Annual Cyprus Conference begins in Washington
Washington, Jun 16 -- The three-day 16th Annual Cyprus Conference of Greek-American and Cypriot-American leaders began on Wednesday in Washington.
The Conference is hosted by the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), the United Hellenic American Congress (UHAC) and the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH).
Today, some 100 delegates will be visiting the US Congress, where they will have the opportunity to meet with congresspersons and senators, who serve on committees and subcommittees and others who play a major role in the formulation of matters concerning US policy towards Cyprus, Greece and Turkey.
Tonight, a banquet will be given and tomorrow (Friday) the delegates will have the opportunity to meet with State Department and National Security Council officials.
The Conference began with a strategy session in view of developments in the Cyprus problem. Apart from the leaderships of PSEKA and SAE and the delegates, the meeting was attended by representatives of large organisations representing Hellenes abroad, the President and Vice-President of the Greek parliament's Joint Parliamentary Committee for Hellenes Abroad, Evgenios Haitides and Gregoris Niotis respectively, the Ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus in Washington, Georgios Savvaides and Euripides Evriviades, respectively, and others.
Addressing the gathering, PSEKA President Philip Christopher criticised the Bush administration's policy on the Cyprus problem and pointed out that the US could not promote freedom all over the world and leave Cyprus out.
A number of delegates requested the creation of an Hellenic Action Committee similar to the United Jewish Appeal, with a board of directors and a professional organising mechanism, which would gather funds and coordinate efforts.
''The proposal is to gather the amount of 3 million dollars in a year,'' Christopher pointed out, while two Hellenes abroad promised to contribute a total of 125,000 dollars to the fund.
Christopher said ''we must become more effective, because we have lost ground, due to the fact that the State Department communicates directly with Congress members and encourages them to travel to the Turkish occupied areas, assuring them that this is not illegal.''
He also noted that ''this year's Conference is different from the previous ones, because we are faced with a hostile front at the State Department,'' adding that ''our work is more difficult because we have to remind congresspersons and senators that the problem of Cyprus is one of invasion and occupation and not a problem of referenda.''
He added that ''for the first time three American congresspersons visited the Turkish occupied areas through an illegal point of entry'' and noted that the Turkish lobby was strong and Turkey's friends were increasing.