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AHI Executive Director Works to Strengthen Ties with Greece, Cyprus
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
December 28, 2009—No. 90
(202) 785-8430

AHI Executive Director Works to Strengthen Ties with Greece, Cyprus

Annual Year-end Trip Abroad Features Meetings with American Envoys

WASHINGTON, DC—Strengthening ties between the Greek American community and Greece and Cyprus in new and familiar sectors such as government, commerce, and the military was the goal of American Hellenic Institute (AHI) Executive Director Nick Larigakis, who embarked on his annual year-end trip to Greece and Cyprus, Nov. 26 to Dec. 7, 2009.

“Annually, I plan this year-end trip to Greece and Cyprus, on behalf of AHI, to discuss our organization’s goals and to focus on exploring new areas of mutual cooperation and development that will serve to strengthen ties between Greek America and Greece and Cyprus,” said Larigakis, who met with more than 40 government officials, business leaders, military leaders and academics during his visit to both countries.

Amb. Urbancic Meeting Highlights Cyprus Visitation

Executive Director Larigakis visited Cyprus November 26 and 27. A morning meeting with American Ambassador to Cyprus Frank Urbancic at the embassy on November 27 highlighted the visit.  Other meetings of note in the political sector included:

  • Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Nicholas Emiliou,
  • Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Press and Information Division Androula Lanitis,
  • Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Averof Neophytou,
  • Senior Press and Information officer Miltos Miltiadou, and
  • Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis.

In addition, multiple meetings were held with leading Cypriot businessmen, including one at the residence of Ambassador Urbancic on the afternoon of November 27. The meeting explored ways to facilitate stronger U.S.-Cyprus business relations and investment.

“This is a welcomed initiative and I look forward to seeing how it progresses,” said Larigakis.

Amb. Speckhard: Good Engagement with Papandreou Administration

AHI in cooperation with the AHI Athens Chapter and The American College of Greece—DEREE hosted a presentation by American Ambassador to Greece Daniel V. Speckhard and a reception at the Grande Bretagne Hotel on Dec. 7, 2009. The event culminated Larigakis’ visit to Greece, which began November 28.

Ambassador Speckhard spoke on a variety of issues affecting U.S.-Greece relations. He noted that there is “good engagement” with the new Papandreou Administration on global issues and a series of productive meetings has been held with key interlocutors. For its part, the United States will work to revitalize multilateral institutions, for example OSCE and NATO, said the ambassador. He added that many challenges exist that will require continued cooperation on a bilateral and multilateral basis. Amb. Speckhard noted Greece’s contributions in Afghanistan and U.S.-Greece cooperation to meet the challenges of the environment and climate change, fighting terrorism, managing migration, and combating human trafficking.

Greece Can Play Key Role in Regional Security Issues

Moreover, the ambassador spoke on the importance of stability in the Balkans and the considerable influence Greece has in the region through strong diplomatic ties, foreign investment, and trade. He also noted U.S. support for a resolution on the Macedonian name issue under UN auspices, the U.S.’ encouragement that the positive momentum generated by statements issued by Prime Minister Papandreou and Prime Minister Erdogan will lead to reduced tensions in the Aegean, and U.S. appreciation for Greece’s support of a near-term resolution to the Cyprus issue.

Finally, Ambassador Speckhard commented on the importance of building a foundation for further exchange and collaboration between the U.S. and Greece, for example, in areas of student and cultural exchanges. The ambassador concluded that a “historic opportunity to dramatically improve US-Greek relations” exists with the pending inclusion of Greece into the United States’ Visa Waiver Program. The presentation was followed by questions from the audience.

AHI thanks the following sponsors for their support of this event at which more than 120 persons attended: Major Benefactors: ALAPIS, Ted G. Spyropoulos, President T.G.S. Petroleum Co., Chicago, IL, and Sponsors: Motor Oil (HELLAS), Greek America Magazine, New York College Euro-American Education, Athanasios Sipsas, Athens, G.C. Economou & Associates, Athens, and KAPOTAS S.A., Patra.

Larigakis Personally Congratulates PM Papandreou; Meets Top Military Leaders at Greek Pentagon

Executive Director Larigakis held brief discussions with Prime Minister George Papandreou and Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitri Droutsas on the sidelines of the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce dinner held November 30. Larigakis congratulated the prime minister on his recent election and offered support on behalf of the Greek American community.

Larigakis’ schedule also included a visit to the Greek Pentagon to meet with Greece’s top military brass. The agenda of meetings included:

  • Lt. General Fragoulis Fragos, chief, Hellenic Army General Staff,
  • Lt. General Vaseilios Klokozas, chief, Hellenic Air Force General Staff,
  • Lt. General Dimitrios Lyberis, deputy chief, Hellenic Army General Staff,
  • Vice Admiral Dimitrios Elefsiniotis, A’ deputy chief, Hellenic Navy General Staff,
  • Commodore Vaseilios Kyriazis, director A’ Hellenic Navy General Staff, and
  • BGEN Ilias A. Leontaris, director, Hellenic Army General Staff, Doctrine Directorate.

Additional meetings in Athens were held with the directors of the Foreign Ministry divisions of the United States, Cyprus, Turkey and Southeast Europe; and with representatives from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture & Tourism, Hellenic Parliament, and New Democracy Party.

Moreover, AHI’s executive director was received by American Ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard at the U.S. Embassy. Former Greek Ambassador to the U.S. Alexandros Mallias and his former Washington, DC colleague, DCM Karolos Gadis, also met with Larigakis.

Finally, Larigakis concluded a week of meetings with leaders from the private sector, including representatives from Coca-Cola and Lockheed Martin, among others.

Larigakis Attends Opening of New Think-Tank

By personal invitation of Dr. Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, principal, ALAPIS and Lavrentiadis Group of Companies, Executive Director Larigakis attended a panel seminar to present the newly-created Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Lavrentis Lavrentiadis Chair in Southeast European Studies on December 7 at the Hotel Arion, Astir Palace Resort.

“It was an honor to be invited by Dr. Lavrentiadis to attend this important event,” said Larigakis.  “Dr. Lavrentiadis’ demonstrated a commitment to create a chair in Southeast European Studies at CSIS is to be commended. It fills a critical void that we’ve been lacking in Washington within the Think-Tank community. It is an excellent example that he has set forth that will hopefully encourage other fellow Hellenes to follow.”

For photos of the annual Greece and Cyprus trip, click here.

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For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at pr@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.