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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

U.S. Inaction Against Turkish Aggression Stalls Cyprus Progress

David Bjorkgren
David Bjorkgren
David Bjorkgren is a senior editor at the Hellenic News of America. His writings provide the storytelling expertise for an individual, business or organization. The copyrights for these articles are owned by HNA. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HNA and its representatives.

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A year ago, on the 45th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, there was a reason to feel optimistic.

The United States, at last, seemed to be paying attention to Turkish aggression in Cyprus and elsewhere.

The discovery of hydrocarbon gas in the eastern Mediterranean, in the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus, got the attention of American energy companies and fostered a tri-lateral agreement between Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Egypt to develop that resource.

The U.S. Congress formalized the tri-lateral agreement and lifted a decades-old arms embargo in the Republic of Cyprus.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even attended the sixth trilateral summit in March, 2019, affirming a shared commitment of the U.S., Greece, Israel and the Republic of Cyprus to promote peace, stability, security, and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

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A year later, that optimism is gone.

On the 46th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus, officially recognized on July 20, Turks continue to occupy the northern one-third of Cyprus, Turkish aggression is showing up everywhere and the United States has done nothing to stop it.

“We’re outraged that the United States of America is not taking any action against Turkey,” said Philip Christopher, president of the PSEKA—Justice for Cyprus.

Philip Christopher, President of PSEKA.

The Invasion

On July 20, 1974, supposedly to protect its Turkish minority, Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus using American-made arms, taking northern Cyprus.

More than 200,000 Greek Cypriots were displaced, 5,000 killed and 2,000 reported missing.

In 1983, a separate illegal Turkish state was established in the occupied northern part of Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey but condemned by the international community.

Christopher was born in Kyrenia, in the occupied area of Cyprus, and immigrated to the United States when he was 10 years old after his family lost their home.

Since 1975, PSEKA has been fighting on behalf of the struggle of the Cypriot people for freedom and justice. They are working to achieve the following goals:

To make sure that the American Rule of Law is upheld;

Withdraw occupation Turkish troops from the island;

Allow 200,000 refugees to go back to their ancestral homes in Cyprus.

Return all illegal Turkish settlers;

To have a unified island with equal human rights for all Cypriots.

Due to U.S. inaction against Turkey in 2020, this will be “another tragic commemoration of the invasion and continued occupation,” Christopher said.

The list of Turkish transgressions is extensive, according to Christopher.

They occupy one-third of the Republic of Cyprus;

They have imported 400,000 illegal Turkish settlers to the occupied territory;

They have destroyed 500 churches;

The government of Turkey has committed human rights violations within and outside of Turkey, including failing  to help locate missing Cypriots resulting from the 1974 invasion and subsequent occupation;

They have created a humanitarian crisis by refusing to help displaced Syrian immigrants who then pour into Greece and the rest of Europe;

They have invaded and occupied Kurdish territory in Syria and Turkey;

They are violating the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Greece and interfering with the exploitation of the natural gas resources there;

Turkish military aircraft continue overflights of Greek islands;

Turkey has purchased S-400 missiles from Russia, a violation of an agreement they have as a member of NATO and an ally of the United States;

Turkey is converting the historic church Hagia Sophia in Constantinople into a Mosque;

Turkey continues to support terrorist activity against Israel.

“Turkey is basically a bad neighbor for all Middle Eastern countries,” Christopher said. “It’s an enemy of the United States. All of their actions are basically indicating that.”

Speaking on behalf of Greek Americans, Christopher said that “as American citizens we are outraged and disappointed that our state department and [Executive Branch] administrations have failed to put pressure on Turkey, a so-called ally of the United States, not only for the occupation of Cyprus but also to stop their aggression against Greece and against Cyprus.”

Exclusive Economic Zones

He is calling on the Trump Administration to take immediate action against Turkey for its violation of the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Greece, for its military overflies and for the humanitarian crisis it has created.

He points out that Cyprus and Greece remain staunch allies of the United States, working with the U.S., Israel, Lebanon and Egypt to exploit the eastern Mediterranean natural gas resources and construct a pipeline which potentially could supply 10 percent of Europe’s natural gas.

Turkey, meanwhile has signed a questionable maritime border delineation deal with Libya that would allow it to carry out drilling and hydrocarbon gas exploration on Libya’s continental shelf in its own exclusive economic zone, according to a January 2020 forbes.com article by Ariel Cohen.

The deal has been challenged by Cyprus and Greece as a violation of their economic zones and as inconsistent with international law. It has also been condemned by the European Union, the article stated.

Christopher said Turkey struck the deal to circumvent the economic zones of Cyprus and Greece, claiming it was protecting the rights of Turkish citizens in occupied Cyprus. It continues to interfere in those zones and in Libya.

“It’s basically a second invasion of the Republic of Cyprus by invading the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus,” he said.

“We have American companies like ExxonMobil who have signed agreements with the Republic of Cyprus for the exploitation of the hydrocarbon gas and the United States government has to protect those American companies against the threat from Turkey,” he said.

Lobbying for Change

Greek Americans continue to lobby the U.S. government for action on behalf of Cyprus. PSEKA is in touch with Congressmen, Senators and state department officials.

They are continuing a bi-partisan effort to back elected officials that support issues of importance to Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

Christopher said they were devastated to see that New York Congressman Elliot Engel was defeated recently in the Democratic Primary.

Congressman Engel was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a big supporter of Cyprus and Greece.

And he’s concerned that President Trump seems to have a special relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, failing to put pressure on Turkey to resolve any issues.

“That’s basically annoying us because President Trump is not holding Turkey accountable for their actions,” Christopher said.

The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.