Bush administration officials spoke at the PSEKA conference. Holbrooke criticized Bush for not pressuring Turkey
by Apostolis Zoupaniotis
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman promised the representatives of PSEKA Conference that the United States is going to keep pushing for a just and durable Cyprus settlement on the basis of the Annan plan, one that allows all Cypriots to live in peace and enjoy the benefits of EU membership. But former Clinton envoy for Cyprus and permanent representative at the UN Richard Holbrooke criticized the Bush administration for not putting enough pressure on Turkey and for cutting the position of presidential emissary.
Over 100 of the most politically active Greek-Americans from across the country and Hellenes from around the world met in Washington, D.C. for three days last week, for the 14th PSEKA (International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus) Conference.
Participants met with over 30 key U.S. senators and members of Congress who serve on the pertinent committees and subcommittees and others who play a major role in the formulation of U.S. policy toward and aid for Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. Participants also met with high-level administration officials who cover these issues, including Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman and National Security Council Advisors Fried and Briza.
Among the Greek and Cypriot officials who spoke at the conference were Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou, Greek Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General for Hellenes Abroad Demetris Dollis, Chairman for Interparliamentary Committee for Hellenes Abroad Gregoris Niotis, Ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus in Washington, D.C., George Savvaides and Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis.
Speaking at the conference, PSEKA’s President Philip Christopher said that our community should keep pressing the administration and the Congress at this crucial moment for Cyprus.
“For 30 years, with our coming to Washington lobbying for Cyprus and our struggle, we have kept the Cyprus problem at the forefront.
“The Cyprus problem has not been solved, but,” Mr. Christopher told the representatives of the conference, “for the first time after Cyprus’accession to the EU, we see light at the end of the tunnel. We have promises to keep. And we will keep up this fight until Cyprus is reunited,” he said.
The need for the Greek-American community to unify its efforts was stressed by the president of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), Andrew A. Athens.
“It is not over yet, let’s keep the struggle on,” he said, speaking extensively about the role of SAE to unite Hellenes all around the globe, especially the underprivileged ones in the former Soviet Republics, where many clinics and other medical centers were built by SAE, to cover the medical needs of Greeks living in those countries, along with every other people.
Andy Manatos of the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes; Peter Papanicolaou, president of the Cyprus Federation of America; and Chris Tomaras, vice president of SAE, also spoke at the conference.
During the conference some individuals were honored by PSEKA for their contribution to the struggle for liberating Cyprus. Among these were Undersecretary Marc Grossman, former presidential envoy Richard Holbrooke, Foreign Minister George Iacovou, Ambassador Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, U.S. Ambassador in Athens Thomas Miller, Democratic Leader at the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (who received the George Paraskevaides Award from Nicos Mavronicolas) and N.Y. Congresswoman Nita Lowey.
Failing to reach a settlement in Cyprus would be disastrous to stability in the Eastern Mediterranean basin and could create problems between two NATO allies, Greece and Turkey, said Florida’s U.S. Representative Iliana Lehtinen-Ross.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi disagreed with cutting by fifty percent the $15 million dollars in U.S. aid to Cyprus and promised to restore it.
Hellenic Caucus co-chairperson Carolyn Maloney informed participants that with 108 members, the caucus is the largest in Congress.
Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkeley, whose grandmother was a Greek Jew from Salonika, called on the participants to keep coming to Washington and lobbying the Congress and the Administration on Cyprus’ behalf.
Critical of Denktash’s obstructionism was the U.S. representative from Queens, N.Y., Joseph Crowley, who saluted Cyprus accession to the EU, a step that will help both communities on the island.
New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne said he was frustrated by the lack of progress in Cyprus.
“The U.S. administration should keep the pressure on Turkey,” he said.
The high-ranking Democratic member of the House Appropriation Committee, David Obey, expressed his disappointment for the latest missed opportunity.
“I doubt that we will be able to find another one in the near future,” he said.
Michael Bilirakis, Greek-American congressman from Florida and co-chairman of the Hellenic Caucus, hailed the accession of Cyprus to the EU and expressed his satisfaction that Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots were being allowed to cross the Green Line on the island. But he cautioned members not to rest and to keep the fight on.
New Jersey Representative Robert Menendez said that the EU cannot permit the existence of an occupying territory on European soil. Expressing his doubts for parts of the Annan plan, he explained that no Cypriot can be a second-class citizen in his own country, and he promised to keep on struggling for this just cause, until the last boot of the last Turkish soldier leaves the island of Cyprus.
Greek-American Senator Paul Sarbanes characterized EU accession as the most positive development related to the Cyprus problem and praised the Greek-American leadership for the role it played. He also praised the Greek-Cypriot leadership and the Greek government.
“Perseverance, skill and very careful diplomacy kept Cyprus on track,” Senator Sarbanes said.
Former U.S. presidential emissary on Cyprus Richard Holbrooke blamed the lack of progress on Denktash, calling him “intransigent” and “unmovable,” but he was also critical of the Bush administration for not putting enough pressure on Turkey.
“They are not doing it because they don’t want to overload their relationship with Turkey. All of us understand how important Turkey is strategically. But I simply don’t buy the theory that we are going to upset them if we will to solve Cyprus. On the contrary, he said, “solving the Cyprus problem will be good for Turkey, it will stabilize the region, and it will serve the American security interests for solving the longer existing current problem in Europe.”
Holbrooke was also critical of the Bush administration for cutting the position of the presidential emissary for Cyprus.
“President Clinton created a presidential emissary for Cyprus and for two and a half years I did the job Richard Beatty did before me, Alfred Moses after me. On the first day of this administration, they abolished the special negotiator, the presidential envoy; and they left it in the hands of a State Department official who has no clout, no influence, which essentially turned it back over to the UN and the DeSoto plan.”
Holbrooke also explained that it is very difficult for Denktash to move, even if the U.S. put enough pressure on the Turkish general staff, which won’t put pressure on Denktash and Denktash is very hard to be pressured.”
Marc Grossman expressed hope that a unified Cyprus will enter the European Union in May 2004, noting that “the signatures on April 16, 2003 of the EU Accession Treaty are a great accomplishment for the people of Cyprus, for Greek-Americans, for people who may be interested in this subject, for Greece and for the United States of America.”
“We continue to believe and continue to support Cyprus’ EU accession because it is right for Cyprus, its is right for Turkey, it is right for Greece, it is right for Europe and it is right for the United States of America; and even on top of that, this accession, I believe, can continue to be an incentive to reaching a comprehensive settlement,” Grossman added.
He said he was immensely impressed by the huge demonstrations in the northern part of Cyprus in favor not just of a settlement, but of joining Europe and of being a part of the EU, and underscored “it is too bad that Mr. Denktash, the Turkish-Cypriot leader, did not allow [UN] Secretary-General Annan’s plan to be judged by the people who deserve to judge it, by the people on the north.”
“It was a huge missed opportunity, but one thing that you will know about diplomats is that we are optimistic and we do not lose hope on this issue and we continue to support the UN secretary-general’s initiative. We continue to believe that this plan offers a unique basis for a settlement; and we hope all sides, and certainly both sides on the island, keep focus on these opportunities because it is a united Cyprus that could, and I say should, join the EU on May 1, 2004,” Grossman added.
Invited to comment on whether the U.S. government believes that the Annan plan requires modification, Grossman said that the plan is “fair, good and one we will be able to move forward with,” and, he added, “We are not in the position to dictate; if people want changes, let them make changes. I think what you buy is more delays and more negotiation and more of an inability to come to agreement.”