Nicosia.- (CNA, GreekNewsOnline)
The President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades awarded the “Medal for exceptional services” to six Overseas Cypriots for their contribution to promoting justice for the people of Cyprus. The award ceremony took place during a reception, hosted at the gardens of the Presidential Palace, in honour of the members of the World Federation of Overseas Cypriots (POMAK), the International Coordinating Committee “Justice for Cyprus” (PSEKA) and Young Overseas Cypriots (NEPOMAK), attending the 19th World Conference last month in Nicosia.
This year the medal was awarded to Nicos Mouyiaris, Antonis Yerolemou, Andreas Karaolis, Costas Nicolaou, George Lazari and Tasos Zampas. President Anastasiades said that the award is only a small indication of the debt owed to them by their country.
“This evening we honour six of our distinguished compatriots who were and continue to be active in important decision-making centers in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, South Africa and Australia” said President Anastasiades.
Cyprus, he noted, “has great potential and possesses creative people, who distinguish themselves everywhere, all around the world, as our distinguished compatriots who are being honoured today have proven”.
Overseas Cypriots are ambassadors of Cyprus’ national cause, its language, culture and traditions, the President said, noting that they carry their Cypriot descent with them, as an “honorary title”.
Photis Photiou, the Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Overseas Cypriots, said from his part that the people receiving this year’s award have distinguished themselves abroad and are working tirelessly to defend the rights of Greek Cypriots.
Speaking on behalf of all recipients, Mouyiaris thanked for the award, noting that this honour belongs to all Cypriots living overseas and especially to PSEKA President Philip Christopher. “We will continue to fight for a Cyprus that is free and independent,” Mouyiaris went on, and invited those who are well off to support financially the organizations that promote national interests in decision-making centers abroad.
Prior to the reception, members of the Conference Central Council were briefed by President Anastasiades and laid a wreath at the statue of first President of the Republic of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III.
CONFERENCE A SUCCESS
Noting the success of the 19th World Conference of the World Federation of Overseas Cypriots (POMAK), the International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) and the World Conference of Young Overseas Cypriots (NEPOMAK), the overseas Cypriots told a press conference that their efforts will continue especially after the collapse of the latest talks for a Cyprus settlement at Crans Montana.
Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian and Overseas Affairs, Fotis Fotiou, said this year’s conference was upgraded with new events and greater participation.
He thanked POMAK, PSEKA and NEPOMAK for their work, especially Antonia Michalides, chairwoman of NEPOMAK, noting that the new generation should be supported to maintain affiliation with their roots.
Fotiou praised the overseas Cypriots for their continued willingness to help in finding a solution for the Cyprus problem, adding “we are at a crucial phase and overseas Cypriots are giving us lessons of unity. We will continue the struggle to end the occupation and this is the message conveyed by this conference”, he added.
The commissioner also said that special emphasis should be given for the diaspora to forge more cooperation agreements with the diaspora of other countries that have a key role. He praised cooperation with the Jewish and Armenian diaspora as they are powerful at decision making centres.
We have also involved Greece in this, he said and referred to the successful example in the US where the Cypriot, Greek and Jewish diaspora work at all levels, especially the political level as it is a way to promote common interests.
Regarding the missing persons issue, Fotiou said it was tabled by many delegates and they discussed ways to promote and enlighten on the issue at decision taking centres so that Turkey is persuaded and pressured into providing information on the missing persons. “It is a shame for the international community 43 years on, to still have two thirds of our missing unaccounted for”, he added.
Regarding the number of overseas Cypriots, he said a first estimation is 500-600 thousand.
On the enlightenment funds, Fotiou said that it is imperative to increase them.
POMAK President Andreas Papaevripidis said that they are examining options, noting that prominent business leaders should make a fund solely for enlightenment.
He also said that the aim is to maintain the Cypriot diaspora because it will always need to support its homeland.
PSEKA president Philip Christopher thanked Fotiou for upgrading the Overseas Cypriots’ conference.
Enlightenment is the only weapon we have, he said, adding neither the Cypriot nor Greek governments have yet appreciated that big funds are needed and that 2 million euros is not enough when Turkey spends 100 million at universities and think tanks.
Noting the effort will continue, Christopher called on Cypriot millionaires to “put their hands in their pockets and help”. Successful Jewish businesses put a two-to three percent of their earnings to support Israel, he added.
On her part, NEPOMAK leader Antonia Michaelides Antoniou said the conference was highly successful especially for the youth, as 40 came from all over the world.
“They came here with a limited understanding of what the conference was going to be about and have left feeling inspired to join our organisation and understand about their roots, history and promote the Cyprus problem and the missing persons issue in their own respective nations.
