By Phil Christopher, Andy Manatos and Mike Manatos
We mourn the recent passing of our dear friend and fellow justice-for-Cyprus advocate former US Senator Paul Sarbanes. His role with Cyprus is historic and his impact on the well-being of the country and its people extraordinary.
Ever since the immediate aftermath of Turkey’s illegal invasion of Cyprus, the wisdom of Paul Sarbanes has been instrumental to everything we have done. That wisdom has also been critical to American successes for Cyprus. President Richard Nixon’s refusal to enforce the law requiring the termination of US military aid to any country that uses it aggressively moved our then young and very highly regarded Congressman Paul Sarbanes to press for Congressional action. The conventional wisdom of that time warned him that opposing US policy toward Cyprus could in turn cause him to be labeled “the Congressman for Cyprus” and damage his hopes for a US Senate run in Maryland.
Sarbanes’ philotimo moved him to do the right thing. With fellow Rhodes Scholar and “patrioiti” Congressman John Brademas and Europe Subcommittee Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Ben Rosenthal, he introduced legislation to cut off US military aid to Turkey. Sarbanes and Brademas’ revered status in the House enabled them to win enough votes to enact the Turkish Arms Embargo. It sent a strong message to Turkey about Cyprus because it was the first time in modern US history the Congress overturned White House policy on a major foreign policy issue.
Every year for many decades Paul Sarbanes was the highlight of our conference between leaders of our community and top White House officials, senior Senators and Members of Congress. Our meetings with the other officials focused on educating them about the Cyprus issue. However, during each of our long quiet meetings with Paul he, as a brother, helped us understand the nuances of the issue and of American policy. Paul carried major responsibility for victories all of our work has enjoyed, like Dick Holbrooke and Bill Clinton reversing France and Germany’s opposition to Cyprus beginning early EU accession talks. At the time there was a consensus that Turkey would move to take the rest of the island but that it would not happen if Cyprus became an EU country.
For decades Paul Sarbanes helped us realize that our annual meetings were crucial to maintaining a high profile for Cyprus in Washington. His work as a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had an even more profound impact on Cyprus’ profile. Since Cyprus has roughly the population size of each one of the 435 Congressional district in America, such efforts are particularly important.
As Paul was retiring from the Senate we asked, “With you retiring how can we best try to maintain the invaluable input you constantly provide us with?” His answer was, as always, correct. He said, “You better make sure that Bob Menendez gets reelected.” Menendez’s role on the Foreign Relations Committee and the wisdom and invaluable direction he provides has well carried on Sarbanes role.
For decades, Paul Sarbanes was not only the steady force for Cyprus, but the voice of Greece, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Hellenism. He will be dearly missed. May his memory be eternal.