By Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.)
In “Cyprus: The volatile and oddly forgotten frozen conflict,” Mehmet Mustafaoglu demonstrates why the world has not been able to end Turkey’s nearly 41-year occupation of Cyprus and bring stability to the region. Every successful peace negotiation requires genuine partners, a trait that Turkey has not exhibited over the past four decades in Cyprus. Indeed – despite Mustafaoglu’s failure to paint an accurate picture of Turkey’s 1974 invasion – it is worth noting that the second wave of that invasion, Atilla II, was launched by Ankara as peace talks were underway.
Facts are very stubborn, inconvenient things for Turkey in the case of Cyprus, and that is why Mustafaoglu avoids them. He would like Congress to forget that it immediately sanctioned Turkey over the invasion, imposing an arms embargo lifted only with the promise of ending the occupation. He would like those reviewing UN resolutions to stop reading at 1974, at which point the Security Council began roundly condemning Turkey’s invasion and occupation. He doesn’t even touch the European Court of Human Rights, which has rendered judgments against Turkey in the case of its occupation of Cyprus – judgments which Turkey just straight out ignores. Finally, Mustafaoglu doesn’t want anyone in Congress reviewing the findings of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which details how the Turkish occupation authorities in Cyprus threaten the very existence of Christianity in the occupied territories.
Mustafaoglu’s evidence of “good faith” by Turkey is Ankara’s support for the failed 2004 Annan Plan. This ill-conceived plan failed to guarantee the removal of Turkish occupation troops, gave Turkey the explicit right to interfere in Cyprus’ politics, and effectively gave Turkey veto power over Cyprus’ – and thus the entire EU’s – foreign policy. Great deal for Turkey, but bad for Cyprus and for the West. Had that plan passed, there would be no sanctions on Iran, no EU designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and no energy cooperation with Israel and Egypt. Turkey could have blocked all of it.
Despite decades of bad faith by Turkey and certain Turkish-Cypriot hardliners, there is reason for hope. Not only have Turkish-Cypriots elected a more moderate community leader in Mustafa Akinci, they are clearly fed up with colonial treatment from Ankara and particularly from President Erdogan of Turkey. The tens of thousands of Turkish-Cypriots who cross the line of occupation daily to work in the Republic of Cyprus or claim Republic of Cyprus passports, thus EU citizenship, are not clamoring for “protection” from the occupation army; they want an end to the occupation and a better life.
All Cypriots – Greek and Turkish, Maronite, Latin and Armenian – are motivated to seize a window of opportunity and reunify Cyprus. The Anastasiades government has actively pushed Confidence Building Measures since taking office two years ago, even executing unilateral measures to signal its desire to work with Akinci. The key is for Turkey – one of the leading contributors to instability in the region – to get out of the way, let negotiations between the two communities in Cyprus freely take their course without interference and let the Cypriot people achieve the reunification they are so looking forward to.
Bilirakis represents Florida’s 12th Congressional District and has served in the House since 2007. He sits on the Energy and Commerce and the Veterans’ Affairs committees. He is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance.