Chicago, IL.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
No solution in Cyprus is possible without the concrete contribution of Turkey and regrettably, Turkey, beyond mere rhetoric, has yet to undertake practical steps, President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades has stressed.
Addressing on Monday the American Jewish Committee Annual Board meeting in Chicago, the Cypriot President said that Cyprus, belonging in a region where peace and stability are most expensive commodities, is exerting intense efforts to find a solution to the forty-one year old Cyprus problem.
Endy Zemenides, Hellenic American Leadership Council’s (HALC) Executive Director was honored during the event, for his contribution in bringing the Greek American and the Jewish American Communities together.
“With the new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community we share a common vision to reunify our country and its people in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions, High Level Agreements and the Joint Declaration of 11 February 2014”, he added.
Referring to Turkey, the President said that it has yet to undertake practical steps.
“Let me be clear: no solution is possible without the concrete contribution of Turkey. Regrettably, Turkey, beyond mere rhetoric, has yet to undertake practical steps”, he stressed, adding that “we are counting on our friends and allies, including the AJC and the US Government to convey in the strongest terms this message to Turkey”.
Referring to the Cyprus – Israel relations, he said that “over the last years we have been writing a new and bold chapter in the history of our relations with Israel”.
“The exchange of high level meetings, most recently in June by myself in Israel and in July by Prime Minister Netanyahu in Cyprus, is merely the tip of the iceberg”, he said, adding that
“we are two countries in a turbulent yet important neighborhood that faces many common challenges. For Israel, Cyprus is a stable, predictable and reliable partner and vice-versa”.
He pointed out that the discovery of hydrocarbons has created impetus in their bilateral relationship and has undoubtedly opened new horizons both in the bilateral and regional cooperation.
“This translates into much needed energy security, diversification, and exports for both countries”, he said.
The Cypriot President underlined that the strategic importance of energy cooperation between Cyprus and Israel is also of particular importance to the United States and Europe, mainly in offering an alternative energy corridor route for the EU.
At the same time, he said, we believe that the huge recent discovery of the Zohr natural gas field in the exclusive economic zone of Egypt enhances the prospects for further synergies in the region.
“Energy can serve as a catalyst for stability and co-operation in our volatile region” he underscored.
Referring to the Middle East Peace Process, he said “ we hope that the ultimate goal of peace, through a mutually agreed two state solution, will be the basis for a more stable and secure future”.
The Cypriot President noted that Cyprus enjoys the trust of both sides, and is ready to facilitate their efforts in every possible way.
He referred to his proposal to the President of the European Council to invite separately both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to a Summit of the European Council to present their own point of view and vision.
In addition, he said that recently, following “my personal initiative and a series of coordinated actions so as to gain the support of a number of EU member-states that share the view that the EU should undertake a more proactive role in the region, the President of the European Council, Mr. Donald Tusk, visited Israel and Palestine”.
Chicago’s AJC President Harry Seigle praised the Cypriot President for his leadership in the area. He also praised the Cypriot American Community of Chicago and Endy Zemenides. Short remarks were introduced by the Israeli Consul General Roey Gilad.
Accepting the award, HALC’s executive director Endy Zemenides said:
When I learned that I was receiving this award, I was truly left speechless. Since then, I’ve been searching for the right words to let you know what a great honor it is for me to be recognized by the AJC and in the same breath as Larry Adelman. I thought a lot about Larry, and especially about our first meeting when he told me about dealing with antisemitism early on in his life and how that led him to a lifetime of advocacy.
Then I came across a picture on the internet. In this picture, there is a huge crowd of people giving a Nazi salute. But in the middle of the crowd, there is one defiant man, sitting there with his arms crossed and a look of disdain on his face. There is a red circle around this man, and the caption below gave me the words I was looking for: “BE THAT GUY.”
Thus, I found the right words. Larry was THAT GUY. AJC stands for THAT GUY. HALC wants to be THAT GUY. My parents raised me to be THAT GUY – I’m sure they wish I was little more diplomatic about it. Incidentally, Allan said that this award has something to do with diplomacy. Are you sure that doesn’t disqualify me?
Being THAT GUY is what the relationships on display today are all about – the relationship between Cyprus and Israel, between the Greek and Jewish diasporas, and most importantly between HALC and the AJC. Being THAT GUY means more than us joining you and advocating on behalf of Israel or against antisemitism and a nuclear Iran. It means more than you joining us and advocating for justice of Cyprus or for assistance for Greece. This team is at its best when we display our values on behalf of others. We are THAT GUY when we adv
ocate together for immigration reform. We are THAT GUY when we speak up for religious minorities targeted by ISIS. We are THAT GUY when we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Selma – recalling that both our communities were on the front lines with Dr. King.
To receive this award in the presence of President Anastasiades is a particular honor for me. He could have come here today with a message of bitterness, anger or despair after 41 years of Turkish occupation. Instead he comes to us with a message of hope. Against all odds, he is working to reunify Cyprus and ALL Cypriots. He has brought Cyprus and Israel, Cyprus and the AJC, closer together than anyone before him. President Anastasiades is also THAT GUY, and we have to support him.
I want to close by reading a passag
“It is no hard thing for a man raised under the laws of Lykurgus to offer up his life for his country. For me and for these Spartans, all of whom have living sons, and who have known since boyhood that this was the end they were called to, it is an act of completion before the gods.”e from one of my favorite books, The Gates of Fire, a novel about the Battle of Thermopylae. As the legendary Spartans and their allies prepared for what they knew was going to be their final battle, the Spartan captain Polynikes stepped forward:
He turned solemnly toward the Thespians and the freed squires and helots.
“But for you, brothers and friends … for you who will this day see all extinguished forever . . .”
The runner’s voice cracked and broke. For long moments he could not summon speech. He motioned for his shield; it was passed to him. He displayed it aloft. “This aspis was my father’s and his father’s before him. I have sworn before God to die before another man took this from my hand.”
He crossed to the ranks of the Thespians, to a man, an obscure warrior among them. Into the fellow’s grasp he placed the shield. The man accepted it, moved profoundly, and presented his own to Polynikes. Another followed, and another, until twenty, thirty shields had traded hands. Others exchanged armor and helmets with the freed squires and helots. The black cloaks of the Thespians and the scarlet of the Spartans intermingled until all distinction between the nations had been effaced.
The world has become a more dangerous place in the last year, but AJC continues to fight and to be THAT GUY. Know that in that fight, you will always have MY shield and the shields of HALC. I’ll let the President speak for himself, but I am confident you are about to hear that you have Cyprus’ shield as well. I have a long way to go to truly deserve an award with Larry’s name on it, but I will make you proud trying.