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Cyprus News Agency Interview with AHI Executive Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
December 11, 2008—No. 79 (202) 785-8430

Cyprus News Agency Interview with AHI Executive Director

Cyprus—On his recent trip to Cyprus, AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis, was interviewed by the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).

For the full interview refer to the attachment below:

AHI Executive Director: Ankara must stop interfering in Cyprus talks

Executive Director of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), Nick Larigakis, has said that the US government should exert its pressure on Turkey, so that Ankara stops interfering in the process, which began in September between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, with a view to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem. 

In an interview with CNA, Larigakis said that the US should be calling now for the withdrawal of the Turkish troops, which occupy Cyprus since the invasion of 1974 and expressed disappointment that the US and the EU have not stressed enough Turkey's violation of international law in Cyprus. 

The Cyprus issue, he said, is number one on list of AHI's policy priorities and added that they would send a letter to US President and Vice President elect, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, reminding them of their pre-election statements on Cyprus. 

He described Cyprus an even more important nation for US interests than Turkey and pointed out that Turkey has proven not to be a faithful ally of the US.

In his interview with CNA, Larigakis said the US should have supported its ally Greece in the issue of the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Cyprus talks

Larigakis welcomed the commencement of direct talks between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus but emphasized the importance of giving a free hand to the Turkish Cypriot leader to negotiate, without being directed by Ankara. 

''It is great that talks are going on. But we are not under any illusion. If Mr. Talat can not negotiate under his own free will, then I do not see any good potential success for these talks'', he pointed out. 

He explained that Turkey ''directs Mr Talat in terms of what to do'' and said that ''this is one of the things we stress to our US government. If they are really interested in solving the Cyprus issue they should tell Turkey to stay out of the process''. 

''Without any outside interference, the two communities would ultimately be able to work out those differences to the benefit of the people of Cyprus'', he said. 

Turkey's interests, he added, ''are not parallel to the interest of Cyprus and that is the problem''. 

He also said that the US should be calling now for the removal of the Turkish troops, noting that this ''would help the negotiations''. 

Unfortunately, he said, the US and the western European countries have not stressed enough the fact that Turkey violates international law by occupying 37% of Cyprus' territory and by bringing over 160.000 illegal settlers from Turkey to the island. 

''Everyone else adheres to international law. It is about time Turkey starts doing the same thing. They are in violation of international law, US law, by being occupiers of Cyprus. They are an aspiring country to join the EU and they are occupying a European Union country'', he said.

US and Cyprus

AHI believes that Cyprus is very important to US interests, Larigakis said in his interview with CNA, expressing the view that Cyprus is an even more important ally to the US than Turkey itself.

''The other area which we would like to stress in our dealings with the policy makers in Washington is the importance of Cyprus to US interests, for a number of reasons'', he said, emphasizing on the help the Cypriot government and its people had offered to US citizens, who were forced to flee Lebanon during the war in the summer of 2006. 

Larigakis expressed the view that ''Cyprus has been a better friend to the US than Turkey'' giving as an example Cyprus' position during both Iraqi wars. 

Invited to comment on Turkey's obstructions against a Norwegian vessel, which was conducting exploratory survey for hydrocarbon reserves within Cyprus' exclusive economic zone, he wondered ''where was the US to come out and condemn that action? They did not do that. Even here, they did not come out''.

US elections and Cyprus

Larigakis welcomed the fact that Barack Obama and Joe Biden issued a statement on the Greek-American issues, including the Cyprus problem. 

''They did use some good language, like the word occupation, when referring to the Turkish military in Cyprus'' he said, adding that ''that was an important statement that we have not heard from any official policy circles for years''. 

Larigakis pointed out that what counts are not the pre-election statements but the actions that are taken afterwards. 

He added that ''there is a predisposition now to Obama and Biden in that they understand the issues''. 

Referring to Biden, he said that his views after the 1974 Turkish invasion against Cyprus were not in support of Cyprus, but noted that AHI, which was founded in 1974, managed to inform Biden about the issue and secure his support. 

“This was done in conjunction with the support of our grass roots members in Delaware, the home state of Vice President elect, who spent many hours educating then senator Biden”, he added. 

He described as favorable, previous comments made by Biden regarding the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus. 

''But this is before and now you have a lot of new players in play'', he said, referring to the new members in the Congress, saying that AHI will start networking from scratch in some areas. 

Larigakis noted that the Greek issues have not been discussed at the White House level, but at State Department level stressing that AHI will try to change that. 

Referring to Hillary Clinton, who will assume the State Department, he said that a lot of Greek Americans have supported her, but noted that she did not issue any statements on Greek issues during her presidential run.

US and Turkey

AHI's position is that Turkey has never been a faithful ally of the US, Larigakis said in his interview with CNA.

''In Washington they say that Turkey is an important strategic, faithful ally. But an ally needs to show that'', Larigakis said, referring to Ankara's stance during the Iraq war. 

Describing the US policy towards Turkey as ''a blind support for Turkey'', he said that if Ankara ''is not allowing itself to be used as an ally, then what value is it that you continue to support it blindly without questioning anything?''

Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia

Another core issue, which concerns Greek interests is the use of the name ''Macedonia'' by FYROM. Greece objects to the name used by FYROM, since Greece's northern province is also called Macedonia from ancient times.

Asked about this issue, Larigakis said that the US could have easily supported Greece, which ''is the most important economic and political ally of the US in the Balkans''.

''And yet, with all these and so much more, the US chose to openly support FYROM over Greece on the issue. All they needed to understand was that it was a sensitive issue for Greece'', he noted.

The AHI executive director recalled that Barack Obama had signed a resolution in the Senate which supported Greece's positions on the issue.

Ecumenical Patriarchate

Larigakis spoke about the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in Constantinople, saying that there is a religious persecution by Turkey against the Ecumenical Patriarch, the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world.

He said that Hillary Clinton, ''understands the issue and is particularly concerned with it'' and recalled that when Bill Clinton was in office, he visited together with his wife, Hillary, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, ''thus showing recognition of this Holy See and support for it''.

CNA/AAR/GCH 2008

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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.