and we are saluting not only the government of Cyprus but also the people of Cyprus, for persevering the invasion and the continued occupation during this past sixty years and they still fight for freedom and justice.”
Senator Bob Menendez (D, NJ) stressed that during the past few years, we have made significant progress in the United States-Cyprus partnership and there remains enormous potential to grow even more.
“The Eastern Mediterranean Energy and Security Partnership Act of 2019 is the cornerstone for U.S. policy in the region and has provided an institutional framework for cooperation among the United States, Cyprus, Greece and Israel. The law has broad bipartisan support and will serve as the foundation for the America’s strategic focus on the region for years to come”, said Menendez, the mastermind behind the EastMed Act.
Menendez pointed out that this landmark law has one overriding message, that the US should be much more present in the Eastern Mediterranean in support of our friends.
“I was glad to see that Secretary Pompeo followed the law by establishing an International Military Education Training program with Cyprus and partially lifting the arms restrictions on the country. The lifting of the arms restrictions is not about security alone. It is about treating an EU country with the respect it deserves. And it is an acknowledgement of the sovereign right that Cyprus has to defend itself” he said.
Senator Menendez slammed Turkey’s interference in Cyprus’s affairs, stressing that this impedes progress towards peace.
“Turkey’s illegal occupation remains the source of instability on the island. We can see Turkey’s destabilizing effect with its efforts to change the demographics of Cyprus by sending Turkish citizens to settle in the north. We see it with Turkey’s disgraceful behavior in Varosha as it prepares to economically exploit the area. And we very clearly see it with Turkey’s illegal exploration in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which not only undermines security in the region, but also poses challenges for Western energy companies working there” he said.
Sending a strong message to the Trump Administration, Menendez said these malign activities by Turkey underscore what he would hope to be obvious. “Erdogan should not be considered a partner to the United States, and he should not be considered an ally. The sooner that every single person in our government from the top on down realizes this, the safer we will be” he underlined.
In an highly emotional speech, the outgoing Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel told participants that freedom and democracy cannot be taken for granted and praised the Greek American leaders for their long struggle for freedom of Cyprus.
“Although today we are commemorating Cypriot independence from the UK in 1960, we must be mindful that independence is not always certain. The brutal 1974 invasion by Turkish forces has led in decades of division and occupation; and Turkey’s aggressive actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, even now, threaten Cypriot and Greek sovereignty. Unfortunately, President Erdogan appears not only unwilling to compromise with Cyprus and Greece, but also unwilling to reverse his increasingly antidemocratic and destabilizing behavior throughout the region and within his own country” he said.
Eliot Engel stated his commitment to continue calling out Turkish aggressive dangerous behavior for what it is and to demand that President Erdogan returns Turkey to the community of responsible, democratic and free nations.
The Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee and author of the law for the 6 US missing persons during the Turkish invasion in Cyprus, told participants that the United States and Cyprus have never been closer than they are now.
“Whether on energy, security, trade, partnership with Israel and other countries in the region and our common commitment to core democratic values, we stand together. I expect this enduring partnership to mature and grow even closer for the next sixty years of Cypriot independence”, Eliot Engel said.