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AHI Conducts Annual Trip to Greece, Cyprus
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Georgea Polizos
June 7, 2013—No. 39 (202) 785-8430

AHI Conducts Annual Trip to Greece, Cyprus

Substantive Talks Held with High-Ranking Government Officials on Foreign Policy, Economic Development in Region

WASHINGTON, DC —A delegation from the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) successfully completed the organization’s annual leadership trip to Greece and Cyprus where it held substantive meetings with high-ranking government and religious officials and business leaders with the purpose of strengthening relations and addressing issues of mutual concern.  The two-week trip occurred May 8 to 18, 2013.

“We had a very productive series of high-visibility meetings in Greece and Cyprus,” said President Nick Larigakis.  “We accomplished the objectives we set out to achieve, and we received insightful briefings on issues of importance to the Greek American community. We thank all of the leaders who took the time to meet with us to discuss these very important issues.” 

AHI Works to Address Many Issues Facing Cyprus

The AHI delegation received multiple briefings from Cypriot and American officials on the potential to resume direct talks for a Cyprus settlement under UN auspices, Cyprus’ efforts to explore for hydrocarbon reserves in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and the impact of Cyprus’ banking crisis.  All throughout the delegation’s meetings in Cyprus, AHI was commended for its past advocacy and current steadfast efforts to keep the Cyprus issue highly visible with key policymakers in the Obama administration and in the U.S. Congress.

During its stay in Cyprus, May 8 to 11, 2013, the delegation met with:  President Nicos Anastasiades, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus John Koenig, and President of the House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou.  Additional meetings were held with ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, including: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Andreas Mavroyiannis, Ambassador Andreas Kakouris, director, Division of Cyprus Question and Turkey; Ambassador Euripides Evriviades, political director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a dinner meeting with Ambassador Pavlos Anastasiades. 

Also in Cyprus, Mr. Miltos Miltiadou, senior press and information officer, Press and Information Office of the Republic of Cyprus, hosted the delegation for a luncheon on May 10.

An audience with His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II and meetings with CIPA Director General Charis Papacharalambous and Dr. George M. Georgiou, head of the Governor’s Office, Communications and Budget, Central Bank of Cyprus rounded out the itinerary in Cyprus.

“Our meetings provided us with a very candid assessment of the current developments in Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean,” said Larigakis.  “We affirmed our position that the financial crisis must not be used as a means to impose a Cyprus settlement as presented in the AHI-backed congressional resolution 187. It is also clearly evident that Turkey continues to be a threat to peace and stability in the region.”

He added, “AHI continues to call for the United States to play a constructive role in this process as a member of the UN Security Council and to exercise its influence on Turkey to advance positions that support the rule of law and international law.”

Athens:  AHI Holds Meetings with High-level Officials

An audience with President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias, meetings with Greece’s Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Defense Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos, and extensive briefings by U.S. and Hellenic military officers at Souda Bay, Crete, were highlights of the delegation’s busy itinerary in Greece from May 13 to 18, 2012.  The itinerary also included the 9th Annual AHI Athens Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner at the Grand Bretagne Hotel, May 15.

“Our meetings covered a broad range of issue topics, including Greece’s economic crisis, the Cyprus issue, and Greece’s relations in the Balkans and with Turkey,” said Larigakis.  “We also explored ways in which the Greek American community can strengthen cooperation and enhance relations between Greece and the United States.  Furthermore, our delegation’s tour of Souda Bay, and the briefings we received, provided us with insightful background about the important role Souda Bay plays to the security of the region.”

AHI met with President Papoulias, President of the Hellenic Parliament Vangelis Meimarakis and Vice President of Parliament Ioannis Tragakis on May 15.  The AHI delegation met with Foreign Minister Avramopoulos and several directorates of the ministry of Foreign Affairs responsible for various countries and regions, including: Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Konstantinos Tsiaras, Director Ioannis Papameletiou and Deputy Director Evaggelos Sekeris (Cyprus desk), and Director Nafsika-Nancy Vraila (Turkey desk), on May 13.

The itinerary for May 14 was highlighted by a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Greece Daniel B. Smith at the ambassador’s residence.  Larigakis commended the work of American Ambassador Smith and welcomed the ambassador’s perspective on issues of importance in the region to the Greek American community. Also that day, the AHI delegation met with Member of Parliament Antonis Georgiades, president of the Committee for Greeks Abroad; and Alexis Tsipras, opposition leader and president of SYRIZA.  During the evening, Mr. Yiannis Mytilineos, a prominent businessman, hosted the delegation for dinner at Tatoea Country Club, Kifissia.

