Mr. SARBANES. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to mark the 38th year of Turkey’s invasion, occupation and colonization of the Republic of Cyprus.
On July 1, Cyprus assumed the six-month presidency of the European Union. Turkey, an EU candidate country, refuses to recognize the Cypriot presidency and has acted to “freeze” its communications with the EU. While Turkey refuses to recognize Cyprus, the international community has repeatedly called upon Turkey to withdraw from its occupation of the island republic.
In 1974, Turkey invaded the island citing its purported authority to intervene under the Treaty of Guarantee, a treaty meant to guarantee the independence, sovereignty, constitution and territorial integrity of Cyprus. Turkey asserts that the Constitution of Cyprus is “null and void,” yet it justifies its invasion and decades’ long occupation of Cyprus upon the Treaty of Guarantee, a treaty which obligates Turkey as a guarantor power to uphold the Cypriot Constitution and preserve the country’s independence and territorial integrity.
During Turkey’s 38 year occupation of the northern third of Cyprus, it has engaged in the systematic destruction of the island’s Hellenic, Christian and Turkish Cypriot heritage. Turkey is extinguishing the voice of the Turkish Cypriots, the community that co-existed with Greek-Cypriots for nearly 500 years until Turkey invaded and forcibly divided the two communities. Turkey’s treatment of the indigenous peoples of Cyprus betrays a broader impulse which is manifest in discrimination against Christian and other minorities in territories under its control. Turkey’s conduct is so egregious that this year the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom designated it as “a country of particular concern.”
Turkey, a nation of nearly 80 million people, has with each passing day altered the cultural heritage and demographics of Cyprus, a country of 1 million people. In 1974, Greek Cypriots numbered 506,000 and Turkish Cypriots numbered 118,000. Since then, Turkey has engaged in a radical alteration of the island’s demographics. Turkey has resettled nearly 200,000 mainland Turks and garrisoned 45,000 Turkish soldiers in the occupied areas. Turkey’s forced colonization of the occupied areas is eradicating the native Turkish Cypriot community and supplanting it with a Turkish community whose culture and national consciousness is foreign to the indigenous and unique Greco-Turkish culture of Cyprus.
The presence of Turkish troops is justified by the pretext that Turkey is protecting Turkish Cypriots. Yet 58,000 Turkish Cypriots voluntarily carry Republic of Cyprus passports, Turkish Cypriots utilize health care facilities and other services in the Republic of Cyprus, and more than 18 million crossings over the green line have occurred without incident. The reality is that each day Turkish Cypriots are forced by the presence of 45,000 Turkish troops to idly watch as their culture and identity is overtaken by mainland Turkish colonialists.
Recent discoveries of natural gas off the coasts of Cyprus and Israel have seen these two democracies engage in a cooperative and productive manner for the development of the only Western, democratically controlled energy source in the region. Where Israel and Cyprus have conducted themselves as peaceful democracies, Turkey is using its presence in occupied Cyprus to challenge Israeli interests in the region. It was not so long ago that Turkey held itself out as an ally of Israel.
Cyprus is the canvas that reveals the true face of Turkey–occupier, colonizer and foe of Western democratic values. It is time for this Chamber and the United States to stand with the people of Cyprus and demand that Turkey withdraw its troops and “cease and desist” from its unlawful colonization of this small and peaceful country.
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