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Menendez Message of Solidarity for Greece and Cyprus: We have your back!

by Stavros H. Papagermanos

MOONACHIE, NJ“Any provocation against Greece is ultimately a provocation against a NATO ally, and even though both Greece and Turkey are NATO allies, the one who creates the provocation should pay the consequences.” This is the message conveyed by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) during a highly successful fundraiser dinner held in his honor, by the Hellenic community of New Jersey, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 at the Graycliff Manor.

Andreas Comodromos, the chairman of the host committee, welcomed Senator Menendez, and expressed his gratitude to all the participants and the Hellenic community of New Jersey for continuing to support Bob Menendez, “…the most important person in the U.S. Congress for the issues of cooperation and mutual interest between the U.S., Cyprus and Greece,” he said.

He added that the fundraiser was estimated to raise forty-five to sixty thousand dollars, but exceeded all expectations and reached one hundred and forty thousand.

Senator Menendez is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a long-time staunch supporter of issues of justice and international law especially relating to Greece and Cyprus, and the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Addressing the gathering, Menendez said the issues he is fighting for, are not simply Hellenic issues, but issues of vital national interest to our country, the United States.

He further explained that “it is in the national security interest of the US to have a strong and unwavering relationship with the Hellenic Republic that has been a strong NATO ally, that has been with us in every major conflict we have faced over the last 75 years. ”He pointed out the examples of the Souda Bay Naval Base and the more recent cooperation in Alexandroupolis, which they become major security centers not just for the U.S. and Greece, but for the entire region, and Europe.

“Cyprus has been divided for far too long,” said Senator Menendez recalling his first visit to the island and promising that “we will never recognize anything else exceptthat Famagusta belongs to the government of Cyprus once and for all.”

He outlined the prospects of cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the alignment between Greece, Cyprus and Israel. “Having the Eastern Mediterranean with a different paradigm is extremely important, and I am so proud I led a successful effort to lift the arms embargo once and for all in Cyprus,” he said. Menendez has been the driving force behind the full lifting of a 1987 U.S. arms embargo on Cyprus, which was announced last month and came into effect Oct.1. This important development reflects the growing strategic relationship between Cyprus and the United States.

He maintained that Cyprus, historically and even more so as a critical member of the European Union, aligns itself with U.S. values and stills pursues democracy, still pursues human rights, and believes in open markets. He argued that given the energy deposits that exist in the territorial waters of Greece and Cyprus, joined by those of the State of Israel,there is an enormous opportunity to change the energy dynamics of Europe in a way that has not been seen in sometime and he underlined the timing:“Coming together now as Russia’s unprovoked attack against Ukraine creates an energy challenge for Europe…is a tremendous opportunity for Greece and Cyprus and of course Israel – for those two countries to really have a geopolitical strategic opportunity and dramatically change their character in Europe. This is a fantastic opportunity.”

Senator Menendez also spoke about the persecution in the areas of human rights and religious freedom in Turkey, stating “there are more lawyers and journalists in Turkish jails (today) than in any place in the world…among all the totalitarian places in the world Turkey is number one,” he said. He specifically expressed his careand concern “for the barriers to the freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the re-opening of the Halki seminary.”

Responding to questions about the provocations of Turkey, the constant overflies and violations of Greek air space, the combative language of the Turkish leadership and the brazen threats towards Greece and Cyprus, Menendez said that “Erdogan is a risk.He is an unpredictable character; people like Erdogan who are autocrats and want to stay in power are capable of just about anything.” He also noted: His economy (Erdogan’s Turkish economy) is in the tank…(he) has to do something to try to deviate the attention of Turkish people as he approaches elections next year… I hope Erdogan is not foolish to take such an action; but desperate people sometimes would do desperate things, as we see with Putin. It is something we monitor and we are concerned about, and I hope that we have preventatively have made it clear that there will be consequences for such actions.”

Finally, Menendez hailed the deepening relationships between Greece, Cyprus, and the U.S.as “we are at the apex of our relationships…a brighter future is ahead and if we continue in this path nothing is impossible,” he said. “Turkey may aspire to the F-16s, but as long as I am the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, that has authorization over the sales of arms to other countries, it will not get my approval.”

Bishop Apostolos of Medeia, representing the Metropolis of New Jersey, offered his greeting thanking the Senator for his support to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Graycliff Manor proprietor Tony Papamarkos donated the dinner.

Andreas Comodromos chaired the event and the host committee, comprised of Jimmy Kourgelis, Savas Tsivicos, John Kallis, Philip Christopher, George Horiates, Maria Pappas, Despina Axiotakis, Tasos Zambas, Toni Mpletsakis, Elias Iliades, Mark Marinakis, Nicolas Nicolaou, Tony Papamarkos, Paul Kotrotsios, Panos Stavrianidis, Tassos Efstratiades, Byron Georgiou and Peter Kakoyiannis.