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AHI Delegation Completes Annual Trip to Greece and Cyprus
From May 22—June 4, 2004, American Hellenic Institute (AHI) leadership participated in its annual trip to Greece and Cyprus. The delegation held substantive talks with government officials and business leaders in both countries.
In Cyprus, the delegation was comprised of AHI President Gene Rossides, AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis, AHI Advisory Committee members Kostas Alexakis, Thanos Basdekis, and Nick Karambelas, AHI members Gus Andy and Dr. Takey Crist, AHI Cyprus Chapter President Dr. Van Coufoudakis, and AHI Media Relations Director Vivian H. Basdekis. Dr. Crist served as Chair of the delegation for the Cyprus portion of the visit. In Athens, the AHI delegation included Messrs. Rossides, Larigakis, Alexakis, Andy, Basdekis, Karambelas, and Ms. Basdekis. They were joined by AHI Athens Chapter President Ilias Malevitis and AHI members Aleco Haralambides and Dr. Christine Warnke. Mr. Karambelas served as Chair of the delegation for the Athens portion of the trip.
The AHI delegation arrived in Nicosia on May 23. Over the course of the next four days, the delegation met with President Tassos Papadopoulos,Foreign Minister George Iacovou, Governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus Christodoulos Christodoulou, US Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Klosson, Greek Ambassador to Cyprus Christos Panagopoulos, AHI major benefactor and business leader George Paraskevaides, Former Cyprus Ambassadors to the United States Andros Nicolaides and Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives Nicos Anastasiades, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sotos Zackheos, Director of Press and Information Office Yiannakis Solomou, Government Spokesperson Kypros Chrysostomides, and Deputy Mayor of Nicosia Ms. Lia Tseriotis.
Upon arriving in Cyprus on May 23, the AHI delegation convened for a dinner briefing with Ambassador Andros Nicolaides at the Cyprus Hilton Hotel. Ambassador Nicolaides provided an excellent overview of the aftermath of the recent vote on the Annan Plan and he updated the delegation on emerging political issues on the island.
The delegation commenced the next day with a meeting with George Iacovou, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus. Mr. Iacovou detailed the recent developments in foreign relations for Cyprus, including efforts to engage Turkey and other Islamic nations in close proximity to Cyprus.
Later that morning on May 24, the delegation met with President Tassos Papadopoulos at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia. President Papadopoulos warmly welcomed the AHI delegation and expressed gratitude for AHI’s tireless dedication and support during these momentous times in Cyprus’ history. President Papadopoulos discussed the Annan Plan and the reaction of other countries to the "no" vote in Cyprus. The President also explained the prospects for economic growth in Cyprus now that the country has entered the EU as a full voting member.
The luncheon that day was hosted by Yiannakis Solomou, the Director of Press and Information Office, at Il Jardino Restaurant in downtown Nicosia.
Later that day, the delegation took part in a heated discussion with U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Klosson at the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia. Ambassador Klosson set forth the efforts undertaken by the U.S. government in support of the Annan Plan, but he also emphasized that the U.S. government had respect for the Greek Cypriot vote. Members of the delegation addressed their concerns about the Annan Plan’s serious flaws, and voiced objection to public statements made by State Department officials following the vote.
That evening the delegation enjoyed an intimate dinner hosted by AHI friend and former Cyprus Ambassador to the U.S., Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, who expressed deep gratitude for all of AHI’s efforts in support of Cyprus.
On the morning of Tuesday, May 25, Mr. Rossides was interviewed by Philippos Stylianou of the Cyprus Weekly. Mr. Rossides discussed AHI’s role in spearheading efforts to generate greater understanding in the U.S. about Cyprus and the inequities of the Annan Plan.
Following the interview, the delegation met with Nicos Anastasiades, Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, who discussed the long-term outlook for Cyprus now that it is a full member of the EU. The delegation’s meeting with Greek Ambassador Christos Panagopoulos followed, during which Ambassador Panagopoulos expounded on the historical ties between Greece and Cyprus and the important role that Greece can play in helping resolve the Cyprus issue. Following this meeting, the delegation attended a luncheon hosted by Sotos Zackheos,Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had an informative discussion with Ambassador Zackheos.
