American Hellenic Institute

AHI Calendar

 
Facebook Image
AHI Sends Letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Regarding the Administration’s Foreign Aid Requests for FY 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
May 31, 2007—No. 35 (202) 785-8430

AHI Sends Letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Regarding the Administration’s Foreign Aid Requests for FY 2008

WASHINGTON, DC—On May 30, 2007, AHI sent a letter to both the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. The letters were addressed to the respective Chairs and Ranking Members of both Subcommittees. This includes House Chair Nita Lowey and Ranking Member Frank Wolf; and Senate Chair Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Judd Gregg. Please find below the letter that was sent:

May 30, 2007

Dear (Chair and Ranking Member):

As your Subcommittee and the full Appropriations Committee continue to discuss the Administration’s foreign aid proposals for FY 2008, I write to bring to your attention a number of issues for your consideration on behalf of the nationwide membership of the American Hellenic Institute.

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 are Turkey, 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, Crete. There are thousands of visits by U.S. military ships and planes to Souda Bay and its adjacent air base annually.

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.

Further, the continuing intransigent and provocative actions by the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) against it’s neighbor, Greece, poses a potential threat to stability in the Balkans, to the detriment of 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 relations with countries from these regions.

This sentiment has been expressed several times by our government in the past few years by President Bush and by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

On March 20, 2005, during the occasion of Prime Minister of Greece, Constantine Karamanlis’ visit to the White House, President Bush stated, “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, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, after meeting with then Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, 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.”

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.”

Turkey

We oppose the $18 million dollars the administration has requested for Turkey and any other 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 160,000 illegal Turkish 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.

Cyprus

Regarding Cyprus, the assistance that the U.S. has provided in humanitarian aid during the past 30 years has been important for that country’s economic recovery after the illegal Turkish invasion of 1974. During the first two decades of Turkey’s occupation of 37.3 percent of Cyprus much of that aid was directed towards the rehabilitation of the refugees. In the past decade most of the aid was aimed at bicommunal projects to support reunification of the island. As you know, there is a statutory mandate that U.S. funds support only “measures aimed at reunification.” However, in recent years the aid has not been tied exclusively to joint Greek and Turkish Cypriot communal projects and we are gravely concerned that funds used for programs on Cyprus have been obligated without appropriate advanced consultation with the government of the Republic of Cyprus.

If these funds are to improve the prospect for peaceful reunification of the island it is incumbent on the administration to consult with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus in advance of the obligation of funds, and to assure maximum transparency in their allocation. In addition, unless the allocation of the funds is for joint communal projects, this aid will not assist in the reunification of the island and will ultimately not serve the U.S. tax-payer.

We urge that the $11 million dollars in aid being proposed for Cyprus must comply with U.S. law, by calling on the State Department and USAID to provide an accounting of all programs that are being supported by these funds. Details should be provided as to who the recipients are, what the funds are being used for, and that their only purpose is to achieve the reunification of the island.

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus has sought to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding with USAID on the use of U.S. funds in Cyprus that could provide a mechanism for meaningful consultation. Given Congress’s previous directive to consult transparently with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and the fact that USAID has MOUs with other countries we believe that it is very important and beneficial that USAID should sign such a Memorandum.

In addition, we strongly oppose the administration’s request to reduce the UN peacekeeping budget by half. The illegal occupation of the northern part of Cyprus by Turkish troops is a reality and we have seen an increase in the presence of Turkish troops on the island. The Turkish occupied area which amounts to of 37.3 percent of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus is one of the most heavily militarized areas in the world with the presence of more than 40,000 Turkish occupation troops. As long as the northern part of Cyprus remains under Turkish military occupation, a strong UN peacekeeping force should be maintained on the island.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)

We oppose the $27 million dollars as not in the best interests of the United States since it is not tied in to FYROM’s commitment to negotiate in good faith with Greece to find a solution to the continuing unresolved issue between Greece and FYROM over the name of the latter. This issue, if unresolved, will contribute to potential instability within the Balkans.

Stability in the Balkans is not only critical for overall U.S. interests, but also because it serves the interests of every country in the Balkans.

It is however, FYROM, that is the intransigent party in this regard, and not Greece. Greece is the biggest investor in FYROM and literally helps to sustain FYROM’s precarious economy and reduce its large unemployment.

Yet, it is FYROM that continues to provoke Greece and who refuses to come to the negotiating table to settle this issue. Unfortunately, the irresponsible decision by the United States in the fall of 2004 to recognize FYROM as the “Republic of Macedonia” has contributed greatly to FYROM’s increasing intransigent stance.

It is imperative for FYROM to cease immediately in irredentist propaganda against Greece, which violates the UN-brokered Interim Accord, as stated in Article 7 paragraph 1 of the Accord, signed in New York on September 13 1995 between FYROM and Greece.

Unfortunately, actions over the years such as distortion of geographic maps, naming its airport “Alexander the Great,” revisionist textbooks in schools, and inflammatory comments by top government officials, encourages new generations in FYROM to cultivate hostile sentiments against Greece. Further, this continuing systematic government policy will hinder FYROM’s accession to both the EU and NATO. This is the real threat to stability in the Balkans.

Greece is by far the most economic and politically stable country in the Balkans. Secretary Rice has 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.”

Voice of America Greek Desk Service

We are very concerned regarding the elimination of Voice of America’s Greek Desk Service. We support the restoration of the small sum of $480,000 as part of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, International Broadcasting Operations program.

In addition to helping to facilitate a better understanding and strengthening of relations between two historic allies, Greece and the United States, elimination of the Greek Desk Service would remove a valuable information source that projects the best of American journalistic qualities to a vital region and helps to promote American interests and values.

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 2005, Greece became a two-year non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and in July 2005 held 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 33 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 and U.S. values and democratic principles;
  • the U.S. should not apply double standards to Turkey and appeasement of Turkey on the rule of law and aggression and occupation in Cyprus; 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. in its relations with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey is set forth in the 2007 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 and current U.S. policy has not had this effect and needs to be critically reviewed by the Congress.

I thank you for the opportunity to bring these issues to your attention and for your consideration.

Sincerely,

/S/

Nick Larigakis
Executive Director

###

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.