NEWS

Barack Obama gives indication of thinking on issues of Greek interest if he wins Democratic candidacy and gets presidency

A supporter of international law and opposed to the use of force, the candidate for the Democratic nomination for US president Barack Obama believes in international institutions to a degree that has led some to call him a dreamer. He recently said he wanted to go to the UN and say, «America is back.» Obama’s sensitivity on matters of social cohesion in America and the respect he shows for the principles of law in the international arena, partly a result of his «global» background, perhaps define the stance he would take as president on international issues such as Cyprus and Greek-Turkish relations. He gave a sample of his intentions on issues of interest to Greece, which he hopes to implement if elected president, at an event in Congress a few months ago where he took a clear stand in favor of a solution in Cyprus acceptable to both communities on the island, based not on force but on the principles of law, European Union criteria and Security Council resolutions. Christianity and Islam His own personal experience and familiarity with the world’s two greatest monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam, have enabled him to go beyond a surface analysis of events and make him a more credible interlocutor on a number of problems, particularly those involving religious conflicts. He incorporates the hopes of many Americans and even more people outside the country for a more cautious foreign policy, a hope that fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton also promises to make reality. As Zbigniew Brzezinski said in a recent interview with Kathimerini, a Democratic president will put far less emphasis on the unilateral use of force and will not adopt George W. Bush’s Manichean view. Obama appears to sincerely believe in international institutions to the point where some call him a dreamer. He recently said: «I want to get up on the podium at the UN and say, ‘America is back.’» The New York Times wrote recently that the international community might see itself in Barack Obama. The senator from Illinois is himself a bridge between cultures, races and social groups. His father is a black Muslim from Kenya and his mother a white Christian from Kansas. As a child he lived in his stepfather’s homeland of Indonesia and also in an upmarket area of Hawaii, studied at Columbia and Harvard and took the first steps in his career working to improve conditions in Chicago’s slums. His slogan of «change we can believe in» has attracted the overwhelming majority of young people, while his moderation has not alienated the white majority; on the contrary it has allowed him to address all social groups, helped by his sober analysis of issues. Greece At the Congress event, organized by the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, Obama talked about relations with Greece, touching on the essence of the problems with Cyprus and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He also praised the role of the Greek-American community. «Obviously one of our strongest alliances is with Greece. It is no accident that Greece and the United States were on the same side of every major conflict of the 20th century. It is no accident that Greece remains one of our closest partners in the Mediterranean. The long relationship between Greece and the United States is an example of why it is critical for the world’s democracies to work together. And one way we have done this is by joining together to combat international terrorism.» He also had warm words for the Greeks of America: «I have always been so impressed with the capacity of the Greek-American community to stay close to its roots, to stay passionate about the issues that confront Greece and yet be quintessentially American. That’s what we always are, as a people. We are best when we remind ourselves with our past, we remind ourselves of our immigrant heritage, we do not discard those traditions that have been so important to us, we do not ignore the injustices that have occurred in the past here in the US, that there have been times when the Greek community was discriminated against just as the African American community has obviously suffered a long history of injustice here and yet we remain hopeful and optimistic about the future.» As for the kind of solution he would like to see in Cyprus, Obama distanced himself from the substance of the Annan plan for the island and praised Cyprus’s role and contribution in handling the humanitarian crisis caused by the 2006 war in Lebanon. «America has been able to rely on Cyprus in the war on terror and we were able to rely on Cyprus during the Lebanon crisis. So we should work to find a solution to the situation in Cyprus that is acceptable to both the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities, one that is based on the rule of law, not on force, one that is based on the UN resolutions passed on the Cyprus issue and on the very principles and standards of the EU, of which Cyprus is a member.» He also called on Turkey to honor religious freedom in its treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. «During this week, a week that marks the 85th anniversary of the official founding of the Greek Orthodox Diocese in America, we should also remember that there is one in Istanbul that is not yet free. I believe it is time for Turkey to honor the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate there, which includes ending the seizure of Greek Orthodox Church property and the reopening of the school of theology in Istanbul. It is time for America to stand with our allies and stand with all those around the world who long to live for dignity and opportunity, security and freedom.» Armenian genocide Last Wednesday, the Armenian National Committee of America endorsed Obama’s candidacy, emphasizing «his strong record in office, his bold statements as a candidate, and our judgment as to the policies he will pursue as president… Senator Obama will best reflect the views and values of Armenian-American voters.» Still friends with Hillary Clinton Despite the unavoidable campaign clashes, Obama and Hillary Clinton say their differences are negligible compared to the chasm that separates them from the policies of George W. Bush. «I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign. I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over,» Obama said recently. What is certain is that if they win, the Democrats will have made history – the strongest country in the world will either have a woman or a black for president. In a moving article in The New York Times titled «A president like my father,» the daughter of John F. Kennedy wrote that nearly half a century after the hopes engendered by her father’s election, she sees in Obama «a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things.»