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AHI President’s Op-ed on Secretary Clinton’s Visit to Greece, Turkey
August 10, 2011—No. 59 (202) 785-8430

AHI President’s Op-ed on Secretary Clinton’s Visit to Greece, Turkey

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) released an op-ed written by AHI President Nick Larigakis that evaluated Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s July visit to Turkey and Greece. A number of Greek American publications published the op-ed in July and August 2011.

AHI President Larigakis wrote “Secretary Clinton’s Visit to Turkey and Greece: How Did She Do?” on July 22, 2011. Larigakis reviews Secretary Clinton’s meetings in Turkey and Greece and examines her public statements on issues pertaining to Cyprus and the U.S.-Greece relationship and cites issues on which she was silent. He concludes Secretary Clinton’s visit presented a mixed bag of results—some positives, some disappointments, and a little in-between.

The op-ed (below) received placement in the following publications: The National Herald (Aug. 6-12), The Hellenic Voice (July 27), and The Greek Star (Aug. 4).


Secretary Clinton’s Visit to Turkey and Greece: How Did She Do?

July 22, 2011

Nick Larigakis

President, American Hellenic Institute

Last week (July 15-18) U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Turkey and Greece. While in both countries, the secretary had an opportunity to engage her hosts on a number of bilateral issues with the United States.

Of course, the visit also provided an opportunity for our top diplomat to send some messages to both countries. How did she do? As one would expect, there were positive moments, some disappointments, and a little in between.

Prior to her departure, I sent Secretary Clinton a letter addressing a number of core issues of concern to the Greek American community and asked her to consider raising these issues with the Turkish government. The issues, as we all know them, are Cyprus, the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Aegean. Regarding the Patriarchate, I also suggested that she visit His All Holiness at the Phanar. In reference to Greece, I recounted that the continuing hardline intransigent position by the leadership in FYROM is what has prevented a solution to the name dispute.

In addition, I reminded Secretary Clinton of the very important role Greece has played—and continues to play—in support of the projection of U.S. security interests in southeast Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. Today, Greece continues to be of vital importance in the region by virtue of its geographic location and for being home to the most important naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, NSA Souda Bay, Crete. There are numerous annual visits by U.S. military ships and planes to Souda Bay and its adjacent air base. It has been critical to the delivery of U.S. troops, cargo, and supplies to Afghanistan, and most recently, NATO operations in Libya. It was also very important during the two Gulf War campaigns.

A significant development of the trip to Turkey was her meeting with His All Holiness Bartholomew I at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This was important because it sends a message to Turkey that the United States is committed to the issue of religious freedom and it underscores her support for the concerns of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Secretary Clinton also lit a candle at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George and in her public remarks with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglou, she said, “And of course, I hope that sometime soon we can see the reopening of the Halki Seminary that highlights Turkey’s strength of democracy and its leadership in a changing region.”

However, at this same news conference, she went on to define the U.S. –Turkey relationship by saying, “Today, we can say with confidence that our bonds are sound, our friendship is sure, and our alliance is strong. Our partnership is rooted in our long history and very long list of mutual interests, but most importantly, it is rooted on our common democratic values.” How so I wonder?

The reference to the reopening of Halki is important; however, a more forthright statement that urged the immediate reopening would have been preferable. Furthermore, her reference to Turkey’s “strength of democracy” is puzzling because she cited “concerns about restrictions” on “freedom of expression (relating specifically to the media) and religion.” She also called on Turkey to “bolster protections for minority rights.”

She was silent on the Aegean, and on Cyprus she reiterated the standard State Department position about “…we want to see a bi-zonal bi-communal federation…” She also stated the United States had supported the 2004 “referendum” [Annan Plan] and that “we were disappointed by the outcome because we thought that that would have resolved a lot of the issues that are still being very difficult to overcome.” She continued, “We don’t think the status quo on Cyprus benefits anyone. It’s gone on for too long. We believe both sides would benefit from a settlement, and we strongly support the renewed, reenergized efforts that the United Nations is leading and the Cypriots themselves are responsible for, because ultimately, they’re the ones who have to make the hard decisions about how to resolve all of the outstanding issues,”

The secretary further said, “…and we would like to see it as soon as possible. We would like to see it by 2012. And that is something that the UN has said. That’s something I know Turkey believes. It’s something we believe. And we’re going to do everything we can to support this process and finally try to see a resolution.”

