- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Turkish ambassador this week accused the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee of a cynical assault over the divided island of Cyprus in an election-year political stunt.

Ambassador Namik Tan criticized Rep. Howard L. Berman, California Democrat, for charges the congressman made in a letter last month to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mr. Berman denounced Turkey for “bullying” the Greek Cypriot-led government about an undersea oil-and-gas exploration plan and for “colonizing” the Mediterranean island by sending thousands of Turks to live with Turkish Cypriots in northern Cyprus.

Mr. Tan, in a letter to Mr. Berman, rejected both charges.

“We fully understand that the old and obsolete ‘line of attack’ on Turkey … continues to please certain constituencies and communities inside the United States, especially during a lively election year,” the ambassador said.

“Your most recent letter [to Mrs. Clinton] seems to be another episode within this long-standing and well-established practice.”

The division of Cyprus between ethnic Greeks and ethnic Turks has bedeviled American presidents and diplomats since communal violence erupted on the Mediterranean island in 1963.

Eleven years later, Turkey deployed troops to northern Cyprus, after Greek nationalists in Greece and Cyprus launched a military coup in a failed attempt to unite the island with mainland Greece.

Turkey justified its invasion as a move to protect ethnic Turks, who later declared an independent nation on about one-third of the island in 1984. However, only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, while the ethnic-Greek government is intentionally recognized as the Republic of Cyprus.

In the United States, the issue remains a hot topic among Greek-Americans, who make up a potent voting bloc.

In his letter to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Berman called on Mrs. Clinton to “clearly and forcefully” reprimand Turkey for recent threats over plans by Cyprus and Israel to explore for undersea oil and gas. Turkey claims the exploration would trespass on Turkish Cypriot and Turkish waters.

“By any interpretation, Turkey’s threats constitute bullying and are way out of line,” Mr. Berman said.

He also complained about Turkey’s “increasingly draconian efforts to alter the demographic composition of Cyprus” by settling “hundreds of thousands” of Turkish citizens in the north.

Mr. Berman added that the United States “should be uncompromising in opposing Turkey’s efforts to trample on the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus - whether through military threats or colonizing Cyprus with Turkish citizens.”

Mr. Tan replied that his country never has had a policy of sending settlers to northern Cyprus. He also called for a “comprehensive solution” to the Cyprus problem, and expressed hopes for progress in U.N.-led talks between Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.

Story Continues →