Regarding the new US administration, Christopher said that the American foreign policy was always pro-Turkish. However, he believes that there will be a change and overseas Cypriots in the US will work with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who knows the Cyprus problem. At the same time, the new US administration has pledged that it will not allow any problem in Cyprus’ EEZ.
He also said that the diaspora in the US are already working on the President’s forthcoming trip to the US, adding “our attack should be enlightenment, we need everyone to know that the collapse of the talks was due to Turkey and the Cyprus issue is an issue of invasion and occupation.
Regarding the Brexit, Papaevripidis said that surely it will directly or indirectly affect the overseas Cypriots planning about Cyprus, however so far, there have not been great repercussions.
JEWISH AMERICAN LEADERS
Prominent members of the Jewish lobby have praised Cyprus’ relations with Israel and called for the removal of the Turkish troops in Cyprus noting that the strong relationship between Greece, Israel and Cyprus helps form the foundations of democracy across the region.
In video messages during the deliberations of the 19th World Conference of the World Federation of Overseas Cypriots (POMAK) and the International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), the members of congress and officials, who were presented by the Chairman of the Coordinated Effort of the Hellenes, Andy Manatos, also referred to the many common opportunities and challenges faced by Cyprus and Israel.
Democratic member of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee Elliot Engel said that the relationship between Greece, Israel and Cyprus helps form the foundations of democracy across the region, foundation of shared values including freedom, equality and tolerance.
He said Cyprus and Israel share common experiences as they work to unite populations that are divided by ethnic and religious reasons. They also share a strong desire to promote prosperity and to improve people’s lives.
However, he said, “as reconciliation lies down the road”, both countries remain steadfast and valued partners in promoting security in the eastern Mediterranean. They collaborate in ways of shared concern, from energy exploration to military cooperation “which will drive prosperity and help diversify Europe’s supplies away from an unreliable and hostile Russia”.
This is good for both countries and for the vital national interests of the US and our friends and allies across Europe, he added.
Noting the 43rd anniversary of Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus “and continue to work for reconciliation, we know that today and in the years ahead the friendship between Israel and Cyprus will be a source of prosperity and source of security for both countries and for the region”.
Democratic Congresswoman, Νita Lowey addressing delegates, said that as a member of congress and the Appropriations Committee “I understand how important the resolution of this huge challenge is to so many of my friends”.
She pledged support to continue “fighting with you the good fight”.
Ted Deutch, Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives for Florida, said since its founding, the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance (CHIA) caucus has received incredible amount of support from both Republicans and Democrats in the Congress. He said he is proud of the work done to highlight the relationship between Cyprus, Greece and Israel.
Deutch said it is clear “that these countries share many common opportunities and challenges”, adding that on the security side, he said Cyprus and Israel have faced similar threats.
At the same time, he said this important partnership is part of growing alliance between commitment to democracy, security, stability of the eastern Mediterranean.
“It is my hope that the Congressional Hellenic Alliance will continue to serve as the cornerstone of these relationships”, he concluded.
U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI), said he works with his colleagues in the Alliance to try to resolve the Cyprus problems and referred to the efforts in Congress to lift the arms embargo against Cyprus.
It is critical, he told the conference, “that the US continue to foster the growing strategic and economic cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel, especially in the region that faces chronic instability and upheaval”. Greece, Cyprus and Israel are all abiding democracies and close allies with the US. Expanding, economic diplomatic and military cooperation between these countries will lead to a more peaceful and prosperous region.
Cicilline said with the war in Syria in its 7th year, the ongoing problem with IS and Turkey, “it is more important than ever to achieve peace, strengthen ties to promote our shared values”.
An important part of this effort, he stressed, is the unification of Cyprus, removal of all Turkish troops from Cyprus and for Turkey to respect the fundamental sovereignty of their neighbours. “And Turkey has consistently failed to meet its obligations to reach a final settlement in Cyprus. This is unacceptable”.
Cicilline said the US will stand firmly behind Cyprus and pledged to continue working in the Congress to promote the alliance as it is vital in the security of the region.
David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee said the “today we witness what we have dreamed about, the democratic triangle, Greece, Cyprus and Israel working together in so many fields and institutionalizing this relationship and is no longer dependent on anyone”.
He said everyone understands it is in the interest of all three countries to keep going further on energy, on security, on culture and on tourism.
Morris Amitay, a former state department officer and former vice chairman of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs praised the close ties between Cyprus and Israel and thanked President Nicos Anastasiades for his vital role in developing close ties with the two countries.
He also said Greece, Israel and Cyprus have also held trilateral summits to confront common threats, noting this provides greater stability, adding the growing cooperation between these two nations “is needed particularly during this very turbulent and dangerous times”.