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Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Honoree at AHI Annual Dinner, Calls for removal of the Turkish troops on Cyprus and supports the Greek Cypriots "no" vote on the Annan Plan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
March 7, 2005—No.17 (202) 785-8430

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Honoree at AHI Annual Dinner, Calls for removal of the Turkish troops on Cyprus and supports the Greek Cypriots "no" vote on the Annan Plan

WASHINGTON, DC—On March 5, 2005, the AHI Annual Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner took place at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C. Honoree Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), a senior member of the House International Relations Committee, in her acceptance speech, stressed the valid concerns of the Greek Cypriots regarding the Annan Plan and called for an end to "the continuing presence of Turkish troops on the island. They’ve got to go," she said.

She emphasized the strong ties of the United States with allies Greece and Cyprus and the importance of this relationship to the U.S.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen also congratulated AHI for its support of the rule of law and its work with the Congress.

"Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is a very strong supporter of the rule of law and a friend to the Greek American community. She has consistently fought for the rights of Greek Cypriots and we know she will continue to do so in her endeavor to safeguard the same human rights and democracy that American citizens enjoy. The Congresswoman is widely regarded as an international defender of human rights and democracy. Throughout her years in Congress, she has co-sponsored numerous legislative initiatives on Cyprus, the Aegean and FYROM," said AHI President Gene Rossides.

Below is the full text of Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen’s important remarks.

ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN
Speech at 30th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage and National Public Service Awards Dinner

Thank you so very much for this great honor. It is indeed a great privilege to be here today, surrounded by so many good friends and colleagues and so many yet-to-become friends. I feel privileged to be recognized by this esteemed institution, the American Hellenic Institute. I am greatly humbled and honored.

As we meet today in celebration of the Institute's 30th Anniversary…about the time I was born…I am reminded of both the past and the present accomplishments of your Institute, founded in response to Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in 1974. You brought Turkey's violation of international law to the attention of all of us in the United States Congress and, indeed, to the American people and the international community. And with your vital support, Congress legislated at that time an arms embargo against Turkey, thanks to your leadership.

And today, the American Hellenic Institute, in conjunction with the United States government, continues to advance the rule of law and promotes human rights—two very important principles—throughout southeast Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. And as you heard, as a Cuban political refugee, for me these values which AHI promotes and which you and I live with each and every day are both near and dear to all of our hearts and are at the center of our nation's ideals, our democratic ideals. Ideals that were in fact derived from the ancient Greek civilization. And as one of our strongest allies in the war against terrorism, Greece and the Republic of Cyprus continue to fight against the latest global threats of terrorism, state sponsored terrorism, nuclear proliferation, illegal narcotics, and international crime. We can't think of better allies for the United States to have than Greece and the Republic of Cyprus. For that, the United States Congress thanks you.

As a NATO ally, the Greek government has given the United States both military and financial support for Operation Enduring Freedom, including unrestricted use of their airspace and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. And for that, we thank you also.

And most recently, Greece and the United States—as all of us know—collaborated with the international community doing an incredible Summer Olympic Games that guaranteed the safety and the success of the event. In testament to their commitment to human welfare, the security budget of Greece was $1.2 billion—an amount exceeding all prior Olympic Games. So we thank Greece for what she has done for international good will and cooperation.

Our journey to advance Hellenic causes does not end there. As a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and, as you heard, a proud member of the Hellenic Caucus, I take the struggle of the people of Cyprus personally. I share the joy of families across Cyprus for their much-deserved union with the European Community as the prominence of Cyprus will be augmented by its formal integration into the European Union. You must, however, understand that the "no" vote issued by the Greek Cypriots was not a vote against reunification. Rather, it was the legitimate expression of the real concerns that made that particular version of the Annan Plan unacceptable to Greek Cypriot voters, particularly the continuing presence of Turkish troops on the island. They've got to go.

As all of us know, some 2005 years ago—about my age, that one is more accurate—ancient Greek city states helped to plant the seeds of democratic thought among mankind. The admiration that our founding fathers had for these very ideals are evident in our own Constitution and in the letters that our founding fathers exchanged with one another as they chartered the course for our great experiment in American democracy.

So I want to say to you, thank you so very much for your kindness. I'm humbled by this award. I'm very gratified to receive it and I look forward to continuing to work with you to further the interests of the Greek American community and to put an end to the occupation of Cyprus and to achieve a reunification of the Republic of Cyprus. Thank you very much for this great honor. Thank you.

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For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.