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AHI Delegation Completes Annual Trip To Greece And Cyprus Delegation Members Cross The Green Line
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: CHRYSOULA ECONOMOPOULOS
June 19, 2003 No. 31 (202) 785-8430

AHI Delegation Completes Annual Trip To Greece And Cyprus Delegation Members Cross The Green Line

From May 18-31, 2003, American Hellenic Institute (AHI) leadership participated in its annual trip to Greece and Cyprus. The delegation held substantive talks with government officials, businessmen and academics in both countries, and some members of the group made a trip across the Green Line into Cyprus's northern occupied territory.

In Cyprus, the delegation was comprised of AHI founder Gene Rossides, AHI Advisory Committee members Kostas Alexakis, Van Coufoudakis and Nick Karambelas, AHI members Gus Andy, Takey Crist, Andreas Pericli, Ph.D., and AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis In Athens, the group included Messrs. Rossides, Alexakis, Andy and Larigakis. They were joined by AHI Athens Chapter President Ilias Malevitis, former AHIPAC Chairman Dean Lomis and AHI members Nora Nikolopoulou and Dr. Christine Warnke.

Cyprus

The AHI delegation arrived in Nicosia on May 18 for a full schedule of meetings and events, beginning on May 19. The major highlight of the delegation's visit to Cyprus was a meeting with President Tassos Papadopoulos for an hour and a quarter to discuss the current situation in Cyprus. The delegation also met with Dimitris Christofias, President of the Cyprus House of Representatives; George Iacovou, Foreign Minister of Cyprus; Marcos Kyprianou, Minister of Finance for Cyprus; Christodoulos Christodoulou, Governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus; and Government Spokesperson Kypros Chrysostomides.

The delegation was hosted for a briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia by U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Klosson and a discussion on the current issues regarding the Cyprus question.

The delegation also attended a dinner held in their honor by Spyros Stavrou, Senior Manager of the Management Services Division of the Central Bank of Cyprus, and was welcomed for a luncheon hosted by the Director of the Cyprus Press and Information Office Ioannis Solomou.

During their stay, major AHI benefactor George Paraskevaides welcomed the delegation to his office to discuss in particular the current status of the Cyprus question, and also hosted the group for a reception at the Cyprus Hilton prior to their departure.

Other highlights of the trip included a roundtable discussion on the topic of "Cyprus After the EU's Enlargement and the Iraq War," sponsored by the Research and Development Center -- Intercollege and The Cyprus Institute of European and International Affairs. The Chair of the discussion was Emilios Solomou, Campus Director at Intercollege, and panel participants included Mr. Rossides, Dr. Van Coufoudakis, Rector at Intercollege, and Andreas Theophanous, Director General of the group sponsoring the event. Also, Mr. Rossides was interviewed for MEGA TV by Andreas Hadjikyriakos, and by Yannos Charalambides of the newspaper Simerini.

Green Line Crossing

A historic highlight of the delegation's stay in Cyprus was a day trip across the Green Line to the northern occupied zone of the country. Members of the delegation who crossed the Green Line included Messrs. Alexakis, Crist, Karambelas and Larigakis, and they were also joined by Dr. Crist's aunt and cousin. The group traveled to Kyrenia, Belapais and Famagusta, visiting a number of churches along the way, some of which were abandoned, destroyed or turned into mosques.

According to Nick Larigakis, "One of my most memorable reactions in crossing the Green Line was the outrage I felt when we visited the church in Kyrenia that had been turned into an icon museum. I was shocked that this place of worship required an entry fee to pass through its doors. However, I was also touched by the kindness of the old woman collecting the entry fees who gave us free candles to light when Takey Crist requested them. I did note with shock the appalling condition of the holy altar area. Items had been removed, the crucifix was thrown aside, and it was more or less being used as a storage room, as I noticed chairs stacked up on top of each other along the walls."

According to Dr. Crist, Kyrenia had been "very built up. There are a lot of condos, villas." Echoing these comments, Mr. Larigakis noted "the amount of development in Kyrenia and Belapais and the number of tourists, who seemed to be predominantly British."

Upon visiting his grandfather's home in occupied Belapais, Dr. Crist also noted: "We spoke to the lady that was living in [his home]. She's a Cypriot Turk, she's very nice. They built a floor on top of that house, and it was obvious to me that a lot of changes were made ... . The entire village of Belapais is not Belapais as we saw it back in the 1950s and 1960s."

Of Famagusta, Dr. Crist observed that it was "very devastated ... . My cousin went underneath the barbed wire, saw his house -- completely gutted ... . The Church of Ayia Zorni was destroyed, windows broken, smashed ... . The cross was broken off."

In the occupied area, Dr. Crist also met with Sener Levent, editor of the Turkish Cypriot paper Afrika, formerly Avrupa. Mr. Levent told Dr. Crist that living in the occupied part of Cyprus is like living in the jungle. Dr. Crist also praised Afrika's journalists, saying, "These guys have a lot of guts ... . They're very supportive of human rights, freedom of movement, freedom of settlement, and they want the military 'out of my country'." A more detailed account of Dr. Crist's observations of northern Cyprus will appear as an article in the next AHI Report newsletter.

Athens

The delegation concluded its visit to Cyprus and proceeded to Greece. In Athens, meetings were held during the week of May 24-31 with prominent government and industry officials, including most notably President of the Hellenic Republic Constandinos Stephanopoulos for a discussion on the current status of U.S.-Greece relations. The group also met with His Eminence Archbishop of Athens and all Greece Christodoulos; Constantinos Karamanlis, leader of the main opposition party Nea Dimokratia; Dora Bakoyianni, Mayor of Athens; Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Magriotis; Dimitris Dollis, General Secretary for Greeks Abroad; Ambassador Ioannis Mourikis, Director of the A7 Division (Greek American Relations) of the Greek Foreign Ministry; Ambassador Elias Clis, Director of the A4 Division (Turkish Affairs) of the Foreign Ministry; and Ambassador Constantine Tritaris, Director of the A2 Division (Cyprus Affairs) of the Foreign Ministry.

U.S. Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller hosted a luncheon for the delegation at his residence. Attending the luncheon were prominent Greek businesspersons and key U.S. Embassy staff. The delegation also met with the Hellenic Parliament's bipartisan Committee for Greeks Abroad, chaired by Member of Parliament Grigoris Niotis. During the intense hour and a half discussion with the committee, the delegation was asked for their opinion on U.S.-Greece relations, U.S. government views of Greece, the Cyprus problem, the Macedonia issue, and the status of Greek language education in the U.S.

On the academic side, A meeting was held with Dr. Dimitris Constas, Professor and Director of the Institute of International Relations at Panteion University, during which time both parties discussed cooperation on future projects, as well as various issues regarding U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus.

Marking the delegation's visit to Greece was a reception and dinner sponsored by the AHI Athens Chapter at the NJV Athens Plaza Hotel. Over 120 members, friends and supporters attended the event.

Mr. Larigakis was also interviewed for a promotional program -- "Olimpiada Oli Ellada," which is set to feature prominent individuals from abroad who will be volunteering for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. The program will be widely distributed via satellite internationally.

The trip activities concluded with a wonderful dinner hosted in honor of the AHI delegation at the home of AHI-Athens Chapter member Phillip Morakis.

Downloadable photographs from the AHI delegation trip to Greece and Cyprus are posted on AHI's website (click here). For additional information regarding the trip, please contact Chrysoula Economopoulos at (202) 785-8430 or [email protected]. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.