By Apostolis Zoupaniotis
NEW YORK, N.Y.- The Pancyprian Association of America will honor with the 12th Freedom Award Greek American CIA Director George Tenet, during a black tie event at the New Hilton Hotel, Saturday, June 7, 2003. Also present will be the foreign minister of Cyprus, George Iacovou. The Freedom Award event will open a week of events, as more than one hundred Greek-American leaders are to join activists from Europe, Canada, and Australia, for the International Coordinating Committee, Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) Conference, in Washington D.C., from June 10-12.
It is the first time that a Greek-American grass-roots organization, such as the Pancyprian, honors George Tenet, said Philip Christopher, president of the organization.
“He is coming back to his roots,” he said.
The Freedom Award has been given every year to an individual who has been instrumental in the struggle of the Cypriot people. Senator Paul Sarbanes, Archbishop Iacovos and others are among the recipients.
“If you know the history of George Tenet, explains Phil Christopher, “when he came out of college he worked for the AHI, lobbying the U.S. Congress on Greek issues, particularly Cyprus. During his tenure on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he was always one of our friends, making the appointments for us. And even as a CIA director, behind the scenes, he has always been very helpful to our cause, in guiding us and helping us. He is one of our own.”
The Pancyprians will also honor George Tenet because he is the highest Greek American official at the Bush administration and his success could serve as a model to many young Greek Americans.
“If I was to tell you that a Greek-American immigrant from Epirus, whose son owned Scoby’s Diner on Northern Blvd. at Little Neck Parkway, had a son of his own who went to Saint Nicholas Church and played basketball on the team and along with his twin brother grew up in Flushing with the Greek boys; if I was to tell you that some day that boy would be the CIA director, you would never believe it. But this is the American dream; this is what happens,” Christopher said.
Philip Christopher thinks that this event will contribute to the healing of the wounds created because of the war in Iraq.
“George Tenet recognizes the strategic position of Greece and Cyprus. Both the Greek and Cypriot governments played an instrumental role and helped the U.S. government with the war in Iraq. He told me over the phone that he looks forward to this because it is the first time that a Greek community organization like the Pancyprian Association will recognize him.”
“Primarily for us, this is a day for honoring our community, our children, particularly the second generation of young Greek Americans. At a time when there are people questioning our traditions and heritage, to honor someone like George Tenet is extremely important. We want our honoree to come and meet the people. We will avoid a lot of speeches, we just want the people to come and have good time,” said the president of the Pancyprian Association.
Asked to comment on what Greek-American leaders will ask the officials at the PSEKA conference, Philip Christopher, also president of PSEKA, said, “What we are asking them is to continue supporting Cyprus as a member of the European Union and as a country that has the maximum amount of influence on Turkey to convince Turkey that it is in her best interest to solve the Cyprus problem.”
Mr. Christopher said that at this point, all bets are off.
“I say as president of PSEKA that our new policy is that there is one republic, one democratic nation in Cyprus and all the citizens are welcome to be part of that. Forget about this coexistence of federations, etc. As far as I am concerned that’s all finished. Cyprus is now a member of the EU, the Turkish-Cypriots should join, the Turkish army should withdraw and people should go back to their homes and start living as one nation”.
One danger he sees in the situation is because many people feel that the problem will have been solved once Cyprus successfully enters the EU.
“But the truth of the matter is this could also be the permanent division of Cyprus, if Denktash, his pseudo-government and Ankara take a hard stand and integrate the occupied part of the island into Turkey and stop any further negotiations. But that is where the United States can play a role in controlling Turkey basically by advising Turkey and the Turkish military that is in their best interest to see a united Cyprus, where the Turkish-Cypriots can play a role in the republic.”