Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus

The President of the Republic Mr Nicos Anastasiades presented on Monday, August 31st, 2021 United States Senator Mr Robert Menendez with the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III, at a special ceremony, at the Presidential Palace.

In his speech at the ceremony, President Anastasiades said that «I feel particularly pleased since today I have the great honour to symbolically reciprocate the feelings of gratitude of the Cypriot people to a world distinguished politician who, through his principled policies and actions, has significantly contributed to the advancement of human rights, rule of law and democracy around the world.

A symbolism which is expressed by bestowing to outstanding, distinct personalities, such as Senator Robert Menendez - Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations - the Republic of Cyprus’ highest order of merit: The Grand Cross of the Order of Makarios III.

Please allow me to refer to the reasons which fully justify the decision of the Government to bestow the Grand Cross to Senator Menendez.

The Senator rose from humble beginnings, growing up the son of Cuban immigrants in Union City, New Jersey. He first entered public service as a 19year old college student when he launched a successful petition to reform the public education system in New Jersey.

After graduating from St. Peter’s College in 1976 and Rutgers Law School in 1979, he went on to be elected mayor of Union City in 1986, serving for six years.

In 1992, he won the 13th Congressional District seat in the United States House of Representatives.

In January 2006, Robert Menendez was sworn into the United States Senate and that following November he won a full six-year term. Subsequently he was re-elected Senator in 2012 and 2018, respectively.

Senator Menendez currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations – one of the most influential committees of the Senate- as well as member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee of the 117th Congress.

Throughout his legislative career, Senator Menendez became a powerful voice and sponsored vital legislation aimed at improving the lives of not only Americans, but also those who advocate a just world with equal opportunities for everyone, irrespective of their race, creed, gender or sexual orientation.

But neither his list of accomplishments, nor his impressive career in public service, captures the full measure of Robert Menendez.

Those who are privileged to know the person behind the politician can attest to his sharp mind, his careful and well-articulated thoughts on many pressing issues, including of everyday life, his passion and at the same time his sense of humbleness.

Above all, Robert Menendez is a man of action and not just words, a man who fights for a just world and for global human rights.

On foreign policy issues, Senator Menendez never shied away from tackling challenges and making tough decisions.

An endeavor guided by his belief that peace and stability cannot prevail until we all have faith in the equal rights between people and of nations irrespective of their size and unless all countries respect their obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law.

He is also a fervent believer of the fact that there is no other tool as effective to steer development, raise economic productivity, promote public health and enhance the prospects for better educations for future generations, than the upholding of human rights, democratic values and the rule of law.

The violation of those ecumenical values did not leave indifferent Senator Menendez in the case of Cyprus, whose people, Greek and Turkish, ever since the military invasion of Turkey in 1974 and the ongoing occupation of the northern part of Cyprus, are being deprived of their fundamental rights.

That is why, throughout his career, Senator Menendez has persistently demanded the withdrawal of Turkish occupation troops from the island and the restoration of the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots through reaching a viable and lasting settlement, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions and the principles and values of the European Union.

A settlement that would allow Greek and Turkish Cypriots to jointly live and collaborate together, in an environment of security and prosperity.

A settlement which, as you have rightly stated Senator Menendez, could easily be reached if the communities were allowed to freely negotiate with each other, without any external interferences.

At the same time and with the aim of reaching a settlement on the Cyprus Problem, Senator Menendez has also steadfastly defended the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereignty and the exercise of its sovereign rights, free from unilateral and illegal actions by Turkey at sea and on the ground, which run contrary to the US foreign policy on the need to respect the rule of law.

In this regard, dear Senator, we greatly appreciate your clear condemnation and urge to President Joseph Biden to take action in view of Turkey’s intention to change the status of part of the fenced city of Famagusta.

It would be an omission on my behalf if I did not highlight the key role the Senator has assumed in advancing the strategic partnership between Cyprus and Greece and the US, as well as with other neighbouring countries, such as, amongst others, Israel.

A partnership which is based on the common values and ideals we share with the US Government in the fight against terrorism, human and drugs trafficking, promoting the rule of law and fostering regional predictability and stability.

A partnership which carries profound geopolitical meaning and I am glad to attest has been significantly enriched in recent years, through a number of important initiatives and tangible deliverables.

In this regard, the Senator, amongst other relevant initiatives, has been instrumental 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.

At the same time, a notable development is the investment in CYCLOPS, an excellent regional training center which brings closer together Cyprus, the United States and other partners, aimed at providing training and expertise in crucial security fields.

The said initiatives are already yielding concrete results and mutual benefits for both our countries, as well as for key allies in the Eastern Mediterranean.

At the same time, they constitute a tangible sign of trust to the reliable role we have assumed in our volatile neighborhood, through, amongst others, establishing numerous trilateral synergies with Greece and numerous countries of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf area.

In this respect, I would like to highlight the significance we attach on the US support on these synergies, in particular through the 3+1 platform we have established with Greece and Israel and the US participation as an observer in the EastMed Gas Forum.

I also wish to point out that these cooperation mechanisms are open to any stakeholder that has a common set of values, in respect of a rules-based code of conduct between sovereign states and in line with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Dear Bob, in concluding, please allow me to convey once more my sincere appreciation and gratitude to you, not only as regards the close ties and friendship you have developed with the Cypriot and Hellenic diaspora, your long-standing support and significant contribution in advancing the bilateral relations between Cyprus and the United States of America, but above all for your passionate and strong defense of human rights and rule of law in Cyprus and globally.

Please join me in giving Senator Menendez a warm round of applause».

On his part, Mr Menendez said, among other things, «thank you so much for this incredible honor. I will cherish for the rest of my life».

He added that during President Anastasiades’ time in office he has brought dignity and leadership to the presidency and has represented Cyprus with great distinction and pride and that he is honored not only to know him but to call him a friend.

He thanked his wife Nadine, whose mother was born in Cyprus, for her support and also thanked friends who introduced him to the Hellenic causes, Cyprus and the challenges faced because of the Turkish invasion.

«I am proud to be a champion to America’s relationship with both Cyprus and Greece. I am proud to have worked with the Cyprus Federation of America, the Hellenic American Leadership Council to improve the bilateral relations», and other Hellenic organizations that brought the two nations closer together than ever before», said Mr Menendez.

He further noted that Archbishop Makarios’ life was one of struggle punctuated by a love of Cyprus and a vision, he was the true father of this country.

«The threats to the sovereignty and future of this nation are still significant. President Erdogan’s intent on implementing a retrograde vision for this country, is based on division, based on two states, one that flies in the face of UN Security Council resolutions and consensus developed over the years. It is wrong for all of people of Cyprus», Mr Menendez said.

He added that Cyprus today is much stronger than when he first visited the island in 1995, it is much more resilient and capable of not only being a sovereign nation of the EU, but a strong country in the fields of economy and security as well.

He noted that the US Congress set an important foundation for the relationship between Cyprus and the United States with the removal of restrictions for arms transfer.

He said that Cyprus is a special place, adding that he looks 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 underlined that if the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots were left to their own negotiation then they could find a pathway forward for the reunification of Cyprus.

In concluding, Mr Menendez said that «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».