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December 14, 2006, Thursday

US Support for Student Exchange Disappoints Greek Cypriots

The Greek Cypriot administration, while trying hard in Brussels to sabotage Turkey’s EU bid, also launched a campaign in San Diego to deepen the isolation of Turkish Cypriots.

The Greek lobby, which had initiated a campaign to cancel the student exchange program between the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) and the Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) in Turkish Cyprus, lost round one, but seems determined to continue its efforts.

Following extensive pressure from the Greek Cypriot embassy and the Greek lobby, UCSD initiated an investigation into the exchange program, but at a Dec. 6 meeting decided to continue the program. However, a separate meeting will be convened in late January to finalize the decision.

While the Greek lobby was seeking the support of two U.S. Democratic senators to freeze the program, U.S. State Department Deputy Undersecretary Matt Bryza stepped in to back the student exchange program. Bryza’s letter to UCSD reportedly affected the university’s decision to continue the program.

Despite the heavy influence of the Armenian-backed Greek lobby, both the United States and university administrations favored the continuation of the initiative.

Bryza Sent Two Letters

The Greek Cypriot administration has been surreptitiously working in the United States to bring the education system in Turkish Cyprus to a halt.

As part of the exchange program initiated between UCSD and EMU, 26 students visited Turkish Cyprus last year. At the investigation meeting on Dec. 6, those students volunteered to testify, and expressed their support for the continuation of the program.

Bryza sent two separate letters to UCSD where he stated his support for the program. In the letters, Bryza also noted that they supported the lift of the isolation imposed on Turkish Cyprus to unite the island. Recalling that the U.S. administration invited a number of journalists and academics from Turkish Cyprus every year, Byrza also stressed that participation in those programs was vital from their perspective. Byrza further praised EMU and underlined that visiting Turkish Cyprus was not illegal.