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Congress members express concern to Powell over Cyprus policy
2004-11-23 09:53:20

by Demetris Apokis

Washington, Nov 23 (CNA) - Members of the US Congress Michael Bilirakis and Carolyn Maloney have expressed concern that recent US actions imply a shift in the States' policy towards Cyprus and request to know if these actions are part of an effort to diverge from the US policy of non-recognition of the regime set up illegally in the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus.

In a letter dated November 19 to US Secretary of State Colin Powell, which was also sent to President George Bush and future Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Bilirakis and Maloney express concern over ''certain actions towards the Republic of Cyprus recently taken by the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).''

''We feel that these actions strongly indicate a possible change in our government's long-standing policy of non-recognition of the occupied, northern part of the island and are detrimental to finding a solution in Cyprus,'' the add.

Bilirakis and Maloney refer to US administration and Congress efforts for a Cyprus settlement since 1974, when Turkey invaded the island, and for the promotion of rapprochement between the two communities of Cyprus, as well as the refusal on behalf of the US to recognise the entity that declared itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'' and note that they are ''alarmed by recent decisions taken by your Department and USAID, which are contradictory to these goals.''

''While we support efforts to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots in the north, we believe that the actions by your Department and USAID are detrimental to efforts of unifying both communities,'' they point out.

Specifically, they note that a few months ago USAID sent a reprogramming notice to Congress identifying certain funds that will be directed toward support of programs only in the northern, Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus. Although the two members of Congress agree with the economic support for all Cypriots, they note that ''there are certain aspects of the reprogramming request which raise serious issues.''

''The USAID notice states that it will provide institutional support to key financial institutions including the 'Ministry of Finance,' an entity the United States does not recognise as legitimate,'' they note.

They also point out that ''the USAID notice did not detail any safeguards to ensure that US funds do not inadvertently support businesses using illegally occupied properties.''

Bilirakis and Maloney furthermore say they were ''disappointed to discover that Federal Aviation Administration officials are exploring ways to designate airports in the northern, occupied territory as open for civil aviation.''

''With Cyprus' borders and by extrapolation the EU's borders encompassing the entire island, it would be inconceivable for the US to bypass consulting with the legitimate government of Cyprus and/or the EU on this matter,'' they add.

They also refer to the revision by the State Department of the long-established allocation of scholarships between visiting Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot students.

The two members of Congress note that ''although the allocation has been roughly linked to the relative size of the two communities, we understand that the allocations were recently changed to 57% for Turkish Cypriot students and 43% for Greek Cypriot students.''

''While there is no legal obligation that the scholarships are tied strictly to the relative size of the two communities, even symbolic changes could have significant consequences,'' they point out.

In conclusion, they say they are ''deeply concerned that these actions imply a shift in US policy toward Cyprus, and are inconsistent with our history of condemning the invasion of the island and supporting efforts to end the division between the two communities,'' and note they would like to know ''whether these actions are part of an effort to diverge from our policy of non-recognition for the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.'''

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