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AHI Conducts Annual Trip to Greece, Cyprus; Visits Ecumenical Patriarchate for First Time
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Georgea Polizos
June 10, 2014—No. 35 (202) 785-8430

AHI Conducts Annual Trip to Greece, Cyprus; Visits Ecumenical Patriarchate for First Time

Milestone 10th Athens Awards Dinner Held

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, religious, and political officials with the purpose of strengthening relations and addressing issues of mutual concern. For the first time, AHI visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate to have an audience with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on May 9, 2014. The two-week trip occurred May 5 to 16, 2014.

“We had a very productive series of high-visibility meetings in Greece, Cyprus, and at the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” President Nick Larigakis said.  “We accomplished the objectives we set out to achieve, and the briefings we received on issues of importance to the Greek American community were insightful and informative. We thank all of the leaders, especially Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 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 resumption of settlement talks for Cyprus under UN auspices and the Joint Declaration of February 11, 2014; Cyprus’ efforts to explore for hydrocarbon reserves in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and the lingering 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 6 to 8, 2014, the delegation met with U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus John Koenig, President of the House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou, Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry, and Tourism Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis, the chief negotiator for the current settlement talks; Cyprus’s Deputy Spokesperson Victoras Papadopoulos, Senior Economic Officer at the Ministry of Finance Kyriacos Kakouris, and Commissioner to the Presidency for Humanitarian Affairs Kate Cleridou.  Additional meetings were held with ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, including a working luncheon with Tasos Tzionis, deputy permanent secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and director, Division of Cyprus Question and Turkey. 

Meetings were also held with elected officials and political figures, including: Prodromos Prodrommou, deputy chairman, Foreign and European Affairs Committee of Parliament; and Andros Kyprianou, secretary general, AKEL.

“Our meetings provided us with a very candid assessment of the settlement talks and developments in the eastern Mediterranean,” Larigakis said. “AHI believes the United States can contribute positively to the settlement process by being a catalyst that propels negotiations, monitoring the negotiations as they progress, and can further exert its influence by calling out or becoming engaged at the appropriate times when certain parties or outside parties become intransigent.”

He continued, “AHI also believes the United States must emphasize that the interests of Cypriots must be kept at the forefront of a settlement.” 

Athens:  U.S. Ambassador, Defense Minister Top Meeting Agenda

Meetings with U.S. Ambassador to Greece David Pearce, Greece’s Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, Deputy Foreign Minister Kyriakos Gerontopoulos and extensive briefings with foreign ministry officials, were highlights of the delegation’s itinerary in Greece from May 8, and 10 to 15, 2014. (AHI’s day-trip to the Ecumenical Patriarchate took place May 9.)  The itinerary also included the 10th Annual AHI Athens Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner at the Grand Bretagne Hotel, May 14.

“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,” Larigakis said.  “We also explored ways in which the Greek American community can strengthen cooperation and enhance relations between Greece and the United States”.

AHI met with representatives of Hellenic Parliament on May 8, including: First Deputy Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament and Chairman of the Committee for European Affairs Ioannis Tragakis, President of the Parliament Special Permanent Committee for Greeks of the Disapora Savvas Anastasiades, and President of the Parliament Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defense Kostas Tsiaras. AHI also met with Alexis Tsipras, president and leader of the opposition party, SYRIZA.

Over a span of two days, May 12 and 13, the delegation met with Deputy Foreign Minister Gerontopoulos, Ambassador Anastassis Mitsialis, secretary general of the Foreign Ministry; and several directorates of the ministry of Foreign Affairs responsible for various countries and regions, including: Ambassador Alexandros Ant. Couyou, A4 Directorate for Turkey; Katia Georgiou, minister plenipotentiary director, A2 Cyprus Directorate; Ambassador Giorgos Avgoustis, Balkans Directorate; Ambassador Ioannis Rizopoulos, director, A7 Directorate for North America; and Argyro Papoulia, deputy director and first counselor, A7 Directorate of North America.

Historic Visit to Ecumenical Patriarchate

The AHI delegation departed Athens for a day-trip to Istanbul to meet with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on May 9.

