Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou has been awarded the AHEPA 2021 George Paraskevaides medal. The medal was presented to Photiou in the framework of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) 99th meeting in Athens.
In his speech, Photiou noted that AHEPA is the largest and oldest Greek-American union that promotes the ideals of Hellenism, charity, family and excellence.
He also said that AHEPA’s role has been decisive in mobilising interest and involving important dignitaries both in the US and other areas, in efforts for a Cyprus settlement.
Mr. Photiou's speech:
"It gives me great pleasure to be here with you today at this special and important event, AHEPA’s Supreme Convention. I feel I am among friends – both personal friends but also friends of Cyprus and Greece.
I extend my warmest greetings and commend the organizers and all contributors of this year's annual AHEPA International Supreme Convention, the 99th since its establishment, and express my deepest gratitude for the invitation to attend and address the Convention.
AHEPA, as the largest and oldest Greek-American Organization with Chapters across the globe, tirelesly promotes the ideals of Hellenism, philanthropy, family and excellence. Through their charitable work, their exceptional achievements, the core values and principles that they exemplify, and most notably their long-standing contribution to Cyprus and the Cyprus Diaspora, they make us in Cyprus feel extremely proud.
AHEPA’s contribution has been indeed instrumental in mobilizing the interest and the involvement of key policymakers in the United States and elsewhere in our efforts to reach a settlement on the Cyprus Question and thus we are very grateful.
It would be a miss on my behalf if I did not extent my sincere gratitude and appreciation for your continuous cooperation and support in our efforts to solve the humanitarian issue of the missing persons.
Forty-seven years ago, Turkey invaded Cyprus, violating basically all known rules of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.
From a humanitarian point of view, probably the most tragic consequence of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus is the missing persons. During and after the Turkish invasion, thousands of Greek-Cypriots were arrested and held in concentration camps in Cyprus by Turkish soldiers and paramilitaries, operating under the Turkish army.
I take this opportunity to thank all Diaspora leaders and key-policymakers in US for their active engagement in promoting legislation on the matter. Forty-seven years since the Turkish invasion, around eight hundred people are still missing – two of them American citizens. Regrettably, progress on this serious problem during the past few years is disappointing, to say the least. Time is running out.
The basic reason for this situation is the refusal of Turkey to cooperate sincerely and constructively to solve even the humanitarian aspect of the tragedy.
Mothers and fathers, and now brothers and sisters, are passing away without having the opportunity to have a funeral for their loved ones.
I feel that at this critical juncture, the need for the International Community to assume a more active involvement and humanitarian initiatives is urgent, than ever before.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We highly value AHEPA interest and active involvement in recent years in the efforts to end tensions, in order to be able to resume negotiations to achieve a comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus Question.
Last week, we all witnessed the escalation of the provocative actions of Turkey concerning the fenced area of Varosha. As you are all well aware, any action on the ground towards a direction opposite from the transfer of the area to the administration of the UN so as to allow for the return of the lawful inhabitants of the area to their homes is a violation of the provisions of the relevant UN SC Resolutions.
Our efforts focus on reaching a comprehensive, just and viable solution of a bizonal, bicommunal federation to the Cyprus problem, based on the relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions and International law.
This year, 2021, has been one of celebration and commemoration of the Bicentennial of the Greek Revolution, especially significant for AHEPA. The contributions from AHEPA and her Chapters around the world are invaluable to all celebrations that remember the Heroes of 1821.
I want to thank and salute the AHEPAns for their faithfulness and commitment to this historic milestone in the life of the Omogenia.
The fact that we share this anniversary, reveals how connected and synergistic we truly are. I am proud that this landmark occasion brings us even closer together, for the Cyprus Diaspora and AHEPA are partners at both the national and local levels.
Distinguished members of our Diaspora,
During these past years the relationship between Cyprus, Greece and the US has significantly strengthened both at the bilateral and multilateral level. There is a growing political desire and commitment to deepen and broaden our ties with the United States, in all areas. It is important that we carry this momentum forward, to the benefit of our countries and peoples.
The role of the organized Diaspora, as a pressure group in major decision-making centers around the World, and especially in Washington D.C., remains indispensible and of great importance.
We owe you all a great debt for continuing the preservation of our identity, for promoting our rich culture, history and traditions in the US, as well as for sending the clear message that Cyprus and Greece remain two of the most predictable, reliable and stable partners of the US in the key region of the eastern Mediterranean.
Dear brothers of AHEPA,
With the zeal and patriotism which distinguishes it, AHEPA was, is and will remain the Ambassador of our national rights in their cross-Atlantic homeland, helping in every difficult case for the Greek and Cyprus voice to be heard clearly. We honour them and thank them.
I wish to assure you that the Government of Cyprus, and myself, will continue supporting and strengthening the active engagement of our Diaspora, in all possible ways so that we further advance our common objectives.
I would like to thank the Order of AHEPA for their decision to be presented with the "2021 AHEPA George E. Paraskevaides Award" which I accept with profound honor and privilege.
To conclude, allow me to wholeheartedly commend and congratulate once again the AHEPA family and especially both the Supreme President and Executive Director, my brothers George Horiates and Basil Mossaidis, for maintaining and empowering their bonds with Cyprus and Greece.
I wish you every success in the deliberations of the conference".