Later that day, the AHI delegation attended a meeting with longtime friend and major AHI benefactor George Paraskevaides, the founder of Joannou & Paraskevaides, Ltd., a flagship corporation of Cyprus and one of the leading construction companies in the world. During this meeting at the headquarters of J&P in Nicosia, Mr. Paraskevaides emphasized Cyprus’ historical ties with the United States, and he discussed the important role that the Akrotiri military base in Cyprus has played in the U.S.-led campaigns against terrorism in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr. Parasevaides thanked AHI for its unwavering commitment to supporting the people of Cyprus.
On May 26, the AHI delegation met with Christodoulos Christodoulou, Governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus. Governor Christodoulou offered unique insight into the economics of the Annan Plan, and he detailed the grave economic consequences that would result if the current version of the Annan Plan were ever to be implemented on the island.
Following the meeting with Governor Christoldoulou, the delegation met with Lia Tseriotis, Deputy Mayor of Nicosia. Ms. Tsertiotis discussed the rich cultural heritage of Cyprus and her extensive efforts to preserve that heritage. The Deputy Mayor also hosted an elegant luncheon at the Arts Municipal Center in Nicosia for the delegation.
Later that evening, AHI supporter George Paraskevaides hosted a cocktail reception at the Cyprus Hilton Hotel for the AHI delegation and other guests. AHI paid tribute to Mr. Paraskevaides for his unparalleled commitment to bettering the lives of all Cypriots.
After concluding its visit to Cyprus, the AHI delegation proceeded to Athens, Greece. In Athens, meetings were held during the week of May 28-June 4 with President of the Hellenic Republic Constantine Stephanopoulos, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, Defense Minister of U.S. AffairsSpiliakos Spilotopoulos, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Miller, Ambassador Constantina Prifti, Alternate Minister of Culture Fani Palli-Petralia,Managing Director of the Cultural Olympiad, Georgia Iliopoulou, Cyprus Desk Officer Anna Korka, and former PASOK Deputy Foreign MinisterAndreas Loverdos.
On the morning of Friday, May 28, the AHI delegation met with U.S. Ambassador Thomas Miller at the U.S. Embassy in Athens for a discussion of U.S.-Greece relations and a briefing from Ambassador Miller on preparations for the Olympics.
At the start of the meeting, AHI honored Ambassador Miller with AHI’s Hellenic Heritage National Public Service award for his work in the field of international affairs and his promotion of U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus. Ambassador Miller, who was unable to attend AHI’s Annual Dinner, received the honor with great appreciation and thanked AHI for its ongoing efforts to strengthen ties between the United States and Greece.
During the meeting, Ambassador Miller detailed the significant progress Greece has made in its relations with the U.S. He explained, for instance, that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had a successful trip to Washington, D.C. and New York City when he traveled to the U.S. in May. The Ambassador described the meeting of Prime Minister Karamanlis with President Bush as excellent. Ambassador Miller also praised the current administration for undertaking important economic measures, including efforts to streamline the tax system, cut defense expenditures, initiate pension reform, and stimulate privatization. According to Ambassador Miller, Greece should, as a result of these reforms, receive a new look with respect to foreign investments. Concerning the Olympics, Ambassador Miller stated that the venues will be finished and that every precaution would be taken for security.
Later that day, the AHI delegation met with Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and discussed the aftermath of the Cyprus referenda, the Aegean Sea continental shelf issue, and Turkey’s prospects for accession to the EU. With regard to Cyprus, Foreign Minister Molyviatis explained that Greece remains committed to the reunification of the island and emphasized that the Greek Cypriot vote must be respected internationally. The Foreign Minister explained that progress is being made on the Aegean Sea continental shelf issue and that diplomatic talks will continue. Foreign Minister Molyviatis also explained that Greece supports Turkey’s accession to the EU to the extent that Turkey fulfills all of the EU requirements. Foreign Minister Molyviatis expressed gratitude for all of AHI’s efforts in connection with both Greece and Cyprus.
The delegation next met with President of the Hellenic Republic Constandinos Stephanopoulos for a discussion on the current status of U.S.-Greece relations, the upcoming Athens Olympics, the aftermath of the Cyprus referenda, Greece’s relations with its neighboring countries, and the important role that Greece can play in its region as a source of stability and peace. President Stephanopoulos cautioned that U.S. foreign policy should not, as a consequence of the recent referenda, punish the Greek Cypriots for their vote nor should the U.S. circumvent the government of Cyprus in aiding the occupied north, since these actions would be counterproductive to the goal of finding a lasting solution. President Stephanopoulos also conveyed to the delegation that Greece has done everything possible to make the Olympics secure. He expressed gratitude to the AHI delegation for their commitment to Greece.
