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June 2008

Fighting for Greece and Cyprus …on Capitol Hill!

A U.S. Helsinki Commission investigation into the destruction and desecration of Greek Orthodox churches in the occupied area of Cyprus -- committed to by the Commission’s Chairman, Congressman Alcee Hastings: An accelerated effort to end the military occupation of Cyprus -- committed to by individuals who are top candidates for Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense in an Obama, Clinton or McCain Administration, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin, and Chairman of a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee, Senator Joe Lieberman: Even-handed treatment of Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots and no American efforts to force a settlement on Greek-Cypriots during possible coming settlement talks -- committed to by the State Department’s second --highest ranking official, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte (of Hellenic descent) and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Dan Fried: Helping Turkey understand the value of ending its military occupation of Cyprus and of allowing the Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots to find a settlement on their own – committed to by the Founder and Co-Chair of the U.S. Congress’ Turkey Caucus and the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Europe Subcommittee, Congressman Robert Wexler: A recommitment to Cyprus, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Macedonian issue – pledged by the overwhelming majority of all the U.S. Senators and Members of Congress who are in charge of Congressional policies toward Hellenic and Orthodox issues were some of the results of the 24th Annual Cyprus, Hellenic and Orthodox Issues Conference, hosted by PSEKA and CEH in Washington DC end of May.

Meeting with 50 key U.S. Senators and Members of Congress and top Administration officials were the heads of or representatives from numerous Greek-American organizations as well as officials from Greece and Cyprus among them, Greece’s Minister of Economy and Finance George Alogoskoufis, Cyprus Government Spokesman Stefanos Stefanou, Greece’s Ambassador to the U.S. Alexandros Mallias, Cyprus Ambassador to the U.S. Andreas Kakouris, Chairman of the Hellenic Parliament’s Permanent Inter-Party Committee on Greeks Abroad, Nikolaos Tsiartsionis, Members of the Hellenic Parliament, Grigoris Niotis and Spyridon Georgiadis, Senior Political Advisor for PASOK President George Papandreou, Demetri Dollis, Cyprus Consul General of New York Andreas Panayiotou, as well as the Mayors of Occupied Kyrenia, Maria Ioannou, Occupied Morphou, Charalambous Pittas, and Occupied Akanthou, Savvas Savvides.

This year, besides the Greek-American Congressmen John Sarbanes, Zack Space, Gus Bilirakis and Shelley Berkley, three more congressional hopefuls addressed the meetings, Dina Titus (D-NV), Jane Mitakides (D-OH) and James Trakas (R-OH) and received special awards.

The Greek-American organizations represented included International Coordinating Committee--Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH), United Hellenic American Congress (UHAC), Cyprus Federation of America, Pancyprian Association of America, World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), USA, AHEPA; The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Archdiocesan Council, American Hellenic Council of California, Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), Pan-Macedonian Association, Inc. USA, Greek-American Chamber of Commerce, Pancyprian Association of Florida, Pancyprian Association of Texas, Cyprus Society of Greater Philadelphia, Michigan Democratic Party Greek Caucus and the Pontian Greek Society of Chicago. The international organizations represented included PSEKA Canada, National Federation of Cypriots in Great Britain and Lobby for Cyprus (London).

"We are thrilled that this year we have a very strong representation from the occupied municipalities of Cyprus," said Philip Christopher, President of PSEKA. "Every year it becomes more and more important to maintain a strong foothold on Capitol Hill and push on the Cyprus issue. Having an international presence at the conference makes a strong impact on our representatives and administration officials."

PSEKA’s mission remains the pursuit of a just and viable solution to the Cyprus Problem, which will see the island’s people free from the tyranny of an invading force - that of the Turkish Armed Forces - which occupies over 35% of its territory.

“We will never forget, we will never cease. Our mission is to see Cyprus free of occupying forces. This is a fate its people, both Greek and Turkish, deserve,” concluded Christopher, himself a refugee from the occupied city of Kyreneia.

“Just imagine where we would have been, hadn’t these people done all this effort for so many years,” said Nikolaos Tsiartsionis, Chairman of the Hellenic Parliament’s Permanent Inter-Party Committee on Greeks Abroad. “This is tremendous work for which we feel grateful to them.”

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