11 January, 2007
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns on Tuesday reaffirmed America’s support for the United Nations' intermediary efforts regarding the FYROM “name issue” and on the future status of Kosovo, while he also expressed hope that substantial progress would be made this year towards a solution of the Cyprus issue, in statements he made during a visit to the Jewish Museum of Athens’ exhibition "Hidden Children in Occupied Greece".
The exhibition is currently being hosted at the Greek embassy in Washington.
In a statement prompted by the FYROM cabinet's recent decision to rename Skopje's Petrovec airport as "Alexander the Great Airport", Burns said Washington supported the UN and Amb. Matthew Nimetz's -- the UN's special envoy for the FYROM name issue -- efforts for a just solution to the issue, while he added that Washington was in contact with both governments.
"We just support the efforts of amb. Nimetz and of the UN for a fair resolution of this issue. We put our trust and faith in him and of course we are in touch with both governments and trust that both governments can work out this very difficult issue. We hope that this issue will not stand in the way of good relations between the government in Skopje and the gov’t in Athens" said Burns, a former US ambassador to Greece.
On the final status of Kosovo, Burns expressed hope that the matter will be resolved within two months after elections in Serbia, and stressed that the United States has not publicly proposed any solution "recipes", adding:
"We are all looking forward to the election in Serbia, January 21. Just in a short time from now. Obviously we hope that they will be free and fair elections, we trust that they will be and shortly after the elections we understand that the president Ahtisaari, the UN negotiator, is going to begin a series discussion between the Kosovar leadership in Pristina and the Serb leadership, the new gov’t in Belgrade and we have always believed that the time has come for a final status for Kosovo. It’s now been nearly eight years, seven and a half, since the war ended and the people of Kosovo they havent’t been given any indication by the international community what their future status is; so every person has the right to know where they live, who should govern them, they have a right to freedom. ".
Asked to comment on EU-Turkey relations and the Cyprus issue, the American official reiterated that the US remained strong supporters of the door remaining open for a prospective accession to the EU by Turkey, provided it fulfils the EU's requirements.
Regarding Cyprus, he said the US hoped that 2007 would be a year of hope for Cyprus. He said that UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon was putting together his team, and expressed hope that even high-ranking American officials would be on the team. Prospectively, he added, they will be individuals with experience on the Cyprus issue.
The US supports the UN's effort for finally resolving the problems arising from the intervention in Cyprus some 30 years ago, Burns said, adding that it looked forward to US cooperation with the friendly government of the Republic of Cyprus "the government that we work", and to cooperation with the Greek government, the Turkish government, as well as with the Turkish authorities on the island, given that it was high time for resolving “finally the problems that have stemmed from the invasion of Cyprus 30 years ago a solution to be found”.
Burns, who was received by Greek ambassador in Washington Alexandros Mallias and embassy officials, paid tribute to the struggle of the Greek people during the Nazi occupation and their solidarity with the Greek-Jewish community in the country. American Jewish Committee associate director for international relations Aaron Jacob also attended the event.
Speaking at the exhibition, which will travel to several other states in the United States, Burns congratulated "the Greek gov’t and especially my friend amb Mallias for having the vision to bring this exhibit here".
"Greece was brutally occupied, and Greece had one of the most difficult experiences of any country under occupation during the war. There are so many Greeks that lost their lives. I remember going to Kalavryta every year to commemorate the horrible savagery that happened to those hundreds of Greek citizens in that village; and anywhere you go in Greece, as you know, there is a plaque in every village square about someone who was killed, someone who gave their life. What I know about the Greeks is that they fought back, the Greeks fought the Nazis and they went into the resistance and I never forget meeting George Psichountakis, the great Cretan runner on Crete who for four years fought as a partisan in the mountains against the Nazis. " Burns said.
" So I think what I take away is the heroism of Greeks and, secondly, what a terrible blow the Jewish community in Greece suffered. And I believe that Greece lost the highest percentage of its Jewish community in any country of Europe, especially the Jews of Salonica and to see the entire group of people in a community that they have been there for thousand of years wiped out with only now a small community left in Salonica, in Athina, and Rodos and other places, is a great tragedy. And then to see the heroism of the Greeks who took in those young children to protect them and save them and then to see that these 16 people grew up to be great citizens of Greece and of the Jewish community. So, it’s a story of sadness, but also a story of valor and bravery. And that I think fits my definition of the Greek people and so, I was unable to come to the inauguration when the ambassador and minister Petralia dedicated it, and I wanted to come and pay my respects; to congratulate the ambassador for what he has done, but also to pay tribute to those Greeks who saved Jews and to the Jews who survived and rebuilt the Jewish community in Greece ", Burns added.
Amb. Mallias, in turn, said that he had very little to add, stressing that "we can forgive, but we do not forget".
"What the Undersecretary just said about the extermination of the Jews of Thessaloniki, Macedonia, also indicates why history is so important to learn and acknowledge. So, thank you very much Μr. Undersecretary. Τoday is the closing day of this exhibit and there is no better event than your presence here. It’s the best possible way to close this exhibit which will be traveling to other states in the US." the ambassador added.
Source: Athens News Agency