BY NANORE BARSOUMIAN
WATERTOWN, MA.–On Sept. 28, resolution 1631, “Calling for the protection of religious sites and artifacts from and in Turkish-occupied areas of northern Cyprus as well as for general respect for religious freedom,” was approved by the US House of Representatives. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) on Sept. 16, 2010.
Two days later, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a press release in which it stated that “the resolution has been drafted in a biased way, taking only Greek Cypriot allegations into consideration.”
The statement said that the resolution includes “many factual errors which may harm the credibility of the House of Representatives.”
“It should be kept in mind that adopting biased resolutions based on falsified facts may harm the ongoing UN settlement process on the island and the reconciliation efforts between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots,” warned the Foreign Ministry.
The following is the executive summary of the resolution:
H.Res. 1631 would resolve that the House of Representatives:
“Expresses appreciation for the efforts of those countries that have restored religious property wrongly confiscated during the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus;
“Welcomes the efforts of many countries to address the complex and difficult question of the status of illegally confiscated religious art and artifacts, and urges those countries to continue to ensure that these items are restored to the Republic of Cyprus in a timely, just manner;
“Welcomes the initiatives and commitment of the Republic of Cyprus to work to restore and maintain religious heritage sites;
“Urges the Government of Turkey to—“Immediately implement the United Nations Security Council Resolutions relevant to Cyprus as well as the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights;
“Work to retrieve and restore all lost artifacts and immediately halt destruction on religious sites, illegal archaeological excavations, and traffic in icons and antiquities; and “Allow for the proper preservation and reconstruction of destroyed or altered religious sites and immediately cease all restrictions on freedom of religion for the enclaved Cypriots; “Calls on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to investigate and make recommendations on violations of religious freedom in the areas of northern Cyprus under control of the Turkish military;
“Calls on the President and the Secretary of State to include information in the annual International Religious Freedom and Human Rights reports on Cyprus that detail the violations of religious freedom and humanitarian law including the continuous destruction of property, lack of justice in restitution, and restrictions on access to holy sites and the ability of the enclaved to freely practice their faith;
“Calls on the State Department Office of International Religious Freedom to address the concerns and actions called for in this resolution with the Government of Turkey, OSCE, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and other international bodies or foreign governments;
“Urges OSCE to ensure that member states do not receive stolen Cypriot art and antiquities; and
“Urges OSCE to press the Government of Turkey to abide by its international commitments by calling on it to work to retrieve and restore all lost artifacts, to immediately halt destruction on religious sites, illegal archaeological excavations, and traffic in icons and antiquities, to allow for the proper preservation and reconstruction of destroyed or altered religious sites, and to immediately cease all restrictions on freedom of religion for the enclaved Cypriots.”