Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, correctly identifies the chief obstacle to the reunification of Cyprus: Turkey’s illegal and provocative colonial policies on the island it has occupied for 38 years (“Time to leave Cyprus in peace,” Commentary, June 18).
Unfortunately, Turkey has been aided in this by the silence of successive U.S. administrations. The lack of action by the Obama White House has been especially disappointing. President Obama has established close relations with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and while he has shown a willingness to pressure a steadfast ally (Israel) to take chances for peace, Mr. Obama has made no similar request of Turkey. Instead, his administration seems to have become allergic to the word “occupation,” a word Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign used freely to describe the status quo on Cyprus.
Turkey’s policies on Cyprus now threaten U.S. security interests. Turkey vetoes NATO-European Union defense cooperation in order to keep Cyprus off the table. The Erdogan government also threatens to disrupt joint Israeli-Cypriot natural-gas exploration, which could lead to the first Western, democratically government-controlled energy source in the region.
Mr. Obama cannot blame congressional inaction for the lack of progress on Cyprus. Indeed, for nearly a year, he has failed to appoint an ambassador to Cyprus. With Cypus set to assume the presidency of the European Union on July 1, and with bipartisan support in Congress to end the occupation of Cyprus, this is an issue that should not remain in limbo until after the November election.
Hellenic American Leadership Council