“It was a historic meeting for AHI,” Larigakis said. “We sincerely thank Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for his hospitality and the generous amount of time he afforded us to discuss the ongoing plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and prospects for resolutions to several outstanding issues, including the reopening of the Halki Theological Seminary.”

Delegation members were also honored by the Patriarch’s generous invite to lunch following their meeting.

In Istanbul, AHI also met with the United States Consul General Chuck Hunter and Consul General of Greece Ambassador Nikolaos Mathioudakis.

AHI Hosts Milestone 10th Awards Dinner

The Tenth Annual AHI-Athens Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner was held May 14. Captain Panagiotis N. Tsakos, founder, Tsakos Group of Companies, was the honoree.  U.S. Ambassador to Greece David Pearce addressed the audience. More than 220 AHI friends and supporters attended the dinner at The Grande Bretagne.

“Our honoree has demonstrated excellence in his career,” Larigakis said.  “We truly admire his professional achievements and his contributions to society and community service.”

Nikolas Tsakos, who accepted the award on behalf of his father, recounted Captain Tsakos’s immigration story to America from Chios and his love for America in remarks.

“It has been 60 years since my father first visited the United States on the Liberty vessel, designed by the US Government, after the war. He came to America, to…Brooklyn, straight from his island of Chios…The young cadet from Chios wanted to follow his destiny and he wanted to stay on the ships. One day [while he was] on the ship, he passed the New York skyline and realized he wanted to be part of it.

“My father instilled his love for America in me and my sister from a very young age. And I have [done the same] in my children. The children love spending time in the United States, as well as on the island of Chios. They say the sun feels as good on the beaches in New Jersey as it does in Chios…”

“America brings out the best in all of us. It [combines]…Greek activity with the American hard-working mentality. I believe that the Greeks and especially the Greek Americans are the best examples of [our best] traditions. For that, it is a great honor to receive this award, on behalf of my father…”

In his address, Ambassador Pearce spoke about the state of U.S.-Greece relations and the United States’ desire to see Greece emerge from its economic crisis, “stronger, a stable country playing a stabilizing role in southeastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.” Greece’s location, he added, “makes it a key partner for us in a very important neighborhood.”

 The ambassador also saluted the honoree, Captain Tsakos, for his professional accomplishments and commitment to corporate social responsibility and marine conservation.

“As a co-founder of the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association – HELMEPA – Captain Tsakos has had an important and enduring impact on increasing awareness of the need to protect the marine environment,” Ambassador Pearce said. “HELMEPA has worked closely with the U.S. Coast Guard on issues related to maritime commerce and safety, and we look forward to continuing that relationship.”

Olga Bournozi of Capital Link served exceptionally as Master of Ceremonies. 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.

In remarks, AHI-Athens Chapter President thanked AHI and President Nick Larigakis for their efforts as advocates for the rule of law.

“For all of our problems in Greece and in Cyprus we have the unwavering support of our brothers and sisters of the Diaspora, especially those in the United States and especially the AHI that works nonstop, tirelessly and selflessly for national interests for the past forty years since the Turkish invasion [of Cyprus],” he said. “AHI is the soul and conscience of Greece in America. It toils, labors and works to promote the rights of Greece with the moral satisfaction that it is helping this country being its reward.”

He added, “AHI always works within the framework of the rule of law, creating alliances with other friendly organizations in order to fight forces of illegality, injustice and arbitrariness of law-breaking governments.”

In attendance were dignitaries: U.S. Ambassador to Greece David Pearce, Panos Panagiotopoulos, minister for Culture and Tourism; Adonis Georgiadis, minister of Health; Lieutenant General Christos Manolas, chief, Hellenic Army General Staff; Vice Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis H.N., chief, Hellenic Navy General Staff; and Dr. Stamatis Krimigis, chairman, Maria Tsakos Foundation.

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

AHI Delegation Participants 

On the trip, AHI President Nick Larigakis was accompanied by: AHI Board Members Kostas Alexakis, Dr. George Tsetsekos, and Leon Andris; AHI Foundation Board Member Gus Andy, and AHI Legislative Director Georgea Polizos. 

The American Hellenic Institute is an independent non-profit Greek American public policy center and think tank 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 website at http://www.ahiworld.org and follow us on Twitter @TheAHIinDC