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AHI Hosts Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
March 30, 2004—No.23 (202) 785-8430

AHI HOSTS CONGRESSIONAL SALUTE TO GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY

WASHINGTON, DC—On March 23, 2004, the American Hellenic Institute hosted "A Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day" at the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill to celebrate the 183d Anniversary of Greek Independence and the common democratic ideals shared by Greece and the United States. The event was held in cooperation with the Congressional Hellenic Caucus's co-sponsors, Representative Michael Bilirakis(R-FL) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis welcomed the guests and thanked Rep. Bilirakis and Rep. Maloney for their support in sponsoring the reception, and for their ongoing efforts in promoting Hellenic American issues in the U.S. Congress. Mr. Larigakis referred to the recent Bilirakis-Maloney letters, which were sent to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Secretary General Kofi Annan and which called for revision of "certain provisions in the current Annan [P]lan that could render it unworkable." Mr. Larigakis also mentioned AHI’s contribution to the conception and promotion of the letters, which were approved and signed by 45 Members of Congress.

Greek Ambassador George Savvaides and Cypriot Ambassador Euripides L. Evriviades offered their remarks regarding the impact of Greece's struggle for independence.

Ambassador Evriviades also emphasized the vital importance of a just and democratic Annan Plan for Cyprus. He thanked all members of Congress who supported and endorsed the Bilirakis-Maloney letters, and he praised AHI for its tireless support and vigilant advocacy on behalf of Cyprus here in Washington, D.C.

Ambassador Savvaides added that the collective efforts of Congress and the Congressional Hellenic Caucus have helped to improve the role of Greece in the Southeast Mediterranean region. Ambassador Savvaides also expressed appreciation for the steps taken by members of Congress and AHI to promote a genuine and lasting Cyprus solution.

Members of Congress attending the reception and addressing the audience included (in order of appearance): Rep. Shelley Berkeley (D-NV),Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R-FL), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Steven Rothman (D-NJ). Also attending the reception were Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX).

Each of the speakers emphasized his or her admiration for the Hellenic culture and for the valiant and inspiring struggle for Greek independence, achieved nearly 200 years ago. They also expressed their wish for a settlement of the Cyprus issue and many praised the Bilirakis-Maloney letters.

With regard to Cyprus, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) enumerated provisions in the Annan Plan that require revision. Specifically, Rep. Maloney identified demilitarization of the island, functional governance, and property rights as important points that the Annan Plan should address in a more just and meaningful fashion. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) mentioned his previous work as a staff member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which focused on the Mediterranean region, including Greece and Cyprus. In his statement, Rep. Van Hollen also called for a "reunification of Cyprus" and a "just and fair resolution" of the Cyprus conflict.

Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) expressed appreciation for the Bilirakis-Maloney letters and for the numerous supporters in Congress and the community at-large who helped garner support for the letters. He also highlighted the importance of this year for Greece, as the host of the Olympic Games and a central figure in the resolution of the Cyprus conflict. Rep. Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) thanked AHI for organizing the event and referred to the importance of this day and his Hellenic origin. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) also touched on Cyprus and the Bilirakis-Maloney letters. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ) praised Greece for its excellent cooperation with the U.S. on terrorism. Like many of his colleagues, Rep. Rothman emphasized the need for meaningful progress during the upcoming talks aimed at resolving the Cyprus conflict and he criticized Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for his intransigence on the central issues. Rep. Rothman also offered his support to the American Hellenic Institute as a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Digital photographs from AHI's "Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day" are available by clicking here. For more information please contact Vivian Basdekis at (202) 785-8430. For general information on AHI, please visit our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.