US Senator Robert Menendez on Monday said his goal was to see the last Turkish soldier leave the island as he received Cyprus’ highest order of merit bestowed by President Nicos Anastasiades.
Anastasiades presented Menendez with the Grand Cross of the Order of Makarios III during a ceremony at the presidential palace. Menendez, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a politician is regarded as a longstanding friend to Cyprus, instrumental in passing legislation ending the US arms embargo on the Republic.
The Grand Cross of the Order of Makarios III is one of six grades of the Order of Makarios III – the highest order of merit awarded by the Republic of Cyprus.
During the ceremony, the senator said Cyprus was “a special place”.
“I look at what this great Republic has done for its people, and I look at the other side of the other green line and I say what an incredibly lost opportunity for the people of the north,” he said.
“If the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots were left to their own negotiations then they could find a pathway forward for the reunification,” he added.
Anastasiades said that he was “particularly pleased” in presenting the award to Menendez to symbolically reciprocate the feelings of gratitude of the Cypriot people to a world distinguished politician who had significantly contributed to the advancement of human rights and democracy around the world.
He said Menendez who serves as chairman of one of the most influential committees of the US Senate, the Committee on Foreign Relations, had become a powerful voice for those who advocate a just world with equal opportunities for everyone.
The president also referred to Menendez’s interest and involvement in Cyprus, and his demand for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island and a viable and lasting settlement.
Anastasiades also praised Menendez’s key role in advancing the strategic partnership between Cyprus and Greece and the US, and other neighbouring countries and his initiative in advancing the Eastern Mediterranean Partnership Act, which establishes the institutional framework for energy and security cooperation between the USA and the trilateral synergy of Cyprus, Greece and Israel.
“An act through which the US also partially lifted its arms embargo on Cyprus,” he added.
The senator said Anastasiades had brought dignity and leadership to the presidency and had represented Cyprus with great distinction and pride.
“I am proud to be a champion to America’s relationship with both Cyprus and Greece.”
Referring to the Cyprus problem, he said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s intent on implementing a two-state solution for Cyprus country flies in the face of UN Security Council resolutions and consensus developed over the years.
“It is wrong for all of people of Cyprus,” he said.
Menendez also said: “my commitment to this relationship, to Cyprus is deep, longstanding and will endure as long as I am a US Senator. My goal is to see the last Turkish soldier leave the island.”
Other notable recipients Grand Cross of the Order of Makarios III in the past include Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, and Nobel laureate Christoforos Pissarides.
Menendez arrived in Cyprus from Athens, where last week he held talks with Greece’s leadership.
In 2019 the US Senator from New Jersey co-authored the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 lifting the prohibition on US arms sales to the Republic – in place since 1987 – and authorising the establishment of a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Centre to facilitate energy cooperation between the US, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus.
The bill additionally sought to impede the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey, as long as Turkey continued with plans to purchase the S-400 air defence system from the Russian Federation, a purchase that would be sanctionable under US law.
It would also require the US administration to submit to Congress a strategy on enhanced security and energy cooperation with countries in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as reports on “malign activities” by Russia and other countries in the region.
Menendez last visited the island in April 2019, prior to passage of the act in the US Congress.
Back in October 2009, Menendez, born in the US to Cuban parents, sent a strongly worded letter of protest to then-President Demetris Christofias, castigating him for his praise of Cuba’s totalitarian system. Christofias had paid a state visit to Cuba in September 2009 for the opening of Cyprus’s new embassy and, in his speech, made a number of anti-American embargo references, and spoke of the “common struggle of Cyprus and Cuba”.