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"Greek-Americans" upset with US Ambassador in Turkey

James F. JeffreyAmerican Hellenic Institute is demanding that President Obama recall the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, accusing the envoy of making “unacceptable, disappointing and damaging” remarks that “undermine the administration’s position on Cyprus.”

Remarks made by U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, James Jeffrey, Call into Question U.S. Policy on Cyprus AHI Calls on President Obama to Recall U.S. Ambassador to Turkey

In a three- part interview with Turkey’s Sabah newspaper, dated February 3, 4, and 5, 2010, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey answered a large array of questions regarding Turkey’s role in the region today and overall U.S.- Turkish relations.

Ambassador Jeffrey’s responses for the public record were alarming and bring into question the Obama Administration’s policy as it specifically relates to Cyprus.

As a result, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) calls on President Barack Obama to immediately recall Ambassador James Jeffrey.  AHI views the ambassador’s remarks as unacceptable, disappointing and damaging to U.S. interests.

Ambassador Jeffrey: Turkey  “doesn’t invade neighbors…It has security concerns in Cyprus.” AHI cites the following excerpts of the interview as reasons to recall Ambassador Jeffrey.

The interviewer, Nur Batur, asked the U.S ambassador:  “Do you still support Turkey’s EU process?”

In Ambassador Jeffrey’s response, he says in part:

“Of course, I am hopeful. Because the values of Turkey and the EU are very compatible. Turkey is a democratic country.  It is a free market economy. It is a peaceful country. It doesn’t invade neighbors.  It has security concerns in Cyprus and in Northern Iraq.

Basically, Turkey is a country with peace and stability elements in the region and reflects European values…Moreover, geographically, Turkey is closer to the EU than Cyprus.  Cyprus was still an EU member when I last checked. As a matter of fact, most of Turkey is closer to Berlin or Paris. Under these conditions what keeps Turkey out of the EU?”

AHI asks: what security concerns in Cyprus?  What democratic country? What peaceful country? And Turkey doesn’t invade its neighbors?  In essence is Ambassador Jeffrey justifying or supporting the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus when he states that Turkey has security concerns there? Also, the ambassador uses flawed logic if he contends geography takes precedence above all other criteria to join the EU.

The ambassador was also asked: “Do you think that Turkey, in these circumstances with tense relations with Israel, can still play a mediation role?”

Ambassador Jeffrey’s response in part is:

“Turkey is playing an important role for the region’s security by its zero conflict policy.  Turkey’s approach in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Caucasus, in Balkans and Cyprus is positive.”

One can characterize Turkey’s positive role in the region as dubious at best. When it comes to Cyprus, it is without question that Turkey is not playing a “positive” role.  To the contrary, its role is that of an aggressor and occupier and cultural looter and cleanser who attempts to make permanent the division of Cyprus as the examples below prove.

With respect to Cyprus, Turkey continues to:

  • Illegally occupy Cyprus with more than 40,000 troops
  • Bring illegal settlers from Turkey into the occupied area of Cyprus now totaling more than 180,000
  • Manipulate the current negotiations in Cyprus and prevents Mr. Talat from negotiating freely.

Additionally, Turkey continues to: Violate the territorial integrity of Greece’s airspace and waters; and Prohibit religious freedoms toward the Ecumenical Patriarch and refuses to open the Halki School of Theology.

Ambassador Jeffrey’s Remarks Do Not Support President Obama’s Position on Cyprus Simply stated, Ambassador Jeffery’s remarks do not support President Obama’s position on Cyprus.

During President Obama’s speech before the Turkish Assembly on April 6, 2009, the president said the following regarding Cyprus:

“Advancing peace also includes the disputes that persist in the Eastern Mediterranean.  And here there’s a cause for hope…The United States is willing to offer all the help sought by the parties as they work towards a just and lasting settlement that reunifies Cyprus into a bizonal and bicommunal federation.”

And in his October 2008 campaign statement, he said:

“…A negotiated political settlement on Cyprus would end the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus and repair the island’s tragic division while paving the way to prosperity and peace throughout the entire region.”

As further evidence of Turkey’s failure in the region, on October 14, 2009, the Commission of the European Communities released its “Turkey 2009 Progress Report.” It detailed Turkey’s progress toward accession into the European Union.

While the report acknowledged that Turkey “continued to express public support for fully fledged negotiations,” it also goes on to state: “ underlined by the Council conclusions of 8 December 2008, and in line with the negotiating framework, Turkey is expected to support actively the ongoing negotiations and to take practical steps to contribute to creating a climate favourable to a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN SC resolutions and in line with the principles on which the Union is founded.

“Since the Council’s decision of December 2006, Turkey has made no progress towards fully implementing the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement and has kept its ports closed to vessels from the Republic of Cyprus despite several calls by the EU.  As pointed out by the December 2008 Council conclusions it is now urgent that Turkey fulfils its obligation to ensure full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol.

“Turkey has made no progress on normalizing bilateral relations with the Republic of Cyprus. It continues to veto Cyprus’s membership of several international organizations and arrangements such as the Wassenaar Agreement on the Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and on Dual-Use Goods. Civilian vessels prospecting for oil on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus were hindered by the Turkish navy on several occasion during the reporting period.”

The projection of U.S. interests in the southeastern Mediterranean region depends heavily on the stability of the region.  Therefore, the U.S. has an important stake in fostering good relations between two NATO allies, Greece and Turkey, and in achieving a just and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem.

However, Turkey’s continued occupation of Cyprus, its demonstrated intransigence in the effort to solve the Cyprus problem, its refusal to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, its veto of Cyprus’ accession to international organizations, its continued violations of Greece’s territorial waters and airspace in the Aegean Sea; and its ongoing religious and human rights violations within its own borders all prevent stability in the region.  Moreover, Turkey’s acts thwart U.S. interests.

AHI’s call for President Obama to immediately recall Ambassador James Jeffrey is based on the ambassador’s regrettable public record comments that call into question his support for a Cyprus solution based on a bi-zonal, bi- communal federation; a position that the Obama Administration and previous administrations clearly support. The ambassador’s remarks undermine the administration’s position on Cyprus.

AHI urges the Obama Administration to implement policy that would resolve the issues mentioned above in concert with the support of the rule of law and respect for international law. This would demonstrate that the United States truly wishes to advance the cause of solving the 36- year- old Cyprus problem. The United States’ best interests are not served when it continues to appease Turkey and pursue former failed policies that promote a double-standard in applying the rule of law to Turkey.

*The American Hellenic Institute is a nonprofit public policy organization that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and also within the American Hellenic community.

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