Thursday, 9 August 2007

US Congress measures - meagre comfort to Cypriots after 33 years

At last the pro-Cyprus Lobby in the US makes a move:


US Congress legislation to end Turkish occupation of Cyprus


The US Congress has taken another significant step toward improving American policy on Cyprus with the introduction of two Cyprus bills, which the sponsors noted complement each other, said the leaders of the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH).

According to a CEH statement, “one of the two bills, House Resolution 620, calls on Turkey to `end its military occupation…particularly because Turkey’s pretext has been refuted by over 13 million crossings by Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots into each other’s communities without incident.’ ”

“This legislation carries particular weight with American policy-makers because its primary sponsors, Congressmen Albio Sires (D-NJ) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), are among only 14 out of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives selected by their colleagues to oversee matters relating to Europe -- as members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe. Cyprus advocates Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Zack Space (D-OH) are also original co-sponsors”, CEH added.

“The bill adds to momentum that is building in the U.S. to end Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus, particularly after 13 million peaceful crossings of the Green Line”, CEH said, noting that it also “builds on the recent statement by the Chairman of the powerful U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), who encouraged America to refocus on this matter that is at the heart of the Cyprus problem."

It also adds to the impetus generated by the recent letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by the creator of the Congressional Turkey Caucus and Chairman of the House Europe Subcommittee, Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL), the statement notes. "Chairman Wexler felt that it is in Turkey’s interests to focus on withdrawing troops", it says.

“No legislation in recent years that has focused on ending the division of Cyprus has received more than 27 members of Congress asking to become cosponsors (advocates). If this new momentum continues, and we plan to make sure that it does, many more that 27 members of Congress will become cosponsors.”

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island’s northern third. Restrictions on free movement to and from the island’s occupied areas, imposed by the Turkish Cypriot regime, were partially lifted in April 2003, a move that is still in place and allows, albeit under restrictions, Cypriots to cross the UN controlled buffer zone.

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