Congress takes a stand for Cyprus

Thanos Davelis, Director of Public Affairs, HALC

With Turkey threatening a crisis over upcoming energy exploration in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the partnership of HALC and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) sprung into action. Working with the co-chairs of the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance (CHIA) caucus — Congressmen Ted Deutch and Gus Bilirakis — HALC and AJC promoted a Congressional letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling on the State Department to support increased cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean and protect Cyprus’ EEZ.

“This letter reinforces the foundational goals of the CHIA caucus and the HALC/AJC partnership — a stable, prosperous and peaceful Eastern Mediterranean ties to the Western alliance and to Western values,” according to Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of HALC. “Energy has proven to be a game changer, for the economies in the region, for collaboration between countries in the region, and potentially for European countries that need to diversify their sources of energy. Allowing Turkey — which has notably not been part of that trend of cooperation, to impede the potential in energy diplomacy not only threatens Cyprus, but Israel, US and EU national security interests and the economic interests of American energy companies invested in Cyprus.”

The AJC made this letter part of its advocacy agenda at its annual Global Forum in Washington, DC where thousands of its members met with Congressional offices on a variety of matters. HALC members joined AJC on Capitol Hill and continued advocating for the letter as part of the annual PSEKA Conference. These advocacy activities occurred against the backdrop of an official visit by President Anastasiades of the Republic of Cyprus. President Anastasiades was accompanied by Foreign Minister Kassoulides and Energy Minister Lakkotrypis, both of whom highlighted the key role Cyprus’ energy diplomacy is playing in the region during meetings with the Trump Administration, with members of Congress and congressional staffers, and at think tank presentations.

As the letter points out, Turkey, in clear violation of international law, continues to threaten the Republic of Cyprus, challenging its sovereignty in an effort to derail the exploration and development of energy reserves within Cyprus’ EEZ. The letter, however, did not only highlight Turkey’s provocations, but also the increased cooperation between Greece, Israel, and Cyprus.

The strategic partnership between Cyprus, Greece, and Israel is of particular importance to the region and the US. This alliance is a pillar of stability that advances Western security and values, and US interests in the region.

Following the Capitol Hill meetings, HALC members across the US mobilized. They wrote letters and called their Representatives, urging them to add their name to Congressman Bilirakis and Congressman Deutch’s letter. As a result of this advocacy, 36 Members of Congress took a stand against Turkish aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean, specifically in support of Cyprus. Cosigners of the letter include the Chairman and Minority Ranking members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce and Eliot Engel.

The continued engagement of the Hellenic-American community has played a decisive role in shedding light on Turkey’s many violations of international law and in garnering support on the Hill for Cyprus and Greece, two strategic partners of the US.

Read the full letter here: