Washington, D.C.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
With a behind doors briefing by US Vice President`s deputy national Security Adviser Jeff Prescott, the 30th Conference of the International Coordinating Committee “Justice for Cyprus” (PSEKA), concluded its deliberations on Thursday. The conference had marked the 40th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus` northern third.
The approximately 100 Greek-American leaders from across the country that attended the conference in Washington, DC, from July 15-17, met with over 50 of the most influential US policymakers – from the US Congress, White House and State Department – participated in this important conference.
In his closing remarks, PSEKA chairman Philip Christopher referred to the three goals that the delegates have before them. He said the first is to promote the need for a meeting at the White House between Barack Obama and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades. The second is to exploit all positive statements made by Biden and all high ranking US officials as part of the partnership between the two countries. Thirdly, preparation of representatives outside the US for the overseas Cypriots conference that will be held in Cyprus from 25-30 August.
In Thursday`s deliberations, the adviser of Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jodi Herman, was honoured by the organisers.
On Wednesday evening an official dinner took place during which Greek American former Chief of Staff of US President Bill Clinton, John Podesta and Co-Chair of the Congressional Hellenic – Israel Alliance Ted Deutch were honoured.
Cypriot Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides, in Washington for the Conference, addressed the dinner and commended the work and efforts of the Greek American community for Cyprus.
Referring to the upcoming 40 year anniversary on July 20 of the Turkish invasion, Christodoulides recalled the words of US Vice President Joe Biden who said that not even one Turkish soldier should have set foot in Cyprus.
Addressing the Greek and Cypriot community of the US, Christodoulides said that “continuing your difficult work and efforts for Cyprus has never again been so crucial”.
Recent developments and high level contacts between the US and Cyprus indicate that today an opportunity which has never before presented itself is at hand, he noted, adding that “with your help we can take advantage of this juncture and press Turkey to end its 40 year occupation and its brutal violation of international law.”
On his part Ted Deutch referred to the historic ties between the Greek and Jewish communities as well as to the role Greeks played during the German occupation in saving Jews.
He gave an account of the establishment of the Hellenic – Israeli Alliance in Congress and spoke of the need to work for a solution of the Cyprus issue.
Deutch also referred to the new relationship between Greece, Cyprus and Israel, noting that its most important element has to do with common values rather than natural gas and interests.
In his address, Podesta said energy is key in the efforts for a solution, adding that a lot of hard work and negotiations will be needed in order for a solution to be found.
At the same time he assured that US President Barack Obama and the entire US Administration are committed to finding a viable solution to the benefit of both communities and the region as a whole.
Former Congressman Paul Sarbarnes talked about his visit to Cyprus together with Congressman John Brademas a few days after the invasion and paid tribute to Greeks and Cypriots in the US for their efforts as regards the Cyprus issue.
Opening the conference, PSEKA President Philip Christopher expressed reserved optimism for a Cyprus settlement and described as encouraging the approach between Cyprus and Israel.
The opening ceremony was also addressed among others by the President of the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes Andy Manatos, CFA President Costas Tsentas, AHI President Nick Larigakis, HALC executive Director Endie Zemenides, Pancyprian Exec. VP Nicos Mouyiaris, Kyrenia Mayr Mr. Kariolou, and the Ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus to the US Christos Panagopoulos and George Shiakkali, respectively.
Deputy Assistant Secretaries of State Eric Rubin and Amos Hochstein have also spoken to the conference, addressing the status of the U.S. – Cyprus relations, energy issues and the U.S. policy regarding the Cyprus problem.
Speaking at the conference, the Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides conveyed President Anastasiades’ deepest gratitude and appreciation for the invaluable work that Cypriots living in the US do for Cyprus.
Referring to relations between Cyprus and the US, Christodoulides said that “we have entered a new and unprecedented era in these relations”, adding that the US Vice President’s historic visit in May – followed by visits only last week at Deputy Under Secretary level – provides ample proof of this new phase in bilateral relations.
He said that during his visit, the Vice President, “a true friend of Cyprus – whom you know very well from your own contacts here in Washington – sent clear messages to the Turkish side on the Cyprus problem and stressed the importance of the strategic partnership between our two countries.”
Briefing the delegates on the status of the negotiations, Dr. Christodoulides said through the proposals submitted at the negotiating table by the two sides in Cyprus convergences have to be created, noting that “we cannot continue the endless discussions of the past, concentrating solely on chapters that interest the Turkish Cypriot side, such as power sharing, without discussing inter-dependently – as called for by the Joint Declaration – all chapters, including territory, security guarantees, citizenship and settlers.”
The PSEKA conference participants honored Dr. Christodoulides during a reception organized by the Cypriot ambassador at his residence.