Secretary of State receives award from CEH leadership during a photo opportunity ceremony
Washington, D.C.- by Apostolos Zoupaniotis
The US is committed to the reunification of Cyprus as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has stressed here on Friday. Addressing a group of 10 Greek Americans Leaders, headed by Archbishop Demetrios, Secretary Clinton noted that the Cyprus solution must be a decision that is reached by the people of Cyprus themselves.
The leaders that participated at the 25th Annual Cyprus, Hellenic and Orthodox Issues Conference, which took place in Washington, June 20-22, and honored Secretary Clinton during a ceremony that took place at the Department of State, were:
Philip Christopher, Andrew A. Athens, Andy Manatos, Peter Papanicolaou, Nikos Mouyiaris, George J. Tsunis, Mike Manatos, Tasos D. Zambas, Zenon Christodoulou, and Michael Galanakis. They also invited to the meeting with Secretary Clinton and to the conference Nick Karacostas, Supreme Vice President of AHEPA.
Before the open ceremony that lasted 15 minutes, the Secretary of State met privately for another 15 minutes with the group of Greek Americans. CEH leaders called the meeting “a good first step” and expressed satisfaction.
Secretary Clinton was honored for her interest in issues concerning the Greek American community. Receiving her award, she said “I thank you for this award and I am greatly looking forward to my next visit to Greece at the end of next month where Greece will be hosting an important gathering of the OSCE countries to talk about stability in Europe and many of the other regional matters that we are working on together”.
“We believe in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, and weʼre going to continue to support that and work toward that. And again, we think it is in everyoneʼs interest”, Hillary Clinton said.
Asked what the US intends to do in the direction of Turkey, which holds the key to the solution of the problem, she said “I think both sides hold the key. I think this has to be a decision that is reached by the people of Cyprus themselves”.
The US, she added, “strongly supports the United Nations mediator”.
“I have met with representatives of both Turkish and Greek Cypriots, and have underscored the Obama Administrationʼs commitment to supporting the steps that they would be willing to take themselves to resolve this”, Clinton continued.
Cyprus, she said, “is so strategically located. And in terms of its impact on the actions in the region, its commercial possibilities, its opportunities for greater prosperity that can be shared among all of the people of Cyprus, I just think the future is unlimited”.
“But this”, she went on to add, “has to be resolved, but in a way that brings confidence and security to people on both sides, and thatʼs what we are going to work to achieve”.
The US, she said, is committed “to the reopening of the Halki Seminary, to the unification of Cyprus as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, and we know these are difficult issues”.
“I want to pledge to you that the Obama Administration is committed to making progress through our partnership. We are dedicated to advancing dialogue and cooperation and working to support the people of Greece and Cyprus as they advance stability and democracy in the Mediterranean”, she went on to add.
Replying to a question on FYROM, Clinton said “I have spoken openly on the need for a solution to be found regarding FYROM’s name issue, in a manner that is acceptable to both sides,” adding that the present U.S. administration has committed itself to, and was encouraging, a solution “that we think it is in everyone’s interest. It will pave the way for a process leading to the accession of another country to the European Union, something we think will reinforce stability in the region.”
On the Ecumenical Patriarchate, she said US is committed “to the reopening of the (Greek Orthodox) Halki Seminary (in Istanbul) and she expressed her admiration for His All Holiness.
“Please extend my personal best wishes to the Patriarch”, she asked Archbishop Demetrios. “My opportunities to visit with him and talk with him have been true highlights of my life in public service, and I look forward to seeing him again. I understand he may be coming to the United States, I hope in the future, and it will be my great honor to receive him and to look forward to hosting him here at the State Department.”
Archbishop Demetrios presented Hillary Clinton with an award that contains soil from the location in Athens, Greece where democracy was born and from the United States Capitol Building, the seat of the worldʼs greatest modern democracy . The text above the soil reads, “From this hallowed earth have come the worldʼs greatest minds, ideas and actions.”
After the award ceremony Demetrios said:
“Madame Secretary of the State it is an honor to be here. I dare say that the State Department becomes a sort of residence for us with so many frequent and valuable visits. With your continuous efforts and support that not only of issues that you know, like the issue of Cyprus, and of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the name of FYROM but beyond that, our fight for Human rights and the issue of human dignity and the right of every person to have a happy, creative life. You have been unyielding in these issues, and we have very high absolute trust in your judgment. I remember an evening, an evening in November of 1999 in Constantinoupolis/Istanbul with President Clinton and you as First Lady, visiting the Patriarchy after a long day, in unsuccessful efforts to open Chalkis. But you were there and the Patriarch will never forget these efforts and he asked for an invitation to be given to you today to visit. And he sends his best regards and wishes. As Mr. Manatos said and the distinguished members of the 25th Cyprus Conference decided, to offer a flag as a some sort of indication of recognition of what you have been doing as a token of continuous and creative cooperation. It has of course a dedication sentence, but it has the characteristic that there are two bottles containing soil from Athens and from the center of democracy today Washington. They have separated but I think that someday they will be fixed. Because we are in a united way of doing what we are doing. So I am offering you this on behalf of the 25th Conference of Cyprus and human rights and whatever is noble and dignified in human rights.”
In a press release issued by the Coordinated Effort entitled “New Administration Continues High Profile Focus on Hellenic and Orthodox Issues”, it says, “Secretary Clinton has played an important role in beginning to slowly turn the huge ʽAmerican ship of stateʼ in a just direction on issues regarding Hellenism and Orthodoxy, but it still has a long way to go to make up for the damage of recent years. In an unprecedented step, Secretary Clinton, as well as President Barack Obama, mentioned in major public remarks in Turkey the subject of religious freedom and the need to reopen the Halki Patriarchal seminary.
As well, on Cyprus, Secretary Clinton overturned her Departmentʼs attempt to bring de facto recognition to the occupied area of Cyprus by having her meet with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Talat prior to meeting with the leadership of the Republic of Cyprus. And she has held two bilateral meetings with the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus in just her first three months in office. (In addition, President Obama, while addressing the Turkish parliament, called for a just and lasting settlement of Cyprus into a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation, contradicting public positions taken by Turkish leaders. This was the first time a U.S. President has done so in many years.)
Secretary Clinton also aligned the U.S. position on the FYROM issue with Greeceʼs at the recent EU-US Ministerial meeting in Prague. She said FYROM must resolve the name issue before joining NATO. (In addition, President Obama selected only Greece from among all European countries with which he had a bi-lateral meeting on his recent trip to Europe).