WASHINGTON, DC - The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) marked the 45th anniversary of Turkey’s illegal invasion of the Republic of Cyprus by hosting a forum for members of Congress to convey their perspective on the Cyprus issue, and the current state of affairs in the eastern Mediterranean, on Capitol Hill, July 24, 2019.
AHI President Nick Larigakis moderated the event. He thanked the attendees and reflected on the ongoing struggle of the people of Cyprus who for 45 years have endured an illegal occupation and massive violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by Turkey, a NATO partner of the United States.
The forum, held in cooperation with the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, featured as speakers: U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), member, Senate Committee on Appropriations; U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), co-chair, Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues; U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), co-chair, Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues; U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), member, House Committee on Appropriations; U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), member, House Committee on Appropriations,; U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), ; U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
In addition, the following members of Congress submitted written statements of support: Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL), House Committee on Homeland Security; Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), House Committee on Homeland Security; Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA).
Ambassador of Cyprus to the U.S. Marios Lyssiotis also provided remarks. He touched on the humanitarian issue of the Missing Persons as a result of Turkey’s invasion, and the ambassador addressed Turkey’s current hostilities in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“1,510 Greek Cypriots went missing during the summer of 1974 and only the remains of 687 have been identified to this day. That means there are still 823 persons whose fate has yet to be determined,” he said. “[Turkey’s] recent decision to commence illegal drilling operations within Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone can only be described, by what President Anastasiades has characterized as, the second invasion of Cyprus.”
President Larigakis also drew attention to the issue of the Missing Persons, following remarks by Congressman Crist.
“The congressman [Crist] reminds us there’s another tragedy to the issue of Cyprus and that is of those who got caught there that year , including five Americans who are missing,” he said. “One was found, Andrew Kassapis, who was found a number of years ago. But there are still four Americans that are missing and our government should act on their behalf.”
Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Greece Theodore Bizakis who represented Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Haris Lalacos, also spoke about the significance of commemorating the anniversary of the invasion of Cyprus.
“It is a very difficult day for Hellenism around the world with Greece, Cyprus, and the diaspora; today we are commemorating the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. It is a day that has been commemorated for 45 years,” Bizakis said. “Hellenism all around the world is commemorating this day with deep grief but at the same time with hope; hope that there will be peace within the island eventually. It is very important for Hellenism to raise that voice here in the United States, and on Capitol Hill, which is why I want to thank Nick Larigakis and AHI personally.”
Highlights of Members’ Statements At The Event