“We sincerely appreciate the kind hospitality of Mr. Mytilineos, who generously hosted us for a wonderful dinner at Tatoea Country Club,” Larigakis said.

Delegation Tours Souda Bay, Receives Briefings

The AHI delegation took a one-day flight to Crete to tour the military installations located at Souda Bay and received extensive briefings by United States and Hellenic military officers on May 16.  Briefings were offered by: Hellenic Navy Commodore Helmis, Commander Konstantinos Sampanis, educational and training director, NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center (NMIOTC); Hellenic Air Force Deputy Commander Dimitrios Fouskas; NSA Souda Bay Commanding Officer Captain James Gibson and Commander/Secretary of Defense and Executive Officer Demetries Grimes; and NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) Commander, Brigadier General Lazaros Skylakis.  A luncheon reception for the delegation was held at the NAMFI Officers’ Club, “Asteria.”

 “Our tour and the briefings we received were eye-opening experiences for our delegation,” Larigakis said. “There is no doubt Greece contributes significantly to United States and NATO operations and missions via NSA Souda Bay. In April, AHI published a fact sheet that provides details on Greece’s contributions, and we share it during our various meetings in Greece.  AHI will continue to raise awareness about Greece’s strategic importance to the United States and NATO to ensure she receives proper due as a pivotal ally in the region.”

Larigakis added, “We sincerely thank General Mikhail Kostarakos, chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, for authorizing our visit to Souda Bay.”

The delegation was able to share its thoughts, observations, and feedback about its visit to Souda Bay with Minster of Defense Panos Panagiotopoulos  on the following day, May 17.

As with the delegation’s meetings in Cyprus, the appreciation for the hard work and dedication of AHI to Hellenic issues was conveyed by Greek government officials.  Following the meeting with Foreign Minister Avramopoulos, the foreign minister emphasized the “useful role played by the AHI in the United States, raising public and official awareness on Greek affairs” during a joint press conference with AHI President Nick Larigakis.

AHI Hosts Gala Affair in Athens, Honors U.S. Envoy, Philanthropist

The Ninth Annual AHI-Athens Hellenic Heritage Achievement and Public Service Awards Dinner was held May 15. Ms. Isabella Arvaniti CEO/President, K. Arvanitis, S.A. and philanthropist; and the Honorable Daniel B. Smith, ambassador of the United States to Greece, were honored for their professional achievements and contributions to the community.  More than 220 AHI friends and supporters attended the dinner at The Grande Bretagne.

“Our honorees have demonstrated excellence in their respective careers,” said Larigakis.  “We truly admire their accomplishments and their contributions to society and community service.”

President of Hellenic Parliament Vangelis Meimarakis offered remarks, saluting AHI’s work and emphasized that his presence was intended to send a message that AHI is a “remarkable and positive voice of Hellenism in the U.S.”

In acceptance, Ambassador Smith remarked, “We deeply appreciate the work that the American Hellenic Institute does to preserve and enhance the ties of friendship and cooperation that exist between the United States and Greece….During my time in Athens, the people of Greece have experienced extraordinary difficulties in the face of a deep recession and financial crisis.  I’d like to thank you tonight for the role that you have played in strengthening the bonds between the United States and Greece at such a critical time.”

Ms. Arvaniti has built shelters for needy or abused children and is known for her charitable works, including arranging for the renovation of a building complex and fully equipping it to offer health services to 50 children for the Smile of the Child agency.

Larigakis added, “We are delighted this special event, now in its ninth year, continues to grow.  We would like to thank the AHI-Athens Chapter for its hard work.” 

Ilias Malevitis, president, AHI-Greece; George C. Economou, president, AHI-Athens Chapter; Panagiotis Madamopoulos-Moraris, director of Development; and AHI Members Katerina Papathanassiou and Sylvia Gavalla contributed to the dinner’s success.

AHI Delegation Participants 

On the trip, AHI President Nick Larigakis was accompanied by: AHI Board of Directors Secretary and Legal Counsel Nicholas G. Karambelas, Esq.; AHI Board Members Kostas Alexakis, Dr. George Tsetsekos, and Leon Andris; AHI Foundation Board Member Gus Andy, and AHI Legislative Assistant Georgea Polizos. 

The 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 Georgea Polizos at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.