On the evening of Monday, May 31, AHI and the AHI-Athens Chapter sponsored an elegant dinner reception at the Athens Plaza Hotel. The guest speaker for the evening was Deputy Mayor of Athens Kalliopi Bourdara, who spoke in place of Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni since, unexpectedly, Ms. Bakoyianni was unable to attend the event. Deputy Mayor Bourdara detailed the successful efforts undertaken by Athens in preparation of hosting the Olympics, which she explained will be both an asset for the Olympics as well as for all Athenians. Another highlight of the evening was special guest NBA player Dikembe Mutombo, who was brought to the reception by longtime AHI member Dr. Christine Warnke. Mr. Mutombo plays for the New York Nicks and is a philanthropist who, through his charitable foundation, has built a much-needed modern hospital in his native Congo. Mutombo spoke at the reception about his philanthropic efforts and the upcoming Olympic Games. He was in Greece to help promote his foundation. Over 120 members, friends and supporters attended the event.
On Wednesday, June 2, the delegation met with the Managing Director of the Cultural Olympiad, Ms. Georgia Iliopoulou. Ms. Iliopoulou highlighted the program’s efforts with regard to the Olympics. Specifically, she explained that more than 70 countries have set up a National Cultural Olympiad Committee, and furthermore, an International Committee has been established to award the "Kotinos" prize at the closing ceremony of the Olympics.
Later that afternoon, the delegation met with Cyprus Desk Officer Anna Korka at the Foreign Ministry to discuss Greece’s role in the Annan Plan negotiations and its role following the referenda.
The next meeting was held with former PASOK Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos, who discussed the Cyprus situation and the Olympics. Mr. Loverdos emphasized that in moving ahead in Cyprus, the future of the island and all related policy determinations must be considered within the framework of the EU. He told the delegation that he would support President Tassos Papadopoulos in his efforts to lead Cyprus to a just and viable settlement. Turning to the subject of the Olympics, Mr. Loverdos stated that a successful Olympics is critical for Greece and he added that, on the basis of the preparations and security measures undertaken, he feels confident that the Games will be successful, safe and memorable.
On Thursday, June 3, the delegation met with Alternate Minister of Culture Fani Palli-Petralia, who is leading the effort to coordinate Olympic preparations. Ms. Palli-Petralia told the delegation that Greece will host a unique and safe Olympics, and she detailed the successful efforts to complete the Olympic venues, including a luxurious Olympic Village which will comfortably house over 16,000 athletes. While she acknowledged that her priority now is the successful completion of the Olympic Games, she did explain that one of her objectives after the Olympics is to promote Hellenism in the U.S. and other countries.
Following that meeting, the AHI delegation met with Ambassador Constantina Prifti who heads up the North American division at the Foreign Ministry. The Ambassador briefed the delegation on the positive relations between the United States and Greece, and she highlighted the successful visit of Prime Minister Karamanlis to Washington, D.C.
The final meeting of the trip was held with Defense Minister Spiliakos Spilotopoulos, who discussed Greece’s role in promoting democratic institutions in all countries in its region, and in particular, neighboring Turkey. At the start of the meeting, an alert sounded from the Defense Minister’s GPS tracking system signaling that a Turkish military aircraft had illegally entered Greek airspace. Minister Spilotopoulos explained to the delegation that, despite the fact that it is a violation of international law, Turkish aircraft often enter Greek airspace. Nevertheless, Minister Spilotopoulos stated that Greece’s bilateral relations with Turkey have improved and that Greece supports Turkey’s proposed European accession, since that outcome would materially improve Greece’s security from the East. The Defense Minister also discussed the successful visit of Prime Minister Karamanlis to the U.S., and he advocated the fostering of close relations with the U.S.
Photographs from the AHI delegation trip to Greece and Cyprus are posted on AHI's Web site at www.ahiworld.org. For additional information regarding the trip, please contact Vivian Basdekis at (202) 785-8430 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.
AHI Delegation Completes Annual Trip to Greece and Cyprus