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REPS. ENGEL, BILIRAKIS AND 100 HOUSE MEMBERS URGE SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRACY IN ALL OF CYPRUS

Washington, DC -- Congressmen Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-09), along with more than 100 bipartisan members of the House Representatives, gave their strong support for the U.S.-Cyprus relationship in a letter to President Obama. The members thanked Cyprus for being a staunch friend and ally in the increasingly unstable eastern Mediterranean.

Rep. Engel said, "Cyprus is a democracy which shares the values with the United States and embraces a similar approach toward the Eastern Mediterranean. As Syria spirals toward deeper crisis, Lebanon remains under the thumb of Hezbollah, and Turkey is unable to choose whether its interests lie with the West or East, Cyprus is our natural friend in the region."

Rep. Bilirakis said, “As a valued friend and ally of the United States, the Republic of Cyprus has proven a committed and influential partner in Europe and in the increasingly turbulent Middle East. Despite having a large portion of its land illegally occupied, Cyprus has successfully integrated into the European community, which is a testament to its focus and dedication to democratic values and regional cooperation, and it is my hope that the United States continues to develop a positive relationship with Cyprus.”

Rep. Eliot L. Engel is a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the author of the law which directed the successful investigation of missing Americans on Cyprus and a resolution calling for demilitarization of Cyprus. Rep. Gus Bilirakis is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus, and is the author of resolutions supporting the implementation of a United Nations-brokered agreement toward the reunification of Cyprus and the respect for religious freedom in Cyprus.



Text of Letter is below:
       
The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you very much for your strong support of the U.S.-Cyprus relationship. As a fellow democracy, the Republic of Cyprus shares basic values with the United States and has remained a close friend and ally for many years.

At the same time, we are increasingly concerned about several other countries in the Eastern Mediterranean that have become less stable in recent times. We are troubled by reports that Turkey is drifting away from the United States and Europe by expanding ties with Iran and Syria, as well as adopting a more confrontational approach to Israel. We are also concerned by reports that Lebanon is falling more and more into the arms of Hezbollah, and Syria is engaging in a brutal crackdown of peaceful protestors, while hosting terrorist groups in Damascus and developing weapons of mass destruction.

Based on its location in such a troublesome neighborhood, we agree strongly with Secretary of State Clinton that our relationship with the Republic of Cyprus is "strategically important." Indeed, the U.S.-Cypriot friendship remains an anchor of American foreign policy toward the region. Moreover, as a member of the European Union, Cyprus shares our traditions of freedom and a market-based economy and embraces a thoroughly Western culture and outlook.

Recent tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean have also highlighted Cyprus’ stabilizing role in the region. Cyprus denied the use of its ports to the Gaza ‘flotilla’ and is preventing the use of its territory for actions that might destabilize the already tense Middle East. It also captured an arms-laden ship traveling from Syria to Hamas in Gaza in 2009, and it has stood staunchly with the United States against the Iranian nuclear program.

We have appreciated the fair approach you and Secretary Clinton have adopted toward our Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot friends in Cyprus. We believe it is important that this fair approach is implemented consistently by all American officials. We look forward to working with you to see how this goal can be achieved.

It is deeply unfortunate that the Turkish occupation and division of Cyprus, a sovereign EU member state, has continued for nearly four decades. We urge you to help Turkey understand that this occupation is against its interests, violates international law, and does not promote the safety and security of Turkish Cypriots who would prosper in a united Cypriot republic. Moreover, news of the interruption of Christmas services last December at several Orthodox Churches by Turkish troops in occupied northern Cyprus only served to undermine Turkey’s desired image and its prospects for EU accession.

We firmly support the Cyprus settlement process and hope that it will lead to a fair and lasting agreement for the benefit of all Cypriots. Such settlement efforts must hold firmly to certain key values including democratic rule of a majority of all Cypriots. While internationally protected human rights must be provided to all citizens of Cyprus, including the Turkish Cypriot community, democracy must be guaranteed in Cyprus. Further, American officials must act with cognizance of the relationship between rule of a majority of all Cypriots and the continuance of Cyprus’ pro-American policies such as its opposition to Iran’s nuclear program. America’s principles clearly support America’s interests.

Again, we appreciate your support for the U.S.-Cyprus relationship and look forward to the day when Cyprus is sovereign and reunified.

Sincerely,

Cosigners of Cyprus letter

Congress Members Engel and Bilirakis and 105 other members of the House

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