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Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus-TRNC

Burden rests on Greeks to solve 'Cyprus problem'

By Rep. Dan Burton
House Committee on International Relations

On Dec. 19, The Washington Times printed an Op-Ed column by Rep. Rush Holt, New Jersey Democrat, titled "History can still be made: Europe should usher Turkey into the Union." In it, he asserts that the "Cyprus problem" must be solved. (Since 1974, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has governed the northern third of the island, while the Republic of Cyprus (ROC) has governed the southern two-thirds of the island.) He then cites the European Union's recent failure to give Turkey a firm date to begin EU accession negotiations and asserts that Turkey needs to "push Turkish Cypriot leader [Rauf] Denktash to broker a compromise solution on Cyprus" if it ever hopes to join the European Union.

While I appreciate Mr. Holt's effort to bring Greek and Turkish Cypriots together, as someone who has worked on the Cyprus issue for 20 years, I would be remiss if I did not point out a few important things about Cyprus that he didn't mention.

Unfortunately, few members of Congress seem to have a thorough understanding of the history of Cyprus, specifically the period from 1960 to 1974. Without this understanding, it is impossible to fully appreciate and adequately address the modern-day security concerns of Turkish Cypriots. Let's review the facts.

* It was Archbishop Makarios III, a Greek Cypriot and the first president of Cyprus, who devised a plan for "enosis" (union with Greece) immediately after assuming office in 1960.

* It was Greek Cypriots who next ousted all Turkish Cypriot leaders from their elected positions in the Cypriot government, and by so doing, destroyed the bicommunal character of the government.

* It was Greek Cypriots, joined by the Greek army, who, in 1963, initiated an 11-year reign of terror against Turkish Cypriots, killing one out of every 120 Turkish Cypriots and destroying more than 100 Turkish Cypriot villages despite the presence of U.N. peacekeeping troops.

In short, this is the tragic history of Cyprus, and it was in response to this terror that the Turkish military intervened on Cyprus in 1974. If the ROC, Greece and the international community ever hope to erase these painful memories and truly want to achieve a lasting reunification on Cyprus, then they must come to realize that no settlement will ever be possible until the security of the Turkish Cypriots is guaranteed and the Greek Cypriots accept the Turkish Cypriots as equal partners in any future government. Until these conditions are met, there's no point to further reunification negotiations. Furthermore, penalizing Turkey will not help the cause of reunification. It was very disconcerting that Mr. Holt chose to place the burden on Turkey to achieve a Cyprus settlement and chose to use Turkey's admission to the European Union as a bargaining chip to achieve this goal.

Might I remind Mr. Holt that when one community attempts to annihilate another community for 11 years, the burden rests with the aggressor, not the victim, to create a new political framework under which the victim can once again feel secure. The ROC and Greece should be bending over backwards to craft a settlement that is acceptable to the Turkish Cypriots, not the other way around.

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