Visiting US Senator Robert Menendez on Thursday called on the United Nations Security Council to immediately pass a resolution denouncing recent Turkish actions in the buffer zone in Pyla and said his country should move from “condemnation to action” in its overall approach to the Cyprus issue.

Menendez made the remarks while addressing a gathering of the World Conference of Cyprus’ Diaspora, held at the presidential palace.

“Let’s call it what it is – an unacceptable violation of international law,” the US senator said of the Pyla incidents, drawing rapturous applause from attendees.

He described the recent incident as a “power grab.”

In his speech, the New Jersey politician repeatedly slammed Ankara’s policy on Cyprus as well as Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan, whom he called “an authoritarian.”

Asking rhetorically why, 40,000 Turkish troops remain on the island, making Cyprus one of the most heavily militarised places in the world, Menendez said this is why he takes “very seriously” the Turkish “threat” of annexing the north.

“We must remain alert because Erdogan could change his mind anytime. Particularly when it comes to his aggression toward Cyprus,” he said.

The threat from Turkey, and Erdogan’s entrenchment in power there, made it more important than ever that the United States stand by Cyprus.

Menendez went on to urge the UN Secretary-General to appoint a special envoy in Cyprus to jumpstart peace talks, stalled since 2017.

Earlier, the US senator had been received by President Nikos Christodoulides at the palace. Attending on the Cypriot side were the foreign minister, the government spokesman and the director of the president’s diplomatic office, and on the American side, US Ambassador Julie Fisher.

The meeting lasted approximately 40 minutes, after which Menendez spoke at the diaspora event – attended by President Christodoulides, House Speaker Annita Demetriou, dignitaries, and senior figures from the Cypriot diaspora scene.

He later visited the parliament building, where he was given a tour by Demetriou following a short courtesy meeting.

Menendez called on the Biden administration to make a Cyprus settlement one of the top issues of his foreign policy.

Promising to push for Cyprus’ inclusion in the US visa waiver programme, he also said the two nations should work more closely on military matters and intelligence sharing.

On a more personal note, he then mentioned that his mother-in-law was born in Nicosia, adding that both he and his wife were very glad to be back on the island.

He closed his remarks saying ‘efharisto’ – ‘thank you’ in Greek.

In his own speech, Philip Christopher, head of the International Coordinating Committee-Justice for Cyprus (Pseka), referred to Menendez as “the greatest Philhellene in the history of Hellenism.”

A fun party.

Christodoulides attends the ceremony for the award of the Golden Medal of Apostle Barnabas to the US Senator Robert Menendez

Later in the evening, the US politician paid a visit to the archbishopric in Nicosia, where he was received by Archbishop Georgios.

The Prelate presented Menendez with the Apostle Varnavas gold medallion, and also gifted him a bottle of 100-year-old wine.

The US politician has visited the island before, but this was the first time he took part in the Cyprus diaspora conference.

On Friday, he will be visiting Paphos where the mayor will name him honorary citizen of the coastal city.

Menendez, who chairs the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has long been regarded as a valuable ally for his pro-Cyprus and anti-Turkey stance.