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AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis Submits Testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
April 3, 2006—No. 23 (202) 785-8430

AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis Submits Testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs

WASHINGTON, DC—On March 31, 2006, the American Hellenic Institute’s Executive Director Nick Larigakis submitted testimony on behalf of AHI and the Hellenic American National Council (HANC) before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs.

In the best interests of the United States, AHI opposes all assistance programs to Turkey that may be in the bill because they are not conditioned on Turkey meeting the following conditions:

  1. The immediate removal of all Turkish troops from Cyprus;
  2. The prompt return to Turkey of the over 120,000 illegal settlers in Cyprus;
  3. The Turkish government’s safeguarding the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its personnel and property, reopening the Halki Patriarchal School of Theology, and returning church properties illegally seized; and
  4. Stops the violations against Greece’s territorial integrity in the Aegean and in Greek airspace.

AHI opposes the $15 million for Cyprus as not in the best interests of the U.S. because it is not tied exclusively to joint Greek and Turkish Cypriot communal projects. The project services proposed do not serve the U.S. objective for reunification, on the contrary, some of these projects upgrade the illegal regime in the north, thereby furthering the division of the island.

AHI would support the $15 million aid for Cyprus if there is a full transparency and accountability in the use of the aid and the allocation of the funds is for joint communal projects.

In addition, the testimony opposes the administration’s request to zero out the UN peace keeping forces based on the assumption that they will not be needed. “The illegal occupation by Turkish troops is a reality and the Turkish troops have increased. The Turkish occupied area of 37.3 percent of Cyprus, is one of the most heavily militarized areas in the world with the presence of more than 40,000 illegal Turkish occupation troops. As long as there are Turkish troops on the island and it remains divided, it is important to maintain a UN peace keeping force,” stated Nick Larigakis.

Please find the full text of the testimony below:

Testimony of Nick Larigakis, Executive Director, American Hellenic Institute on behalf of the American Hellenic Institute, Inc., and The Hellenic American National Council, Submitted to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs

March 31, 2006

Chairman Kolbe, Ranking Member Lowey and Members of the Subcommittee:

I am pleased to submit testimony to the Subcommittee on behalf of the nationwide membership of the American Hellenic Institute and the Hellenic American National Council on the Administration’s foreign aid proposals.

We are pleased to see that the Administration did not request any Economic Support Fund (ESF) for Turkey for 2007. However, Turkey does enjoy other favorable assistance programs from the United States, such as most favored nation trade benefits including textile quotas, which we oppose as not in the best interests of the U.S. because such benefits should be conditioned on Turkey meeting the following conditions:

  1. The immediate removal of all Turkish troops from Cyprus;
  2. The prompt return to Turkey of the over 120,000 illegal settlers in Cyprus;
  3. The Turkish government’s safeguarding the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its personnel and property, reopening the Hakli Patriarchal School of Theology, and returning church properties illegally seized; and
  4. Stops the violations against Greece’s territorial integrity in the Aegean and in Greek airspace.

We oppose the $15 million for Cyprus as not in the best interests of the U.S. because it is not tied exclusively to joint Greek and Turkish Cypriot communal projects.

In addition, we oppose the administration’s request to zero out the UN peace keeping forces based on the assumption that they will not be needed. The illegal occupation by Turkish troops is a reality and the Turkish troops have increased. The Turkish occupied area of 37.3 percent of Cyprus, is one of the most heavily militarized areas in the world with the presence of more than 40,000 illegal Turkish occupation troops. As long as there are Turkish troops on the island and it remains divided, it is important to maintain a UN peace keeping force.

United States Interests in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean

The U.S. has important interests in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. To the North of Greece are the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Russia, to the East the Middle East and to the South are North Africa and the Suez Canal. Significant communication links for commerce and energy sources pass through the region. The projection of U.S. interests in the region depends heavily on the stability of the region. Therefore, the U.S. has an important stake in fostering good relations between two NATO allies, Greece and Turkey and in achieving a just and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem.

Greece is of vital importance for the projection of U.S. strategic interests in the region by virtue of among other factors, its geographic location and by being home to the most important naval base in the Mediterranean Sea, Souda Bay. In 2005, there were approximately 11,000 visits by U.S. military ships and planes to Souda Bay and its adjacent air base.

A key to stability in the region is for Greece and Turkey to have good relations with each other, promote democratic ideals and principles, and maintain growing economies. However, Turkey’s continuing occupation of Cyprus, its intransigence in solving the Cyprus problem, its refusal to recognize Cyprus as a member of the European Union, its continuing violations of Greece’s territorial integrity, and on going human rights violations in Turkey, threatens and prevents this stability, and by extension U.S. interests.

In promoting a multilateral approach to diplomacy and foreign policy, the U.S should look to Greece as an immensely valuable link in this region. With its close cultural, political and economic ties to the Mediterranean countries, Western Europe, the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Greece is an ideal partner for the U.S. with regard to diplomatic relations with countries from these regions.

