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Op-Ed on “The Year Ahead”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
January 23, 2006—No. 2 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed on “The Year Ahead”

Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed by AHI President Gene Rossides appeared in the January 14, 2006 issue of The National Herald,page 11 and the January 16, 2006 issue of Greek News, page 36.

The Year Ahead

By Gene Rossides

For issues of concern to the Greek American community, the year ahead will be particularly important because of the 2006 congressional elections in which all of the 435 members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate’s 100 members are up for re-election.

This means that the work of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and its Congressional Contact Leadership Teams (CCLT) increases substantially because each member of Congress will have an opponent. Thus AHI will also have to be in touch with 435 House and 33 Senate challengers.

Election years also provide issue organizations, such as AHI, with an important event, the election, to promote their issues with the elected incumbents and their challengers throughout the several months election period.

Incumbents who have been avoiding taking a position on our issues will be more inclined to respond in the election year. And challengers will be looking for issues of concern to their constituents, particularly if their sitting opponent has not taken a position on our issues or is one of the handful of members actively supporting Turkey.

Let’s look at the issues currently facing our community:

1. The Cyprus Problem

Turkey continues to stonewall efforts to settle the Cyprus problem based on the democratic norms of the EU and of the U.S. Turkey continues to support the undemocratic and financially not viable Annan Plan #5 which rewarded the aggressor Turkey and punished the victims, the Greek Cypriots.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues to support the pro-Turkish policy she approved when she was National Security Advisor and which she recommended to President George W. Bush.

Our job, in the interests of the United States, is to convince President Bush or Secretary Rice to change their position by stressing the arguments why their support of Turkey on the fatally flawed Annan Plan #5 is not in the best interests of the U.S., is contrary to the rule of law, is contrary to the President’s democracy initiative and will damage his legacy.

Readers should write and call President Bush and Secretary Rice to change their undemocratic and harmful position on a Cyprus settlement and to support a solution of the Cyprus problem based on majority rule, the rule of law and protection of minority rights as set forth by President Bush’s father in 1988:

President George W. Bush
The White House 
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 
Washington, DC 20500 
Tel. 202-456-1111 (Comments)
202-456-1414 (Main Switchboard) 
Fax: 202-456-2461 
E-mail: [email protected]

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520 
Tel. 202-647-5291 
202-647-4000 (Main Switchboard) 
Fax: 202-647-2283 
Please visit the State Department website at www.state.gov to send an e-mail

2. The Aegean

The State Department continues to refuse to obey the rule of law and state publicly that the maritime boundary in the Aegean between Greece and Turkey has been established a long-time ago by treaties and agreements. The relevant treaties and agreements are the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, the Italy-Turkey Convention of January 4, 1932, the Italy-Turkey Protocol of December 28, 1932 and the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty, under which the Dodecanese Islands and adjacent islets were ceded by Italy to Greece.

The U.S. is a signatory to the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty and is obligated by U.S. law to carry out its provisions yet Secretary Rice refuses to do so.

Readers should write and call President Bush and Secretary Rice and call upon them to obey the law by publicly declaring that the maritime boundary between Greece and Turkey has been established by the treaties listed above.

3. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)

The State Department’s reversal of policy on November 4, 2004, shortly after the presidential election, by the recognition of FYROM as the “Republic of Macedonia” was an act of disgraceful proportions as it relates to our staunch ally and supporter in the Balkans, Greece. This act was and is harmful to U.S. interests in the Balkans and should be reversed.

Readers should write and call President Bush and Secretary Rice to reconsider this misinformed and ill-advised policy and to reverse it in the interests of the U.S.

4. Turkey and the Ecumenical Patriarchate

Turkey’s restrictions on the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate reveal that democratic norms have still not taken root. In view of Turkey’s horrendous human rights record, U.S. policy toward Turkey should be driven by forceful incentives for democratic reform. These include an arms embargo and economic sanctions.

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in North America led a panel discussion at the U.S. Helsinki Commission on March 16, 2005 which presented “a clear picture of how religious human rights violations by the Turkish government have been working to exterminate the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Christian community in that country.” The panel briefing “highlighted Turkey’s systemic efforts to undermine the Orthodox Church, violating numerous international treaties to which it has agreed.”

U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Congressman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) stated: “The concern of this Commission in the protection of religious rights and freedoms. Turkey’s treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate violates its obligations under international human rights law.” Mr. Smith blamed Turkey for systematically attempting to prevent the activities of the Patriarchate by disallowing the opening of the Halki Theological School forcibly closed in 1971, destroying churches by creating hurdles preventing their repair, denying the Patriarchate the opportunity to purchase and or sell property and not recognizing the Patriarchate’s “Ecumenical” status, in effect, denying its universal status.

I applaud the Bush administration for its prompt and full support of the universality of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Readers should write and call President Bush and Secretary Rice to uphold the rule of law and religious freedom and protection for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Under the Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the President is obligated to oppose violations of religious freedom in any country whose government “engages in or tolerates violations of religious freedom.” The Act further obligates the President to take one or more of 15 enumerated actions against any such country.

5. Albania

The Greek minority continues to face acts of discrimination and persecution tolerated by the government of Albania and aimed at making the Greek minority feel isolated, powerless and vulnerable so that they will abandon their homes and property and move south to Greece.

The personal safety of the Greek minority is also at risk by reason of direct intimidation by security forces and the burning of schools, churches and businesses by lawless bands that the police allow to operate with impunity.

6. Compensation to Turkey’s Victims

The Greek American community must redouble its efforts for compensation to the victims of: (1) Turkey’s illegal invasion of Cyprus in 1974; (2) Turkey’s pogrom of September 1955 against its Greek citizens in Istanbul; (3) Turkey’s genocide against the Pontian Greeks, 1915-1924; and Turkey’s massacre of the Greeks of Smyrna (now Izmir) in 1922 under Kemal Ataturk’s orders.

7. Legislative Initiatives

Presently AHI has two legislative initiatives in the Congress:

H.R. 857, The American Owned Property in Occupied Cyprus Claims Act, which authorizes a government to government claim case against the Turkish government; and enables persons who have property in occupied Cyprus to sue private persons who occupy their property in U.S. federal courts; and law suits to seek financial remedies in U.S. district courts by U.S. citizens against the Turkish government for actions damaging U.S. citizens.

(2) H.Con.Res. 137, The Aegean Sea Boundary, which expresses the sense of the Congress that the water boundaries between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean Sea are those established by the 1923 Lausanne Treaty of Peace, the Italy- Turkey Convention of January 4, 1932, the Italy-Turkey Protocol of December 28, 1932 and the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty, under which the Dodecanese Islands and adjacent islets were ceded by Italy to Greece.

H.Con.Res. 137 also states that any party, including Turkey, objecting to these established boundaries should seek redress in the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Greek Americans can make an impact if they will take a little time each week to be active with members of the Congress and the Executive Branch. This election year should give added incentive to Greek Americans to act in support of the rule of law and democratic principles in the interests of the U.S.

I urge each reader to make a New Year’s resolution to contact their elected officials and challengers and bring to their attention the issues referred to above and to call for a critical review of U.S. policy toward Turkey in the interests of the U.S.

I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year!

Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury

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