16 August 1996

Press Briefing



A group of United States Congressmen from the New York area called upon President William J. Clinton to impose economic sanctions on Turkey and called for the immediate demilitarization of Cyprus at a press conference today which was sponsored by the Cyprus Mission. The sanctions were to be imposed in response to the recent killings of two Greek Cypriot demonstrators and to the gas deal Turkey recently concluded with Iran, which the speakers said flew in the face of the United States' Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996.

For the first time in many years, the Turkish Government was not secular, and since it had come to power, "we've seen one provocation after another", New York Congressman Eliot Engel said. The recent actions in Cyprus might be a symbol that the new Turkish Government was trying to provoke a war, he said. "The solution is the immediate demilitarization of Cyprus."

Joining Mr. Engel on the podium were Congressmen Nita Lowey, Caroline Maloney and Thomas Manton from New York and Congressman Robert Menendez from New Jersey. Philip Christopher, President of the International Coordinating Committee for Justice in Cyprus, also spoke and served as moderator. The Permanent Representative of Cyprus, Nicos Agathocleous and the Supreme President of the Cyprus Federation of America, Peter Papanicolaou, appeared with the group but did not speak. A brief video showing the killing of Tasos Isaak and Solomos Solomou, the two Greek Cypriot demonstrators, was also shown.

"What is the very first country to thumb its nose at the United States, to spit in our eye by signing this tremendous [gas] deal with Iran? Turkey", Mr. Engel continued. "I don't think we ought to stand for it. . . . It's bad enough that the 1974 invasion [of Cyprus] happened with weapons that were provided by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United States." He also expressed concern about the numerous Turkish flights over Greek territory and Turkish claims of sovereignty over the island of Imia. [The island is called Kardak by Turkey]. "We need to take a firm stand now to tell the Turkish Government that the United States of America, the leader of the Free World, will not allow any country, particularly a NATO country, to continue with these provocations."

Mr. Christopher condemned "the innocent killing of two Greek Cypriots over the past week in Cyprus". He said Turkey had illegally invaded Cyprus 22 ago, the illegal occupation was continuing, and American citizens had the right to protest these events since during that time they had rewarded Turkey with more than $8 billion in United States taxpayers' money. Two hundred

thousand refugees had been created by the invasion, and those people continued to want to return to their homes. The protests of people who want to return to their homes cannot be stopped, and the recent killings had taken place during such protests.

Mr. Christopher went on to say that the first demonstrator to be killed, Mr. Isaak, had been beaten and murdered with an ax by illegal terrorists imported from Turkey -- the Gray Wolves. The video clearly showed that the second demonstrator to die, Mr. Solomou, a cousin of Mr. Issak's, had been killed by gunfire from Turkish soldiers.

Congressman Menendez, who is a member of the United States House of Representatives International Relations Committee and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, said, "Turkey must be condemned for the actions of its troops in brutally killing, on two separate occasions, unarmed, defenceless civilians who were engaged in peaceful protests." He was concerned that yesterday in northern Cyprus, Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller had said that Turkey would not hesitate to use force in case of threats to its territorial integrity. He had met Ms. Ciller many times in the past when she was the Turkish Prime Minister. She had never claimed that northern Cyprus was the territory of Turkey, nor that Turkey exerted any control over it. He interpreted her statement yesterday to mean that the Turkish Government now considered northern Cyprus part of its territory.

In calling on President Clinton to impose sanctions under the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, Congressman Menendez said, "Turkey cannot be a United States ally that acts with impunity and violates United States law and international norms. To look the other way in the face of these actions is to show that the United States is not serious about sanctioning those who deal with terrorist countries and not serious about promoting democracy."

Congressman Manton, a charter member of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, said he was at the United Nations "to express my personal outrage and condemn these unfortunate events". He seconded Congressman Menendez's statement and joined in the appeal to President Clinton to impose sanctions on Turkey.

Congressman Lowey, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said, "The United Nations must do more to protect Greek Cypriots and demilitarize the island". The United States must make it clear that the Turkish actions, including their violations of human rights, could not be tolerated. She reiterated the call for sanctions, and said that in the House Appropriations Committee she and her allies had fought, and they were going to continue to fight to make aid to Turkey dependent on that country's human rights actions. "They cannot continue to take actions that fly in the face of decency, that fly in face of human rights."

Cyprus Briefing - 3 - 16 August 1996

Congressman Lowey expressed her outrage that, right on the heels of the signing of the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, Turkey had entered into a "$23 billion, long-term agreement with the world's number one promoter of terrorism, Iran," the largest energy-export deal in Iranian history. "As members of Congress, we cannot stand by to allow these kinds of actions to take place without direct United States action in return." She was going to work to end United States aid to Turkey.

Congressman Maloney, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, called for a return to the way it used to be in Cyprus. Many of her Greek-Cypriot-American constituents had told her that their fathers used to be friends with the Turkish Cypriots, they used to tend one another's flocks on high holy days. But today, "everyone is talking except the Greek and Turkish Cypriots". She called on President Clinton and United States Permanent Representative Madeleine K. Albright to use the crisis to go back to the negotiating table and try to work for peace.

Although the Congress had had some success, for instance in cutting economic aid and stopping the sale of helicopters to Turkey, she said, "The Cyprus issue has eluded us". She called on Ms. Albright to visit the island and facilitate talks between the residents -- talks in which Turkey should have no part.

Responding to a question as to why Greek Cypriot leaders had not prevented Greek Cypriot demonstrators from entering the United Nations buffer zone, Mr. Christopher said that the legal Government had tried to discourage the protestors, but "it is very difficult to prevent 200,000 people who want to return to their homes".

Responding to a question as to why the speakers blamed the Turks alone for the recent deaths since the Greek Cypriot Government had provoked the incidents by sending thousands of motorcyclists into the buffer zone, Congressman Menendez said, "Who pulled the trigger? Who used the axe?". It might have been appropriate for the Turkish troops to arrest people engaged in civil disobedience, but the Turkish forces' behaviour was in clear violation of internationally accepted norms. Individuals who enter buffer zones in civil disobedience should not have to expect that their fate is death unless they threaten someone else's life, he added.

To a question touching on whether Turkey had really violated the Sanctions Act, Mr. Menendez said that although negotiations for the Turkey- Iran gas deal had started before the Sanctions Act had been passed, the deal had been signed afterwards, and the fact that Turkey was going to pay for a pipeline to transport the gas clearly invoked the provisions of the Act.

Cyprus Briefing - 4 - 16 August 1996

A query was raised as to how United States Government officials could accuse Turkey of violating international law when the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act itself was a violation of international law. Congressman Engel replied that Iran and Iraq were among the countries on the United States Department of State's list of terrorist countries and the United States and any country has the right, especially when its security is concerned, to use those provisions of the law that will benefit its security. In international agreements there were specific exclusions for the security provisions of a country.

Responding to a question as to whether the Congress had tried to express its views to Turkish authorities and to ask those authorities to explain their actions, Congressman Lowey said, yes. In speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives, through direct letters, through meetings with President Clinton, "I think we have made our views very, very clear to the Government of Turkey. We've also spoken out loud and clear about Iran being the number one country harboring terrorists. And for Turkey to visit this terrorist country on the anniversary of the illegal invasion of Cyprus was again a clear defiance of the bill just passed in Congress."

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