American Hellenic Institute


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2000: New Year Message From AHI Founder Eugene T. Rossides
January 14, 2000 No. 01/2000 (202) 785-8430

2000: New Year Message From AHI Founder Eugene T. Rossides

Since its formation in 1974, the American Hellenic Institute has sought to articulate a consistent, firm, and clear message about U.S. interests in Southeastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean and their relation to U.S. values. This is that:

  • These interests are best served by applying the rule of law in international affairs in the same manner as we apply it in domestic affairs;
  • U.S. values and principles must remain paramount;
  • Aggression against Cyprus must not be allowed to stand just as Iraq's aggression against Turkey was reversed;
  • Any eventual Cyprus settlement should not reward aggression but be based on democratic norms and UN resolutions;
  • Greece is the pivotal nation for U.S. interests in the Southeast Europe and Eastern Mediterranean regions;
  • Cyprus is an important partner for U.S. strategic interests in the Eastern Mediterranean; and
  • Turkey should be treated in the same way as other countries and should not be the beneficiary of U.S. double standards on the rule of law and human rights.

At the risk of political unpopularity but with the steadfast support of our members, we have not deviated from this message. In 1999 our message finally brought some welcome advances:

  • Since its foundation, AHI has articulated a consistent theme that Greece is the pivotal state in Southeastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean for U.S. interests. The annual Greek American Policy Statements have regularly advocated the position that Greece is the key to regional peace, stability and prosperity and that the U.S. should cultivate a "special relationship" with Greece. Our consistent projection of this message in meetings with U.S. officials including Ambassador Nicholas Burns, and in Capitol Hill conferences on this theme, has resulted in increased official comments on Greece's importance to U.S. interests in the area. Ambassador Burns was thoroughly briefed by AHI in November 1997 on our positions, attended our conference on Greece and was our luncheon speaker. After arriving in Greece he articulated Greece's importance to the U.S. in the region, the first U.S. Ambassador to do so. He also influenced President Clinton's reference to Greece during his November 1999 visit as the "powerhouse of Southeast Europe;"
  • With regard to the Aegean, AHI's consistent position has been that the law is clear and that any unilateral territorial claims by third parties should be referred to the International Court of Justice at The Hague for binding arbitration. This position was adopted by the European Union Council at its meeting in Helsinki on December 10-11, 1999 and has subsequently been endorsed by the U.S.;
  • On Cyprus, our consistent message has been that U.S. interests are best served by a settlement based on the rule of law, resistance to aggression, and democratic norms. We welcome the EU decision at its Helsinki meeting to consider Cyprus' accession without making a resolution of the Cyprus problem a precondition. The effect of this decision is that Cyprus' accession will not be subject to blockage by a third party, specifically Turkey.
  • With regard to Turkey, AHI has argued that, while it has no quarrel with the Turkish people, the military-controlled government of Turkey suffers critical democratic and human rights deficiencies arising from its military-dominated constitution and have argued that, until these deficiencies were remedied, Turkey should not be regarded as a full member of the community of democratic states. We have argued against the application of a double standard in favor of Turkey. We are pleased to see increasingly frequent condemnations of Turkey's deficiencies and criticism of the U.S. appeasement and double standards for Turkey in Congressional statements, the media and reports by human rights organizations
  • A positive development which benefits both Greece and Cyprus was the EU position adopted at the Helsinki summit on December 10-11, 1999 which rejected U.S. pressure to give Turkey special dispensations for the EU accession process and required Turkey to meet the same criteria as other candidate countries. The EU decision on conditionality mirrors AHI's long-held position and is a positive development. The U.S. had no alternative but to endorse the EU decision.

AHI does not, of course, assert that its efforts alone were responsible for these advances. Many other factors have been involved and AHI takes this opportunity to pay tribute to the efforts of others, foremost the peoples of Greece and Cyprus whose positive and constructive spirit has done so much to promote regional progress, and the many Greek American organizations and the friends of the rule of law and American values in the Congress.

AHI would also like to congratulate U.S. Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns for his outstanding contributions to U.S.-Greece relations.

After battling so long against the forces of appeasement and double standards and suffering criticism for a lack of political correctness, AHI is proud to have played a part in these gratifying developments.

Much work remains to be done to ensure that these advances are fully consolidated and implemented. On Turkey, the Administration and its career officials in the State and Defense Departments and National Security Council have a track record of chronic unreliability and duplicity. For years, the Administration has preferred to appease Turkey and to turn a blind eye to Turkey's aggression and human rights abuses. We must remain alert to any Administration backsliding or pressure to grant Turkey special favors.

We will be particularly vigilant to monitor the readiness of Turkey to take meaningful steps to meet the EU conditions, especially regarding the Aegean and Cyprus.

We will continue to stress the responsibility of career officials for the Administration's failure to apply American values and principles and instead to follow undemocratic policies of appeasement and double standards toward Turkey. We will highlight their cover-up role.

As the Cyprus settlement negotiations unfold, we will monitor and resist any attempt to reward aggression or to undermine democratic norms and constitutional propriety. In 1999 the Administration continued its seven-year record of giving a high priority to Cyprus in terms of rhetoric but no substantive pressure on Turkey to take positive action. Indeed there are reports that the Administration is pressuring the Cyprus government to make concessions. We will not allow the Administration's rhetoric on Cyprus to obscure the need for real pressure on Turkey to negotiate in good faith. We will resist any attempts to force further concessions from the Cyprus government as contrary to U.S. interests and values.

The presidential and congressional elections in 2000 provide an important opportunity to project AHI positions. As in previous years, we will prepare a questionnaire for each candidate seeking his or her views on issues of concern to the Greek American community.

In 2000 AHI will be undertaking new efforts to promote an ever closer U.S. relationship with Greece and Cyprus as in the best interests of the U.S. Our November 1999 inaugural conferences in Athens and Nicosia were steps along that road.

The support of our members is the vital element in any success we have had. In 2000 we will redouble our efforts to reflect this. We will be looking at ways to create new opportunities for our members to benefit from the ever-broader interaction of our membership and from the deepening relationship with Greece and Cyprus. We thank our members for their loyal support and go forward in confidence that we can count on their continued support.

Eugene T. Rossides