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Congress Briefing on "Sovereignty, Security, and Geopolitics in Southeastern Europe" with NHS Member John Sitilides

The National Hellenic Society (NHS), in collaboration with Representative Gus Bilirakis and the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, organized a foreign policy presentation – “Sovereignty, Security, and Geopolitics in Southeastern Europe” - to update Congressional staff on recent developments in U.S. relations with Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey.

NHS invited John Sitilides, Senior Fellow for National Security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and diplomacy consultant to the U.S. Department of State for Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey from 2006-2023 at the Foreign Service Institute, the department’s diplomatic academy for American foreign policy professionals, to deliver a sweeping, comprehensive, and visually compelling presentation for an audience comprised mostly of Congressional staff, and including leading figures in the Greek American community as well as diplomats from the embassies of Greece and Cyprus.

Sitilides provided a strategic overview of the history and current developments regarding Greece-Turkey disputes over the delimitation of the Aegean Sea continental shelf and their respective exclusive economic zones, as well as the broader differences in interpreting international law regarding the Aegean Sea’s territorial waters and airspace, and their disputes over administrative jurisdictions regarding the Athens flight information region, and of search and rescue operational responsibility in the Aegean Sea. 

Sitilides continued with an analysis of the Turkish occupation of Cyprus and its deleterious impacts on regional security, natural gas energy networks, and Nicosia’s capacity to fully contribute to regional stabilization in the Middle East and northern Africa due to its continued division under Turkey’s illegal military presence across the north.

Sitilides explored Washington’s great power competition with Beijing and Moscow played out in China’s regional shipping and infrastructure network designs, and Russia’s military power projection in the Black Sea and the Levant, as well as ominous tensions in the Balkans and promising new Greek trade opportunities with India, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. He concluded with an overview of the Greek Orthodox minority in Istanbul and the challenges confronting the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the few remaining faithful in exercising religious freedom in Turkey.   

The one hour presentation, followed by thirty minutes of incisive Q&A, took place in the official hearing room of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, thanks to the request and support of Rep. Bilirakis. Sitilides expressed his appreciation to Rep. Bilirakis and his foreign policy legislative assistant Nathan Stamps for their initiative and organization, and to the NHS for its valuable support and public engagement in the Washington, D.C. region and nationwide. 

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