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Members of Congress Commemorate 45th Anniversary of Cyprus Invasion at AHI Forum on Capitol Hill

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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 [1974], 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

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I want to thank you [Nick] and AHI for all of the work that you do to make sure that we keep our focus on the injustice of the division of Cyprus… The bottom line is we have to remain vigilant, we always want to be ready to look for opportunities to bring to the negotiating table but right now Turkey seems of no mind to be doing that and that’s something we just have to keep pushing on. We will not sit back and watch Turkey violate the rule of law as it did 45 years ago.
— Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

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250,000 people lost their homes and lost their homelands [following the 1974 invasion]…We must never ever forget and we must never ever lose hope… Nick came up with this idea years ago, about lifting the embargo. The embargo served a purpose back in the early 80s, but not now, Cyprus needs to defend itself and the U.S. needs to sell weapons to Cyprus… I plan to do a special order so that people know what Turkey is attempting to do in the EEZ off the coast of Cyprus. Hopefully, next year, we will be celebrating, in Cyprus, a one united Cyprus.
— Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)

Cyprus, we have a strong tie and bond to them, and they’ve been one of our staunchest allies in the world since its inclusion in the EU in 2004. So strengthening our alliance must remain a constant foreign policy objective for the United States. There are numerous examples of Turkish aggression in the eastern Mediterranean…Turkey continues to intimidate and interfere with the companies operating in Cyprus’ EEZ and violate Cyprus’ sovereign claims to its territory. I just want to add that I thank you all for your tireless advocacy and bringing Cypriot issues to the forefront and of our political efforts together to achieve freedom and self-determination for all Cypriots.
— Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)

“Your organization [AHI] is outstanding; you are omnipresent on the hill, which is great.”
— Rep. Charles J. "Chuck" Fleischmann (R-TN)

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I believe the US failure to prevent Turkey’s act of aggression at the time [45 years ago] will long remain an extraordinary blemish on the historical record of American foreign policy.
— Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

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I think that it’s really important that we as an ally of Greece and Cyprus continue to put pressure on another theoretical ally, which is Turkey, [as a part of NATO] to say that this conduct is unacceptable.
— Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)


In 1974, a fateful year as you know in Cyprus, he [My grandfather] was visiting the island [Cyprus] that summer with my aunt and all of a sudden, the Turks showed up. And we couldn’t find out if he was alive, so we called our local congressman, Bill Young. My father happened to be Congressman Young’s personal physician. And so about two hours after we called Congressman young called my dad and he said we’ve located your father. I believe he said it was the 7th fleet that got he and my aunt off the island, saved them essentially, and the rest is kind of history. But a lot of tradition and I first went to Cyprus years ago and went up to the green line and couldn’t cross it because of my heritage.
— Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL)

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“I’m proud to be one of the founding members of the Congressional Hellenic Israeli Alliance.”
— Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL)

Submitted Statements

I would like to thank Nick Larigakis and his able staff, especially Elias Gerasoulis, for inviting me to share a few remarks, and to congratulate the American Hellenic Institute for being a clear and consistent voice on issues of Concern to Greece, Cyprus, and the United States….Thank you again for the invitation, and thank you to the American Hellenic Institute for the good work that you do.
— Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)

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Erdogan reveals that Turkey, under his leadership, is not currently a nation capable of acting in the best interests of the desire for international peace and cooperation. However, I am especially proud that these shared goals exist in the partnership among the United States, Greece, Cyprus, and Israel…I would also like to extend my thanks to those of you in attendance, the countless employees who work behind the scenes at AHI, and my colleagues in Congress offering their support. All of you play an instrumental role in maintaining the strong role between the U.S. and its Eastern Mediterranean allies.
— Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL)

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I stand committed to defend the partnership between the U.S., Greece, Cyprus, and Israel. It is my sincere hope that we can achieve peaceful stability in the region and I commend the American Hellenic Institute for its pivotal role in maintaining the strong relationship between the U.S. and its Eastern Mediterranean allies.
— Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ)

This month, we mark the 45th anniversary of the illegal invasion of Cyprus and the founding of the American Hellenic Institute on August 1, 1974. The American Hellenic Institute continues to advocate for upholding the rule of law in U.S. foreign policy especially as it relates to the United States, Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey.  I remain resolute on these two points: a Europe whole, free and at peace is beneficial not only to Europe but also to the United States, and the unlawful annexation of Cyprus remains a violation of international law and has gone on for far too long. I encourage both Greek and Turkish Cypriots to remain steadfast in implementing confidence building measures, whether big or small, so we can finally see the unification of Cyprus.
— Rep. Greg Meeks (D-NY)

dina titus.jpg
This year we mark the 45th anniversary of the illegal Turkish invasion of Cyprus, when thousands were forced to leave homes and communities where their families had lived for hundreds of years. Since then, the Turkish forces have continued to uproot centuries of culture, religion, and community while also increasing tensions by interfering in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone. I am proud to stand with my fellow Hellenic Caucus members to once again call on Turkey to withdraw its troops from Cyprus.
— Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)

I want to take this opportunity to express my support for the Republic of Cyprus, which is a strong U.S. ally and a beacon of liberty in the eastern Mediterranean.
The last 45 years have witnessed the Turkish intrusion into Cyprus, an occupation which has been accompanied by the double standard of those who wish to impose their dictates on foreign lands, but are unwilling to reciprocally extend those demands to others located in their own territories.
— Rep. Steve King (R-IA)

John Sarbanes.jpeg
Forty-five years ago today, Turkey invaded and occupied Cyprus – violating the country’s self-determination and sovereignty. To mark the anniversary of Turkey’s aggression, we must renew our commitment to Cyprus – a vital member of the EU and a key American partner in the region – and redouble our efforts to push back forcefully against Turkey’s ongoing efforts to interfere in Cypriot affairs.
— Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD)

Turkey’s illegal invasion of Cyprus 45 years ago has caused displacement and pain that is still felt today thanks in part to their continued occupation and bullying. Most recently, Turkey has violated Cyprus’s sovereignty to mine gas in Cypriot waters. This aggression is dangerous and has no place in the world. I’m proud to represent a strong Greek Cypriot community in Southern California, and I will continue to fight, on their behalf, for a peaceful resolution to this conflict that reduces Turkey’s military occupation and finds a settlement on the property that over 150,000 Greek Cypriots were forced to abandon.
— Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)

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