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Annual Cyprus & Hellenic Issues Conference Scores High in Washington, DC
During NBA playoffs, this past June Cypriots and other Hellenes scored a three pointer at the 33rd Annual PSEKA/Hellenic issues conference held in Washington DC: President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus and members of his government met with US officials, including Vice President Pence and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus; Conference leaders and participants met with a host of Congressmen and Senators; Hellenic American Leadership Council executives lobbied congressional staff. In spite of the relentless passing of time and repeated disappointments, the 100 or so delegates chose to hope and act on that hope! The primary focus of the conference was to help American policymakers see through Turkish-Cypriot settlement negotiators and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ultimate factor determining the success or failure of efforts for a Cyprus settlement.
The conference was hosted by the International Coordinating Committee — Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH), the Federation of Cypriot American Organizations (FCAO), the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and the Cyprus US Chamber of Commerce.
Among the many highlights — in addition to the presence of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulidis, Cyprus Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, Cyprus Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides, Chairman of the Cyprus House Standing Committee on Financial and Budgetary Affairs Averof Neofytou and His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios — was the willingness of President Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to take time away from his inundated schedule to accept the 2017 George Paraskevaides Award and spend time with conference participants over dinner at the Willard InterContinental Hotel. This award was presented by last year’s recipient, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA).
Honored at the conference gala along with Priebus and Cyprus President Anastasiades, was the first female president of American University and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who received the Athens/Livanos Award. In addition, Chief Executive Officer of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) David Harris spoke about the deep and enduring bonds between the people of Cyprus and the Jewish community.
The opening day of the conference featured a panel with Cyprus Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides, Ambassador of Cyprus to the US Leonidas Pantelides and Ambassador of Greece to the US Haris Lalacos. A second panel featured US Ambassador to Cyprus Kathleen Doherty and Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Jonathan Cohen followed by remarks from AJC Director of Government and International Affairs Jason Isaacson. That evening, Cyprus Ambassador Leonidas Pantelides hosted a welcoming reception at his residence on Embassy Row.
The second day of the conference featured meetings with key Members of Congress and Senators on Capitol Hill. Several were honored for their efforts for Cyprus, Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. They included:
▪ Senate Foreign Relations Committee Member, Senator Cory Booker
▪ Senate Foreign Relations Committee Member, Senator Tim Kaine
▪ Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Senator Chris Van Hollen
▪ Co-Chairman of the Hellenic Caucus and CHIA (the Congressional Hellenic Israeli Alliance), Congressman Gus Bilirakis
▪ The second-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Brad Sherman
Others who attended included: the Ranking Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Ben Cardin, the Ranking Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Jack Reed, the former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator Bob Menendez, the Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Nita Lowey and the Co-Chair of the Hellenic Caucus, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
The final day of the conference concluded with a White House briefing led by Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Liaison George Sifakis. The was preceded by a briefing from Cyprus Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulidis and the presentation of the Konalis-Kontou Award to Fred Turner, Chief of Staff to Senator Bob Menendez.