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AHI Forum Focuses on U.S. Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean under the Obama Administration
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
May 13, 2010—No. 33 (202) 785-8430

AHI Forum Focuses on U.S. Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean under the Obama Administration

NEW YORK —The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted a forum on “U.S. Policy Toward Greece, Turkey and Cyprus: Developments and Prospects in the Obama Administration,” at the Press and Communication Office, Permanent Mission of Greece to the U.N. in New York, N.Y., on April 26, 2010.

The panel of distinguished experts included: Dr. Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute; Doug Bandow, senior fellow, Cato Institute; and Dimitris Dimas, Washington editor, Eleftherotypia.  AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis moderated the panel.

The panel concluded that little, if any, change has occurred in U.S. policy toward Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey under the Obama Administration.  Below are excerpts from each of the panelists:

AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis, moderator of the event, opened the event by stating: “…Although President Obama has raised a number of our community’s core issues in public settings he has fallen well-short of making tangible progress toward resolving any of these issues…Our purpose today is to take a more in-depth look at the U.S. policy toward Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey—to decipher these “mix messages” in an effort to ascertain if any progress has occurred under the Obama Administration and what we can expect, if anything, going forward.”  

Dr. Ted Galen Carpenter: “Now President Obama has very much tried to resist that rising tide of uneasiness and disillusionment…Nick [Larigakis] mentioned President Obama’s April trip in 2009 to Turkey and his great praise for Turkey and the Turkish government…he [President Obama] has not backed off from that in any meaningful way. The White House insists that Turkey is a close friend and a lobbying effort on behalf of Ankara’s professed goal of membership in the European Union has not faltered in the slightest. There is little indication that the Obama administration is becoming more critical of Turkey’s stance regarding Cyprus and nor have there been productive changes in U.S. policy regarding Turkey’s provocative claims to Greek islands in the Aegean and the repeated and increasing over-flights of Greek territory by Turkish air force jets.” 

Doug Bandow: “I think the United States should try to promote positive results in Turkey but we should be prepared for the negative, and I am afraid our policymakers do not actually want to see that confronted.  If we look at both domestic developments as well as the foreign policy transformations…what we see is a potentially very negative future. I think the United States has to prepare for a world in which Turkey will be moving more distant, not closer to us and in that world it has to take into account that Greece has a stable relationship with the United States and can be trusted in contrast with the relationship with Turkey, which we really do not know where it is going. Nevertheless, some of the areas that Turkey seemed to be taking a more moderate and responsible stance, they seem to be moving backwards...”

“Cyprus with the recent move in the occupied territory where we have seen the Denktash party take the “presidency.” Certainly, what they have said in the past suggests they’re not open to any kind of a solution that would be acceptable to the Republic of Cyprus. Now to the extent that the decision is going to be made in Ankara as opposed to northern Cyprus [occupied] it might not matter but I do think clearly that movement puts any kind of a solution further away…Several trends out there that I think could makes things go very badly...I think the issue of Cyprus is going to continue…that the likelihood of getting a solution that would be fair in terms of the Republic of Cyprus is going to become much harder. I think those lines are going to be drawn tighter with the new authorities up in the north [occupied].”

Dimitris Dimas: “I have seen a lot of rhetoric, plenty of smiles, good intentions, but in terms of substance nothing and that is dangerous. During the previous administration, Greece knew what to expect but today’s situation is more elusive. You do not know what to expect, a lot of double talk with the political leadership sending one message and the bureaucracy delivering a different one…”
“The fact of the matter is that global reality has dictated its own rules and regulations on President Obama and has left him with a very small maneuvering space in the application of his pre-electoral promises. Still, there has been an amazing engagement in foreign policy issues but according to some of his critics, Obama’s presidency so far has been noted by a serious absence of strategic thinking and his national security team has not produced challenging ideas and policies and functions mostly as a bureaucratic unit. In that sense Obama has been working within the parameters of an existing framework that has a permanence and continuity and aims at maintaining and protecting American vital interests in the rest of the world with a key reason to contain hostile powers.”

AHI would like to thank the following sponsors of this event: Mr. Michael Bapis, Dr. John Brademas and Dr. George Carayannopoulos.

Click here to view photos from this event.

he American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American think-tank and public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.

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For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org