Washington, D.C. By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte addressing on Thursday the 39th Clergy Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America expressed the support of the U.S. Administration to the leadersʼ efforts to begin full-fledged negotiations under UN auspices, adding that “we look forward to an announcement in the next couple of weeks that talks are set to begin”.
Speaking in front of an audience of more than 1,500 hundreds clergy and laity leaders, Negroponte pointed out that in Cyprus “a new generation of leaders has arisen there that is committed to resolving the division of the island. That division has gone on for too long and must be resolved in the only way thatʼs realistic: a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, with a single nation, a single citizenship, and a single country with two constituent states, as agreed by the two leaders on May 23.”
He stressed that the U.S will support negotiations in any way the parties believe will be helpful” and that “the solution must come from the Cypriots themselves.”
He also mentioned the US efforts to helping save and preserve the many sites with cultural, religious, and historical significance in Cyprus.
“U.S. assistance programs have contributed significantly to preservation activities. Because those activities all include bi-communal elements, they also help foster respect and tolerance between the islandʼs Greek and Turkish inhabitants. Examples of sacred sites that have benefited from U.S. assistance include the St. Mamas Cathedral in Morfou, the St. Neofytos Church in Troulli, in the buffer zone, and the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque in Larnaca. Americans are proud to help preserve such holy places.”
The American official reiterated the U.S. position on the protection of the religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, calling on the Turkish government to respect them.
“The imperative to respect religious freedom and preserve holy sites informs our approach to the continued existence in Istanbul of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the highest see in the holiest center of the Orthodox Christian Church in the world. Respect for the Patriarchate and the Patriarch are incumbent on a democracy likeTurkey. We continue to urge the restoration of confiscated church properties and the re-opening of the Halki seminary at the highest levels with the Turkish government.”
Mr. Negroponte expressed pride for his Greek heritage and for the many contribution of the Greek Americans to the United States.
“I am deeply proud to be one of the more than three million Americans who claim Hellenic ancestry … Greek Americans are famously proud of their heritage, and if youʼll permit me for saying so, that pride is well-founded. Greek Americans represent the best of the American experience through their entrepreneurial spirit, civic and religious engagement, and patriotism. I am privileged to share this heritage and to serve our country at this critical moment.”
Negroponte called Greece “a stalwart partner in the spread of democratic values”, adding that with the United States they share longstanding historical, political, and cultural ties. He said that Greece remains a staunch NATO ally and is a critical partner in the Balkans and in the War on Terrorism.
“We have stood together in every major international conflict of the 20th century, including both World Wars, the Korean Conflict, and the Cold War. It was in support of Greek independence and self-determination that President Harry Truman proclaimed the Truman Doctrine, which became a pillar of our containment strategy against the Soviet Union”.
The US official also thanked the Greek government for sending to the United States a group of five firefighters that “are now helping the US Forest Service fight the California wildfires that are endangering the communities, homes, and lives of thousands of Americans.”
A State Department Spokesman asked by Greek News to comment on the recent appointment of the Australian former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer as UNʼs Secretary General Cyprus Special Advisor, he said:
“We welcome the appointment of Alexander Downer as the UN’s Special Envoy to Cyprus. His appointment and the meetings of the two leaders in Cyprus, as well as the reestablishment of the working group and technical committees, and the opening of Ledra street show a renewed commitment to resolving the Cyprus problem. The U.S. remains committed to supporting the UN and Cyprus on this issue.”