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AHI Executive Director Completes Annual Trip to Greece and Cyprus
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
December 22, 2008—No. 82 (202) 785-8430

AHI Executive Director Completes Annual Trip to Greece and Cyprus

AHI Presents Panel in Athens on the New U.S. Administration and its Impact on U.S. Relations with Greece


WASHINGTON, DC—
On November 27, 2008, American Hellenic Institute (AHI) Executive Director Nick Larigakis, began his annual end of the year trip to Cyprus and Greece.

During his trip, he met with government officials, business leaders and members of the media in both countries and discussed the organization's goals and objectives and focused on engendering new areas of mutual cooperation and development between leaders in Greece and the Greek American community.

In Cyprus, Mr. Larigakis met with the Director of the Press and Information Office, Yiannakis Solomou and his colleague Miltos Miltiadou; Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Nicholas Emiliou, and the Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Press and Information Division, Mrs. Androula Lanitis.  Additionally, he met with the U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus, Frank Urbancic and had a meeting with the Reuters reporter Michele Kambas and a detailed interview with the Cyprus News Agency. Other meetings included visits with leading Cypriot businessmen.

Mr. Larigakis’ week in Athens began on December 1st with twelve meetings on the first day.

While in Athens, from the government, he held meetings with: Deputy Foreign Minister, Theodoros Kassimis, Deputy Defense Minister, Ioannis Plakiotakis, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Konstantinos Kiltidis, and Deputy Minister of Culture, Ioannis Ioannides. Other meetings included the Directors of the Foreign Ministry divisions of the United States, Cyprus, Turkey and the Balkans, Dr. Angelos Syrigos, Secretary for Intercultural Education and Greek Studies Abroad, Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, George Kasfikis, Advisor for International Relations, Ministry of Tourism, and Panos Livadas, General Secretary of Information. Mr. Larigakis also met with the top military leader at the Greek Pentagon, the Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, General Dimitrios Grapsas.

A highlight visit was held at the Greek Parliament with the Chairman of the Special Permanent Committee on Greeks Abroad, Nikos Tsiartsionis. The meeting took place in the committee room. Also, during this visit, Mr. Larigakis was interviewed by the Greek Parliament TV, the equivalent to C-SPAN on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Larigakis also visited with the U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Daniel Speckhard, at the U.S. Embassy. A visit was also made to the American College of Greece where Mr. Larigakis met with Nicholas Jiavaras, the Executive Vice President.

While in Athens, Mr. Larigakis also had the opportunity to meet with a number of media outlets. He was interviewed on ERT Satellite, which beams its features around the world as part of the ERT satellite programming. In addition, he held meetings with Dina Kyriakidou Contini, Reuters Chief Correspondent for Greece and Cyprus and Elena Becatoros, AP Chief of Bureau for Southeast Europe. Concluding the week of meetings were numerous visits with persons from the private sector.

On December 3, 2008 the AHI in cooperation with the AHI Athens Chapter hosted a panel presentation and reception at the Grande Bretagne Hotel. The topic presented was The New U.S. Administration: The Impact on U.S. Relations with Greece. The panel presenters included Doug Bandow, Taft Fellow, American Conservative Defense Alliance and former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan; Dimitris Dimas, Washington Editor, Eleftherotypia newspaper; Athanasios (Tom) Ellis,Washington Bureau Chief, Kathimerini newspaper and Antenna TV. The moderator was AHI executive director, Nick Larigakis.

The evening started with a welcome address by Mr. Ilias Malevitis, President of AHI Athens Chapter followed by the panelists. A very lively and animated question and answer session ensued.

In his presentation, Bandow opined, “On outward appearances, Barack Obama’s foreign policy team appears well-disposed towards Greece and issues of particular concern of Greek Americans. Nevertheless, it will be hard to get the attention of the incoming administration, given the many economic and international challenges facing our nation. Moreover, so long as the defense establishment remains convinced that Turkey is Washington’ key regional ally, U.S. policy is more likely to change direction slowly at most.”

Dimitris Dimas stated, “Washington is a very busy town and if there is no crisis, there is no problem...Everything is “manageable”...Greece needs to always present its case in a coherent strategic sense with seriousness and decisiveness no matter who resides in the White House and who is in charge in the State Department...Good will and sympathy from Washington are not enough...Platitudes in no way can they be considered as productive policy making and Greek officials should stop predictably running to Washington for any single available photo opportunity because that gives the wrong signal and undermines the significance of Greece’s arguments and contributions. Only cosmetic changes should be expected in the seriously damaged U.S. - Greek relations...As Obama will have to prove himself constantly to an invisible audience that has its own agenda.”

Athanasios (Tom) Ellis said, “Unlike its predecessor the Obama Administration does not feel the need to reward Skopje for its support in Iraq, and thus is not expected to go out of its way to push for FYROM's entrance into NATO or the EU. President elect Obama has signed resolution 300 in the Senate and can show more sensitivity to Greece’s position on an issue of minor strategic importance to the U.S. Theoretically one could even envisage Washington letting Skopje know that it is considering returning to the recognition of that country as FYROM, a move that could potentially force the latter into accepting a compromise solution. For its part, Athens should promote its role as President of the OSCE for 2009, and turn its good relations with Moscow from a point of friction in its relations with Washington into a comparative advantage. It could offer to contribute its part in the improvement of U.S. - Russian relations which, unlike Cyprus, FYROM or the Balkans in general, is indeed a priority of the incoming administration.”

Over 130 friends and members of the Institute attended the event which included persons from the government, political, business and media sectors. Also attending were Deputy Ministers Kiltidis and Plakiotakis and the Chairman of the Special Permanent Parliament Committee on Greeks Abroad, Nikos Tsiartsionis.

The major benefactor of the event was the company ALAPIS. Other event sponsors included Capital Link,Mr. Athanasios SipsasMotor Oil (Hellas) Corinth Refineries S.A., G.C. Economou & Associates, Ted G. Spyropoulos, Serge B. Hadji-Mihaloglou, and KAPOTAS A.E.

Digital photographs from the Annual Trip to Greece are available at the following link: 
http://www.ahiworld.org/2008_Greece_and_Cyprus_trip/

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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.