Sarbanes, Hellenic Caucus Urge Biden Administration to Speak Out Against Turkey’s Illegal Activity in Cyprus

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Ask Secretary of State Blinken and UN Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield to Forcefully Push Back on Turkey’s Decision to “Reopen” the Varosha Quarter in Famagusta, Cyprus
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 2, 2021
CONTACT: Sarbanes Press Office
(202) 225-4016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to use the full force of American diplomacy to push back against Turkey’s recent illegal moves in Cyprus.

“We urge you and President Biden to speak out against the unilateral and illegal actions of the Republic of Turkey concerning the “reopening” of Varosha on Cyprus,” the lawmakers wrote to Secretary Blinken. “We also ask that you and President Biden take actions to express the United States’ firm opposition to these plans, and to emphasize the need to resolve this matter in accordance with existing international agreements, not in a unilateral fashion that will only inflame tensions on Cyprus.”

The lawmakers continued: “On October 6, 2020, the Republic of Turkey unilaterally announced that they would be reopening Varosha to tourists and moving to begin resettlement. This move was made without consideration of the Republic of Cyprus or the displaced former residents of Varosha, which has remained abandoned since the Republic of Turkey’s unlawful invasion in 1974. That the same military which pressured Varosha’s residents into leaving are now presuming to unilaterally dictate who can return without adhering to prior U.N. guidance is unacceptable.”

“… The United Nations took a stand against Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus, going so far as to deploy thousands of [United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus] troops to prevent further Turkish incursions into the southern half of the island,” the lawmakers wrote to Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. “In addition, the [United Nations Security Council (UNSC)] gathered in 1984 and 1992 … to draw red lines when it comes to Turkish activity in sensitive areas like Varosha.”

The lawmakers concluded: “As our Ambassador to the UN, it is imperative that you act in concert with your UNSC and General Assembly colleagues to implement these stated UN policies and address the growing threat posed by Turkey, ensuring the eventual return of Varosha to its Greek Cypriot owners and inhabitants. Given your lifelong advocacy for refugee communities around the world, we are confident that you will use your position at the UN to defend the rights of Varosha’s native Greek Cypriot people.”

See below for a full copy of the letter to Secretary Blinken.

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July 1, 2021

The Honorable Antony J. Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
 

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We urge you and President Biden to speak out against the unilateral and illegal actions of the Republic of Turkey concerning the “reopening” of Varosha on Cyprus. We also ask that you and President Biden take actions to express the United States’ firm opposition to these plans, and to emphasize the need to resolve this matter in accordance with existing international agreements, not in a unilateral fashion that will only inflame tensions on Cyprus.

On October 6, 2020, the Republic of Turkey unilaterally announced that they would be reopening Varosha to tourists and moving to begin resettlement. This move was made without consideration of the Republic of Cyprus or the displaced former residents of Varosha, which has remained abandoned since the Republic of Turkey’s unlawful invasion in 1974. That the same military which pressured Varosha’s residents into leaving are now presuming to unilaterally dictate who can return without adhering to prior U.N. guidance is unacceptable.

These actions by the Republic of Turkey and its military are in direct violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 550, which “considers attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible.” Such actions actively violate the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and undermine future efforts to resolve the ongoing situation in Cyprus.

We urge you to treat Cyprus as a foreign policy priority. We are committed to strengthening the United States’ alliance with Cyprus and supporting efforts in Congress to defend its stability and sovereignty. Preserving and strengthening our relations with Greece and Cyprus, and defending them from external threats, advances both the interests and values of the United States in the strategically critical Eastern Mediterranean.

We are disappointed by press reports that indicated President Biden did not raise the issue of Cyprus and a restart of talks to end this crisis when he met with Turkish President Erdogan at the G7 summit earlier this month. Resolving this issue through clear and progressing dialogue toward a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation is in the best interests of the United States and the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Republic of Turkey’s continuing unilateral actions on Cyprus makes a mockery of the rules-based international order that is crucial to maintaining global peace and prosperity, and which President Biden’s administration has consistently held up as vital to U.S. interests across the world.

We urge you and President Biden to demonstrate that Cyprus is a foreign policy priority for the administration by speaking out forcefully against these illegal actions by the Republic of Turkey against the people and Republic of Cyprus. Thank you for your attention to this letter.


Sincerely,

/signatures/

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See below for the letter to Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.

* * *

June 28, 2021
 

The Honorable Linda Thomas-Greenfield
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10017


Dear Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield:

We write with a profound sense of urgency and concern in light of the Republic of Turkey’s aggressive, illegal and unilateral reopening of Varosha in Cyprus — an action taken in direct violation of international law and multiple UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Given the presence of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and the UN’s role in promoting a bizonal, bicommunal federation in Cyprus, we urge you to immediately advance UNSC action on this matter.

In 1974, Turkey launched a deadly and unprovoked military invasion of Cyprus, occupying a third of the island and ethnically cleansing tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots from their native lands. One of the occupied areas, Varosha, was a once-bustling Greek Cypriot resort town and international tourist destination in the Famagusta District of the island. Following the Turkish approach to the town in August 1974, Varosha’s native Greek Cypriot population fled for their lives, only to later be denied the right to return by the occupying Turkish Armed Forces. Many of the Varosha refugees are still alive today, yearning to go back to their homes.

Fortunately, the United Nations took a stand against Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus, going so far as to deploy thousands of UNFICYP troops to prevent further Turkish incursions into the southern half of the island. In addition, the UNSC gathered in 1984 and 1992 to pass resolutions 550 and 789, respectively, to draw red lines when it comes to Turkish activity in sensitive areas like Varosha. Specifically, these resolutions state that the Council “considers attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of that area to the administration of the United Nations” and that “the area at present under the control of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus be extended to include Varosha.”

As our Ambassador to the UN, it is imperative that you act in concert with your UNSC and General Assembly colleagues to implement these stated UN policies and address the growing threat posed by Turkey, ensuring the eventual return of Varosha to its Greek Cypriot owners and inhabitants. Given your lifelong advocacy for refugee communities around the world, we are confident that you will use your position at the UN to defend the rights of Varosha’s native Greek Cypriot people.

We look forward to receiving your response.

Sincerely,

/signatures/

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