Secretary Clinton’s remarks about Cyprus gave me reason to pause for a moment; especially her reference to 2012 and what Turkey believes would be an appropriate time for a resolution. If she’s kowtowing to Turkey’s objection of Cyprus assuming the EU rotating presidency in the second half of 2012 before a Cyprus settlement, then this is simply not acceptable. There cannot be artificial deadlines placed on resolving the Cyprus issue just to appease Turkey or any third party. If the Cypriots “themselves are to be responsible,” then the best way the United States can help them is by creating an equal playing field for the negotiations to work. That cannot happen until the U.S. sends a strong message to Turkey to stop manipulating the negotiations. Additionally, we should tell them to immediately remove their illegal occupation troops and settlers, and to the return the closed city of Famagusta. And make it known that if they don’t, there will be consequences!

Further, her assertion that the Annan Plan “would have resolved a lot of the issues” is simply flawed. This British led plan that the Bush Administration was ill-advised to support, failed because it was undemocratic, unworkable, and it failed to fully demilitarize Cyprus. In addition, it violated key UN resolutions and the EU’s democratic norms and acquis communautaire. Since its failure, numerous State Department officials have told us that it is no longer an option for the resolution to the Cyprus problem. I certainly hope that Secretary Clinton is not advocating a flawed plan, similar to the Anan Plan!

And if the U.S. or anyone else is kidding itself as to how Turkey impedes a just and viable solution on Cyprus, then all one needs to do is read the comments by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan who traveled to the occupied area of Cyprus right after Secretary Clinton left Turkey.

Although there had been rumors that Prime Minister Erdogan might make some surprise concessionary proposal during his visit his comments were more provocative than ever.

“We will not accept the EU presidency of South Cyprus, whom we do not recognize…We even consider it degrading to sit at the same table with the Greek Cypriot administration…If they don’t conclude this issue in 2012, we will go our own way.”

He added, “We have made enough positive gestures on Cyprus. We are not about to make concessions and no one should expect them.”

So I ask who is doing the negotiating here?

Upon his arrival to the occupied area it was reported that he further stated that no progress toward a solution was possible unless the principle of two founding states was accepted.

“There is no such state as Cyprus. There is southern Cyprus and there is the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” he said.

This contradicts the basic position for the basis of the negotiations.

Upon her return to Washington, Secretary Clinton should send a very strong message to Ankara over these irresponsible comments. After all, if we can’t feel secure and confident to express in strong terms to an ally and a fellow NATO member with whom “… our bonds are sound, our friendship is sure, and our alliance is strong,” and, “Our partnership is rooted in our long history and very long list of mutual interests, but most importantly, it is rooted on our common democratic values,” then to whom can we say it?

In Greece, Secretary Clinton said mostly the right things.

She emphasized Washington’s strong support for the “Papandreou government’s determination to make the necessary reforms to put Greece back on sound financial footing, and to make Greece more competitive economically” while acknowledging these are “not easy decisions.”

She said, “We know that we are your friend and we are your ally and we are proud to be both. We stand by the people and Government of Greece as you put your country back on the path to economic stability.”

The secretary thanked Greece for her “partnership on a shared agenda that spans the globe” and about the “full range of issues that form the core of our enduring alliance.”

“Our diplomatic and military efforts are gaining momentum, and we are grateful for Greece’s engagement and support, especially [Greece’s] willingness to host coalition assets at Souda Bay and other sites close to Libya.”

She also thanked Greek efforts to stop a flotilla that was attempting to “sail directly to Gaza.”

Finally, Secretary Clinton said, “Greece and the United States are bound together by far more than our shared challenges. We are bound together by shared values. In fact, we are grateful for Greece’s contributions to those values and their enduring legacy…Greece has inspired the world before, and I have every confidence that you are doing so again.”

In response to a question on FYROM, Secretary Clinton did not come out and support the Greece position even though Greece has made a major compromise by proposing a compound name. This not a surprise. However, she did say that “Skopje needs to know that it will not be able to move forward on its European integration until it does resolve this.” She also said that “Obviously, Greece has to be willing to accept how the name is resolved.” Once again, FYROM, and not Greece, is the provocative and intransigent party in this process. She should have been willing to state this publicly.

Overall, if I were to provide Secretary Clinton with a grade for her visit to Greece and Turkey, I would give her a “C.” I felt she did exceptionally well at the Ecumenical Patriarchate and with her statements about Greece in the context of U.S. values and interests. Unfortunately, I believe she scored poorly when it came to speaking publically about Cyprus, FYROM, and Turkey in the context of U.S. values and interests, and she failed to raise the Aegean issue.


Nick Larigakis is President of the American Hellenic Institute

To read these and all op-eds written by AHI, please visit

The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.


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