Washington, D.C.- Senator George Allen (R-VA), the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s European Affairs Subcommittee, and possible candidate for President of the United States, has become a preeminent leader in the U.S. Senate for Hellenic and Orthodox issues. Some recent examples include his leading criticism of the Annan Plan for Cyprus, the effort to stop Turkey’s pending elimination of the 2,000 year-old Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the effort to promote Greece’s role as a regional leader.
Senator Allen secured a majority of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate on the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Cyprus issue – his European Affairs Subcommittee – to encourage their Republican administration to develop a new settlement proposal, instead of the Annan plan. They asked, in June of 2005, for one which reflects our own democratic principles and ideals and would be acceptable to western democracies, including the United States. Allen’s subcommittee was the only American government entity to criticize Annan and justify the Greek-Cypriot vote against Annan.
For these and other efforts, Senator Allen was honored before over 100 Hellenic leaders from across the U.S. and around the world at the 16th Annual Cyprus Conference in Washington, D.C. on June 16, 2005. His award contained an actual piece of the barbed wire that divides Cyprus.
Senator Allen is now leading an historic effort to prevent the elimination of the 2,000-year-old head of the world’s second largest Christian church (Orthodox) – the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey. His letter to the President about this matter, also originally signed by the European Affairs Subcommittee Ranking Democrat, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), and the Greek Orthodox Senators, Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), has secured the signatures of more Senators (46) than 98% of such letters. Senator Allen’s letter moves this religious crisis of historic magnitude higher on our foreign policy agenda.
This letter tells the President that, “only stronger American and European Union support for the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate can prevent a religious tragedy of historic magnitude. Seventy-five percent of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s properties have already been confiscated by the Turkish government. Beyond this, the Patriarchate’s dissolution in the coming decades is essentially inevitable if Turkey continues its policy of prohibiting all 250 million non-Turkish Orthodox Christians from becoming Ecumenical Patriarch. Turkey itself only has 2,500 remaining Orthodox Christians and they are a mostly elderly community.”
Senator Allen also took the opportunity of the confirmation hearings of U.S. Ambassador to Turkey-designate Ross Wilson on November 9, 2005, to focus America on this crisis facing the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Senator Allen, who chaired the hearing, chose this Orthodox catastrophe as the subject of the only question that he asked. Ambassador Wilson indicated that he planned to conduct himself in Turkey in a way that would make clear to the government of Turkey the American government’s deep concern about the treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He indicated that he would also do what he could to have US Senators and Members of Congress visiting Turkish government officials also make clear America’s desires on this matter.
Chairman Allen recently welcomed, on behalf of the U.S. Senate, the Ambassador of Greece to the United States, Alexandros Mallias, to a briefing of Washington policymakers in the U.S. Capitol building. This June 15, 2006 briefing helped promote the important role that Greece is playing in the Balkans.
On all Hellenic and Orthodox matters, Senator Allen consults with Virginia State Senator Nick Rerras.