A powerful Greek-American lobby 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.”
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) complained that Ambassador James Jeffrey, in a recent newspaper interview, justified Turkey’s 1974 incursion into the Turkish-Cypriot region in northern Cyprus in response to a coup engineered by the military junta ruling Greece at the time. The Greek junta overthrew a Cypriot government that was balanced between the ethnic-Greek majority and the ethnic-Turkish minority and attempted to annex the island under mainland Greek control.
The military moves resulted in a division of the island that remains today, although Turkey is the only nation that recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The Obama administration and previous U.S. presidents have all supported talks leading to a “bi-zonal, bi-communal” federation.
The Greek-Cypriot government, which is internationally recognized, calls the Turkish move an illegal invasion and complains that Turkey continues to deploy as many as 40,000 troops on the island. The Turkish-Cypriot administration regards the Turkish troops as protectors.
AHI said Mr. Jeffrey’s remarks to Turkey’s Sabah newspaper earlier this month were “alarming and bring into question the Obama administration’s policy as it specifically relates to Cyprus.”
“AHI views the ambassador’s remarks as unacceptable, disappointing and damaging to U.S. interests,” the group said, citing excerpts from his interview as the reason to recall the ambassador, a career Foreign Service officer appointed by President George W. Bush in 2008.
In the interview, Mr. Jeffrey was asked if the United States supports Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union, where the leaders of some EU nations oppose admitting the Muslim nation.
“Turkey is a democratic country,” the ambassador replied. “It is a peaceful country. It doesn’t invade its neighbors. It has security concerns in Cyprus and in northern Iraq.”
The AHI responded with an incredulous series of rhetorical questions.
“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?” the group asked.
Mr. Jeffrey also irritated the AHI by noting that Turkey geographically is closer to Europe than Cyprus, which was admitted to the EU in 2004.
AHI said the “ambassador uses flawed logic if he contends geography takes precedence above all other criteria to join the EU.”
The ambassador’s interview is posted on the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Turkey at turkey.usembassy.gov.
Some European leaders are upset with what they see as the closed-door appointment of a new European ambassador to the United States, complaining that the decision violated European Union goals for transparency in such high-level moves.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt leveled the first complaint in strong diplomatic language, only days after the executive arm of the EU last week announced the appointment of Joao Vale de Almeida, a career EU bureaucrat, to succeed John Bruton, the high-profile former prime minister of Ireland, as the ambassador in Washington under a new treaty that creates a stronger EU diplomatic service.
“This nomination has been done without applying the very principles now under discussion, where transparency, member states’ involvement and, above all, your role as appointing authority are key elements,” Mr. Bildt wrote to Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, which runs the day-to-day operations of the 27-nation alliance.
The “head of the delegation in Washington should be a person with experience from a high political post — for obvious reasons,” Mr. Bildt added.
Mr. Vale de Almeida is currently director-general for foreign relations in the European Commission. The Portuguese diplomat is a former chief of staff to Mr. Barroso, who is also from Portugal.
Hume to Pakistan
President Obama plans to nominate top career diplomat Cameron R. Hume to replace Anne Patterson as ambassador to Pakistan.
The Pakistani newspaper, Dawn, reported Monday that a “diplomatic source” confirmed that Mr. Hume will leave his current post as ambassador to Indonesia to take up the position in Islamabad after Mrs. Patterson finishes her three-year tour of duty in May.
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