Commemorating the July 20, 1974, Turkish Invasion of Cyprus and Celebrating U.S.-Cyprus Relations
Statement by Senator Bob Menendez
Thank you for inviting me to participate in the American Hellenic Institute’s annual commemoration of this sad day, the 46th Anniversary of Turkey’s illegal invasion of Cyprus. I especially want to thank AHI President Nick Larigakis for his leadership of this organization. Throughout my career, I have been proud to work with AHI to improve U.S.-Cyprus relations and stand up to Turkish aggression.
Today, we remember not only Turkey’s illegal military invasion of Cyprus from 46 years ago, but also its violations of Cyprus’s sovereignty that continue through this day. When Turkey invaded Cyprus, more than 150,000 Greek Cypriots were driven from their homes and thousands were killed. I join you in praying for the families who lost loved ones, and for those who cannot yet return to their ancestral homes.
Turkey’s interference still impedes progress for peace. I have always believed that if not for Turkey’s meddling, the two communities could negotiate a durable peace and move towards a more prosperous future. Unfortunately, Turkey’s illegal occupation remains the source of instability on the island.
Its disgraceful behavior in Varosha as it lays the groundwork for economic exploitation of the area.
Its efforts to change the demographics of Cyprus by sending Turkish citizens to settle in the north.
Its illegal exploration in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone.
This illegal drilling is unacceptable, and the United States must stand firmly against Turkish aggression and defend Cyprus’s right to explore for energy in its own waters. The EU did the right thing in imposing sanctions on Turkey for these violations. The U.S. should follow suit in solidarity with Nicosia.
These things are happening today, 46 years after a brutal invasion, and are simply unacceptable.
Strengthening U.S.-Cyprus ties more broadly is also key to peace and prosperity throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. That’s why last year I introduced the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act to enhance U.S. security and energy cooperation in the region. Now that the East Med Act is law, implementing its provisions has been a major focus of mine.
Earlier this month, U.S. Embassy Nicosia announced that next year Cyprus will begin receiving the International Military Education and Training assistance that we authorized with the East Med Act. This represents a historic development in U.S.-Cyprus security cooperation.
In recognition of Nicosia’s ongoing development of the energy resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone, the East Med Act also authorized the creation of a U.S.-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to facilitate energy cooperation between the U.S., Cyprus, Greece, and Israel. This energy center must get up and running as soon as possible, and I will work with State and governments across the region to make that a reality.
At every turn, Turkey seeks to impede Cyprus’s peace and prosperity. This terrible pattern must not continue. Turkey is not a partner, Turkey is not an ally. And the sooner that all of the U.S. government comes to that realization, the safer we will be. I am committed to doing everything I can to make sure the U.S. plays a positive role in supporting Cyprus’s development and its sovereignty. I am honored to partner with all of you to make this happen. Thank you for your commitment to memorializing the past and working towards a better future.