Greek-American leaders call for withdrawal of Turkish troops
by Apostolis Zoupaniotis
Washington, Jun 17 (CNA) -- NJ Democratic Congressman Robert Menendez was honoured last night during the second day of deliberations of the 16th Annual Cyprus Conference of Greek-American and Cypriot-American leaders. The conference deliberations were held at the House of Representatives.
In his speech, Menendez expressed concern that following talks between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President George Bush, the UN Secretary-General intends to table again before the UN Security Council his report issued after the Cyprus referenda in April 2004, aiming at its endorsement by the Council.
“A plan that is considered unacceptable by 76% of the Greek Cypriots is not a plan for success and cannot be considered viable by the US”, said Menendez, who will soon contest a seat for the Senate.
He also described as illegal direct flights to the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus and condemned a recent trip of three US Congressmen to the occupied areas through the illegal airport at Tympou.
He also referred to the amendment submitted to the House and approved by the International Relations Committee for external assistance and concerning violation of the religious and property rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
NY Democratic representative Nita Lowey also referred to the violation of rights of the Patriarchate.
FL Republican Congressman Michael Bilirakis, presenting a letter by the leaders of the Turkish caucus in an effort to justify their trip to the occupied areas, blamed the bureaucracy of the State Department for the incident.
NY Democratric Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney criticised the double standards policy of the Bush administration, noting that just as the US has asked for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon so they should ask for the removal of Turkish forces from Cyprus.
She also called on Greek Cypriots living in the US who have property in the Turkish occupied areas, to seek their property through lawsuits in American courts.
RI Democratic congressman Jim Langevin said that if Turkey wants to improve its international profile, it will have to work in earnest to solve the Cyprus problem.
WI Congressman David Obey said he does “not regard Turkey as a European country. It does not belong to the EU”.
Many members of Congress described as unjust and not productive efforts to punish Greek Cypriots because they rejected the Annan Plan.
FL Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ross Lehtinen said that the Annan plan “fell very short of its mission and rightfully it was voted down”.
NJ Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone welcomed efforts to revive negotiations for a Cyprus settlement, noting that “the Annan Plan is dead and it would be better for the UN to start something fresh”.
Congressman Jim Colby, chairman of the House Operations Appropriations Subcommittee said that the divided island of Cyprus should be reunited, stressing that “any plan should do better in order to be acceptable by the people”.
“Everyone wants to see the end of the division. We want the right solution but the one proposed by Annan wasn’t the right one”, said NY Democratic Congressman Elliot Engel.
Members of Congress encouraged Greek American and Cypriot American leaders to continue efforts to inform politicians in Washington.
NJ Congressman Donald Payne said the only way to succeed is to continue the pressure.
Andreas Komodromos, representative of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) said their presence is necessary in Washington to promote the Cyprus problem and agreed with the proposal for a Greek Action Committee.
Meanwhile, in a banquet last night, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Frances Fragos Townsed as well as NV Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, member of the House International Relations Committee and Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, member of the Europe Subcommittee, were honoured for their contribution to national issues.
Receiving the Livanos Award, Townsed, who is of Greek descent, referred to the common values which she shares with the organisers of the conference.
She said she was proud of her duties, noting that they are working for a safer future for our children.
The Frizis award was presented to Berkley who paid tribute to her ancestors who escaped to the US from the Nazi tyrrany, as well as to the Greeks who saved a number of Jews.
McCotter, who is being elected in the constituent where the father of Costas Kasapis, the first missing person from Cyprus, of US descent whose identity was established through DNA testing, said it is his obligation to fight for the relief of those who are suffering.
Senator Paul Sarbanes criticised all those who are trying to punish the Greek Cypriots for rejecting the Annan Plan.
He also reminded that when Turkey rejected all efforts for a solution, everyone had called on the Greek Cypriots to approach Turkey but now want to punish them.
Sarbanes also said that efforts to undermine the Republic of Cyprus do not contribute to moves to solve the Cyprus problem.
PSEKA (International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus) chairman Philip Christopher said that Greek Cypriots were very courageous to reject the Annan Plan.
“As a refugee from Kerynia, I could not go to my town, but an Italian could”, he told delegates.
Noting that Turkey is a valuable ally to the US, he said it does not befit allies to occupy through force other countries.
Representing the Greek Parliament, chairman of the Joint Interparty Committee for overseas Greeks, Evgenios Haitides, congratulated Greek Americans for their insistence in struggle.
SAE President Andrew Athens said that they still have a long road ahead and a lot of work to do.
Cyprus’ Ambassador in Washington Euripides Evriviades told Greek American leaders that their struggle makes the difference for Cyprus.