This sentiment has been expressed several times by our government in the past year. First, President Bush in welcoming Prime Minister Karamanlis to the White House on March 20, 2005 he said, “America and Greece have got a strategic partnership. That’s important. It’s important for our respective peoples, and it’s important we work together to spread freedom and peace.” On March 24, 2005, by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, when after meeting with then Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, she stated that, “…the Balkans, a place in which we believe great progress has been made but, of course, there are many challenges yet to meet.…we have no better friend in these challenges than our friends in Greece.” In reference to Kosovo and Greece’s role there, Secretary Rice said, “We believe that this is an area that is ripe for cooperation between Greece and the United States…” And finally on the issue of the Middle East and Greece’s role, the Secretary of State said, “…Greece has an important role with us to play in helping the Palestinian people develop institutions…on which a state can be built.” And only last week, on March 23, 2006, when welcoming the new Foreign Minister of Greece, Dora Bakoyianni to the State Department, Secretary Rice stated, “”We’ve had a great opportunity to discuss our strategic partnership with Greece. This is a relationship that is first and foremost, of course, based on values. It is a relationship that recognizes the seminal role of Greece as a cradle of those values and recognizes that in the modern era in which we find ourselves now with so many challenges that Greece is a stalwart partner in the spread of democratic values, whether it be in Greece’s work in the Broader Middle East Initiative, in which we’ve all been involved, promoting stability and prosperity in the Balkans, fighting terrorism and, of course, seeking the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of democratic values.”

Regarding Cyprus, the many millions of dollars that the U.S. has provided in humanitarian aid during the past 30 years have been extremely important to that country’s economic recovery after the illegal invasion of 1974. Much of that aid during the first two decades of Turkey’s occupation of 37.3 percent of Cyprus was for the rehabilitation of the refugees and direct disaster aid. In the past decade most of the aid was for the many bicommunal projects which supported reunification of the island.

Ever since 76 percent of the Greek Cypriots voted against the undemocratic, unworkable and financially not viable, Annan Plan, the State Department has been openly looking for ways to shift the blame on to the Greek Cypriots and find ways to remove the alleged economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. This is an example of the State Department’s tactics.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said it best, when on March 18, 2006, at the 31st Anniversary AHI Dinner he said: “Now the United States and the Bush administration has been talking about the promotion of democracy. If we are going to be promoting democracy we have to honor the verdicts of people when they vote, and the people of Cyprus exercised their right to vote and they made a decision, and we must make sure as a nation the United States should not punish people for exercising their right to vote.

Now, there are some in the administration, there are some on Capitol Hill that would like to punish the Greek Cypriots for that vote. And, you are seeing more and more discussion about direct contact between the United States and the North. [U.S. citizens traveling to the North bypassing the legitimate ports of entry in Cyprus.]

And when we do that we undermine the position that we’ve held, we undermine the rule of law and international agreements…We also undermine the efforts of the European Union to make sure that as a condition of entering the European Union Turkey abides by the rules of the European Union. And, one of those rules is that you trade through the legitimate ports of entry.”

I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, that clearly the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots is caused by Turkey’s 40,000 armed occupation forces and the infamous Turkish barbed-wire fence-the Green Line across the face of Cyprus. Remove the illegal Turkish troops and the barbed wire fence and the Turkish Cypriots isolation will vanish!

Projects and programs funded by the US and administered by the United Nations Office of Project Services in Cyprus do not currently serve the stated U.S. objective for reunification. On the contrary, some of these projects upgrade the illegal regime in the north, thereby further reinforcing the division of the island.

Therefore, we do not support the $15 million aid for Cyprus unless there is a full transparency and accountability in the use of the aid and the allocation of the funds is for joint communal projects, which, ultimately also serve the U.S. tax-payer. However, we encourage a current initiative regarding a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government of Cyprus and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which is administering the U.S. aid to Cyprus. We believe that if this MOU gets signed, it will help to achieve this transparency and provide for full consultation with the Cypriot authorities.

Policy Themes

The policy themes advocated by the American Hellenic Institute since its founding in 1974 and reiterated in successive Greek American Policy Statements regarding Southeastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean and their relation to U.S. interests and values are:

  • U.S. interests are best served by applying the rule of law in international affairs;
  • U.S. foreign policy should foster and embody U.S. values, including human rights;
  • Greece is a pivotal nation for U.S. interests in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. As such the U.S. should develop a "special relationship" with Greece by expanding and deepening its relationship with Greece through a coordinated program in the political, military, commercial and cultural fields. Greece is a vigorous and stable democracy with a rapidly modernizing economy. Greece is the only regional state that is a member of the EU, NATO and the European Monetary Union (EMU). In 2004 Greece hosted a safe and spectacular Olympic Games. In addition, In January of this year (2005), Greece became a two-year non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and in July 2005 will assume the presidency for one-month. In combination, these factors make Greece a regional force for political stability, democracy-building, economic investment, commercial expertise and a sensible partner for U.S. investment and economic cooperation;
  • Cyprus is an important partner for U.S. strategic interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. The continuing 31 year illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus by Turkey, a NATO member, U.S. ally and an EU candidate country, must not be tolerated. The U.S. should remain actively engaged in the search for a settlement of the Cyprus problem based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in a sovereign state, incorporating the norms of constitutional democracy, the EU’s acquis communautaire, UN resolutions, democratic principles, and EU legal principles and common practices;
  • The U.S. should not apply double standards to Turkey on the rule of law, the EU’s human rights, and international law; and
  • U.S. interests are best served by supporting ways that will continue to facilitate better relations between Greece and Turkey.

The Main Problems of Concern to Greek Americans

A detailed discussion of the issues facing the U.S., and of particular concern to Greek Americans, is set forth in a copy of the 2006 Greek American Policy Statements, which can be accessed on our AHI Web site: www.ahiworld.org.

These issues include: Cyprus. the Aegean Sea, Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Halki Patriarchal School of Theology, and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Finally, in the interest of regional stability and dispute resolution, the U.S. should promote Turkey’s emergence as a fully democratic state whether or not she enters the EU. This will require fundamental changes in Turkey’s governmental institutions, a significant improvement in its human rights record, the settlement of the Cyprus problem on the terms referred to above and publicly acknowledging the existing boundary in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey established by treaties. Past U.S. policy has not had this effect and needs to be critically reviewed by the Bush Administration and Congress.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

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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.