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2003-01-14 18:41:59

January 12, 2003
A congressional exchange on Cyprus

I am writing in response to Rep. Dan Burton's Sunday letter, "Burden rests on Greeks to solve 'Cyprus problem.'"

In the past 30 years, the people of Cyprus have suffered from an illegal occupation that has divided their nation. On July 20, 1974, not even 14 years after the Republic of Cyprus gained its independence from Great Britain, an unlawful Turkish invasion caused a long-standing division between the Northern and Southern parts of the Island ? a division that still exists

While the Greek Cypriots who inhabit the southern portion of Cyprus enjoy a high quality of living, the Turkish Cypriots of the north have faced many hardships. Citizens of the occupied area are not represented by a legitimate government and, as a result, they are unable to enjoy the benefits of international trade, political cooperation and worldwide travel. This troubling discrepancy, combined with several other factors, leads me to firmly believe that it is now in the best interest of all parties involved that the Republic of Cyprus be reunified as one sovereign nation.

Last month, Cyprus was officially invited to become a new member of the European Union. Through this process, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has worked diligently in an effort to unify the island of Cyprus before its signing of the EU accession treaty on April 16. Both the Greek and Turkish sides have agreed to negotiate, and for the first time in 29 years, a reunification of Cyprus appears to be a realistic possibility. It is clear to me that all sides ? the Greeks, Turks, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots ? will benefit from reunification at the current time.

For Greece, reunification will serve to resolve the 29-year-old crisis, which has had a direct effect on many Greeks who have either lived in Cyprus or have relatives who have moved to the island. Reunification would be an excellent first step for Turkey to take in its efforts to prove itself worthy of EU accession. Many Greek Cypriot refugees who were forced out of their homes in the north during the Turkish invasion would be able to return home, and Turkish Cypriots would have a chance to enjoy the same high quality of living as their Greek counterparts.

The new Turkish government has proved to be very open to the negotiation process. It must continue to put pressure on Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has been hesitant thus far, to cooperate. Mr. Denktash must also listen to the Turkish Cypriots whom he represents. Through their many demonstrations and consistent urgings, the Turks of northern Cyprus have made it clear that they desire reunification. As their representative at the negotiating table, it is Mr. Denktash's responsibility to listen to his constituency and put an end to the Cyprus problem.

Through all the complexities of the Cyprus issue, one thing remains clear: This opportunity must not be wasted. It has taken nearly 30 years for reunification to become a realistic possibility, and the people of Cyprus should not have to wait 30 more.

New Jersey Democrat

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