WASHINGTON –Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Gus M. Bilirakis (FL-12), Ted Deutch (FL-21) and 14 of their House colleagues are calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to strongly oppose the invasion of waters off the southern coast of Cyprus by Turkish ships performing seismic tests for natural gas. As a result of Turkey’s provocation, reunification talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are on hold. The bipartisan letter was sent last week after a Turkish research ship escorted by military vessels began exploration in Cypriot waters. Representatives Maloney and Bilirakis are co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues. Representative Deutch co-chairs the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance with Representative Bilirakis.
“I am deeply troubled by Turkey’s irresponsible and illegal encroachment into Cypriot waters,” said Representative Maloney. “Not only is this action an affront to Cypriot sovereignty, but it has forced further delay in reunification negotiations. After 40 years of Turkish occupation, Cypriots have waited long enough for peace and stability. I urge Secretary Kerry to act quickly to call on Turkey to reverse its actions so that talks may resume.”
“After the signing of an agreement delineating their Exclusive Economic Zone in December 2010, it has been the sovereign right of Cyprus and Israel to engage in energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean without interference or threats from any third party. Yet once again, Turkey is actively obstructing the path to reunification of the island of Cyprus and we must not let them continue with this most recent illegal encroachment,” said Representative Bilirakis. “It is time that we hold Turkey accountable for its actions so that meaningful negotiations may resume to reach the goal of a reunified Cyprus.”
“These illegal incursions by Turkey do nothing to further the ultimate goal of reunifying the nation of Cyprus,” said Representative Deutch. “The United States and our European partners must urge Turkey to act responsibly and refrain from further provocation so that negotiations can continue without interference.”
A copy of the letter follows:
Dear Secretary Kerry:
We write to express our deep concerns about the Republic of Turkey’s provocative and illegal encroachment into the Republic of Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). On October 3, 2014, the Turkish government issued a Navigational Telex (NAVTEX) indicating its intention to begin exploration for gas and oil off the southern shores of Cyprus on October 20. The Cypriot government has already contracted ENI, an Italian oil and gas company, to perform drilling off its coast. Turkey’s actions are both an affront to the sovereignty of Cyprus and a clear violation of international law. In response to a Turkish seismic survey ship escorted by three Turkish warships performing tests in Cyprus’s EEZ, President Anastasiades of Cyprus temporarily, yet justifiably, suspended Greek Cypriot participation in the reunification negotiations on October 7, 2014. We urge you to take action to convince the Turkish government to withdraw its warships from Cypriot waters so that reunification talks can resume.
After 40 years of Turkish military occupation in Cyprus, neither Greek nor Turkish Cypriots can afford further setbacks to the reunification negotiations. As members of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance, we are deeply troubled by Turkey’s provocation, and hope that the U.S. will exert its influence by calling on Turkey to respect Cyprus’s autonomy and jurisdiction over the exploration of its natural resources. Prolonging this standoff between the negotiating parties could imperil the necessary momentum in the process. The European Union and the United Nations have rightly condemned Turkey’s actions and urged restraint in the region. Now, we believe it is critical for the U.S. to reinforce its support for the Republic of Cyprus’s sovereignty.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2168 and Joint Statement of February 2014 in which both parties agreed to pursue a solution “based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality” marked a significant milestone in the negotiations. However, recent Turkish actions have unnecessarily increased tension in an already volatile region and further destabilize the Eastern Mediterranean at a time when there is greater need for stability and cooperation. It is more important than ever that the U.S. and the international community maintain their strong commitment to the peace process and ensure that all sides remain honestly engaged in negotiations.
In the interest of reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem that will benefit all Cypriots, we urge you to swiftly and strongly oppose Turkey’s movements in Cyprus’s internationally recognized EEZ. These incendiary actions must be immediately addressed. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.