On October 31, 2011
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton presented remarks at the 2011 Annual Conference on U.S.-Turkey Relations hosted by the American-Turkish Council in Washington, DC.
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) has issued the following statement about Secretary Clinton’s remarks:
The American Hellenic Institute appreciates that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised certain key issues of importance to the Greek American community before the American-Turkish Council, including a respect for human rights predicated upon the right to speak and worship freely; the significance of the rule of law, Greece-Turkey relations, and a Cyprus settlement and the Republic of Cyprus’ right to explore for natural resources.
AHI welcomes the secretary’s call for Turkey’s constitutional reform process that results in a document that “deepens respect for human rights for all Turkish citizens” and her specific mention of the reopening of the Halki Seminary as a further example of “other positive steps” Turkey can take to address the needs of minority groups following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s August 2011 statement that property would be returned to religious minorities.Although Secretary Clinton raises the importance of the rule of law in providing for a vibrant economy, for the protection of a free and independent media, and for the prosperity of all in Turkey, including women, AHI is disappointed she did not apply the significance of the rule of law to Turkey’s threatening and troublesome foreign policy. For example, although Secretary Clinton cites signs of progress between Turkey and Greece such as last year’s joint cabinet meeting and the establishment of a strategic cooperation council, she did not raise concern about the detrimental effect upon Greek-Turkish relations that result from Turkey’s continued violations of Greece’s airspace that unnecessarily raise tensions in the Aegean.
Furthermore, with respect to the Cyprus issue, Secretary Clinton properly states the fundament goal of a lasting Cyprus solution results in a “bi-zonal, bi-communal federation” and that space be given to the parities to achieve a solution. AHI is pleased she did not mention or hint at a hasty deadline or timeframe for a solution. However, AHI is disappointed the secretary did not call for the withdrawal of all 43,000 Turkish troops from occupied Cyprus, the return of the 180,000 illegal Turkish colonists/settlers in Cyprus to Turkey, and an end to the destruction of cultural and religious heritage in occupied Cyprus—all of which are in violation of the rule of law. AHI finds this unacceptable. Also, in examining Secretary Clinton’s statement “The United States supports the UN’s mediation on the Cyprus issue…” she is incorrect to state the UN is engaged in “mediation” on the Cyprus issue. Rather, the negotiations are being conducted under UN auspices.
Finally, AHI welcomed Secretary Clinton raising the Republic of Cyprus’ exploration for oil and gas off its coast before the ATC by stating, “And while we recognize the right of the Republic of Cyprus to explore for natural resources in its exclusive economic zone, including with the assistance of U.S. companies, we look forward to both sides benefiting from shared resources in the context of an overall agreement.” However, AHI contends much stronger language on this issue was required by the secretary that: 1) addressed Turkey’s belligerent and sabre-rattling tone directed at U.S. allies Cyprus and Israel, and U.S. commercial interests, that has emanated from the very top of Turkish government—the prime minister himself, and 2) defined Turkey’s desire to interfere with a lawful agreement between the Republic of Cyprus and U.S. company Noble Energy as unjustifiable. AHI believes that this forum, which was focused more so through the prism of U.S. – Turkey economic ties, presented an opportune time for Secretary Clinton to convey the United States’ position that such threats by Turkey to escalate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean—especially as they involve U.S. citizens and a corporation—are intolerable.