© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
05 December, 1998
US President Bill Clinton informed Greek-American leaders on Thursday evening of his intent to become personally involved in on-going efforts to solve the 25-year-old Cyprus problem and reduce tension in the Aegean.
Greek-American leaders, who attended the meeting, were quoted as saying that Mr. Clinton appeared to be "very well-informed" on the situation in all areas of Greek-Turkish relations, while Greek-American leaders said they believed the US president's interest was "genuine".
Several of the 16 Greek community leaders told Mr. Clinton that only the US president's clout could pave the way for a Cyprus solution. They cited similar instances in which the US leader's personal involvement had led to agreements, such as the Middle East, Bosnia and Northern Ireland.
They also called on Mr. Clinton to use his influence to convince Ankara to display flexibility and a spirit of cooperation on the Cyprus issue and stop its provocative actions in the Aegean. They also showed Mr. Clinton a map of the Aegean recently released by the Turkish government in which a number of Greek islands, including major ones, were displayed as being Turkish.
Before their meeting with Mr. Clinton, the Greek-American leaders had talks with US National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and other White House associates, as well as US State Department special coordinator for Cyprus Tom Miller.
White House spokesman:
President Clinton reaffirmed that making progress in 1999 towards a settlement of the Cyprus problem and a reduction of tensions between Greece and Turkey are among his highest foreign policy priorities, US White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said yesterday, commenting on the meeting.
"I can tell you that the president briefly joined the meeting that the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, had yesterday with Greek Americans and Cypriot Americans representing their various respective organizations. The meeting lasted about an hour. The president was there for almost 30 minutes.
Joining Mr. Berger were Mr. Podesta, Deputy National Security Advisor Don Kerrick, NSC Director Don Bandler, NSC Director Miriam Shapiro and Ambassador Tom Miller", Mr. Lockhart told reporters yesterday.
"As far as what was discussed at the meeting, the president reaffirmed that making progress next year towards resolving the Cyprus conflict and reducing tensions between Greece and Turkey are among his highest foreign policy priorities. Discussion focused in particular on ways in which greater progress on Cyprus can be made. There was a good exchange of ideas. We believe it was a useful meeting and part of our overall outreach to the affected communities here in the United States" he added.
In a related development, World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Andrew Athens noted yesterday that Mr. Clinton had recently assured Greek-Americans he would personally make renewed efforts towards a settlement of the thorny Cyprus problem.
Speaking at a press conference in Thessaloniki, Mr. Athens said the US president had given him the assurance at a recent meeting in Chicago.
Replying to questions on the efforts of Greek-Americans in support of Hellenism in general, Mr. Athens said he was not pleased with the "tactics" adopted by the US to date and had conveyed this to Mr. Clinton during their brief meeting.
Mr. Athens said Mr. Clinton had told him he had some "new ideas" regarding the Cyprus problem and would make efforts as he had done with respect to Bosnia and the Middle East.
"Whatever the case, we are determined to toughen our stance vis-a-vis the White House," he told reporters.
Asked about relations between Greek-Americans and the Jewish community in the United States, Mr. Athens indicated that there were certain "shadows" created by the US Jewish lobby's recent expression of support for Ankara's positions.
He added, however, that efforts were being made to disperse the clouds, noting that relations between the two overseas communities had traditionally been good.
Mr. Athens added that leaders of the two communities will soon meet.
Source: Athens News Agency