Chairman of the US Senate External Relations Committee, Robert Menendez was awarded on Friday the title of honorary citizen of the city of Paphos and presented with the key to the city, during a special ceremony that took place at the Town Hall, in the presence of officials and a crowd of supporters.
Speaking during the ceremony, Menendez said he was deeply honored that he became an honorary citizen of Paphos “the historic city of Aphrodite, Archibishop Makarios, Saint Paul and the Supreme President of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, Savvas Tsivikos.”
He referred to the rich history of Paphos, noting that “this is of the main reasons that I fight against the invasion and occupation of Turkey.”
He stressed that “49 years is too long, it is time for the occupation to end” and “for the last boot of the last Turkish soldier to leave Cyprus.”
“I look forward to coming back with my wife when we celebrate that last boot of the last Turkish soldier leaving Cyprus,” he added. The Senator noted that “what happened in Pyla must be condemned as a violation of international law. If we allow Pyla to take place then what is next?,” Menendez wondered.
This is why, he added, that “I have called for a condemnation by the UN Security Council of what happened in Pyla, as it is a violation of international law.”
He noted that “we must call it what it is, not look the other way”, while referring to the war in Ukraine, he said that he is one of those who have supported the proposition that the help for Ukraine is not for the freedom of Ukraine “but for upholding the international proposition that you cannot by force take another country’s territory.”
Menendez also expressed the belief the UN must appoint a special envoy to reignite and reinvigorate the negotiations on the Cyprus problem and that the US must stand shoulder to shoulder with the Cypriot Republic in that effort.
The US Senator also saluted the operation of the American University of Beirut-Mediterraneo (AUB) to Paphos “because education is the cornerstone of prosperity, of progress, of understanding between people.”
He noted that Paphos is going to be a great center of learning which not only will attract Cypriots but will attract people from the entire region and as it builds its reputation from other parts of the world.
“You are going to be a university city that will be known beyond your borders and that will be a great accomplishment that brings Paphos into this new century with hope and promise and opportunity,” Menendez said.
Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos, addressing Senator Menendez, underlined that the honoree with his daily actions, initiatives and interventions, proves and sends the hopeful message that in the complex system of international relations with conflicting geopolitical and other interests, it remains possible to serve the legitimate interests of peoples and states through a foreign polity based on democracy and the rule of international law.
He referred to the common bonds that unite the American and Greek nation, emphasizing the fact that the American Founding Fathers were inspired and guided by the ancient Greek civilization and particularly by the golden age of Pericles’ Athens.
The mayor emphasized that “we want, we can and we must serve a model that, through high-level education and training, will create the conditions for democracy, peace, development and prosperity to prevail in our region.”
He then continued by pointing out that the USA is the only county that has the strength and moral authority to exert pressure on Turkey towards the prevalence of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Without Turkey’s transformation into a modern democratic state, respecting the fundamental human rights and freedoms of all its citizens without discrimination, as well as the international legal order, our region can never enjoy security, stability and real peace, he noted.
The municipal council of Paphos has said that the reasoning behind its decision to bestow the honors to Mendenez, is his long-standing, tireless action, in defending, promoting and establishing respect for the international law, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law as principles of universal standing.
Before the ceremony, the mayor Menendez a tour of the new campus under construction of the American University of Beirut – Mediterraneo, which will start operating in Paphos in the coming days.
In his statements on the sidelines of the visit, the Mayor of Paphos emphasized the importance of the operation in the city of Paphos of a University Institution with the prestige and reputation of AUB, pointing out that this is an event of multiple importance for the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean.