John Koenig discusses the Cyprus question
"Masterclass", "Testimonial". These are the words the came to mind to those listening to John Koenig speak about the most current round of diplomatic talks on the so-called Cyprus question. The setting: Daios Hotel in downtown Thessaloniki (located on the site of the old US Consulate General of Thessaloniki). Some sixty denizens of the city had assembled to hear a former adopted son, John Koenig, recount his experience as US Ambassador to Cyprus. The experience was illuminating.
Recently-retired after a 31-year career in the Foreign Service, Koenig had just recently returned to Thessaloniki with his Greek-American wife Natalie after a fourteen-year absence. The purpose of his visit, ostensibly, was to deliver a Dukakis Lecture and to meet with other members of the Center's Honorary Advisory Board.
Koenig's career had carried him from Southeast Asia to the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond. By chance as much as anything a Europeanist, his two tours in Cyprus and two in Greece (including three years from 2000-2003 as Consul General of Thessaloniki) make him unique in the history of American diplomacy for his accumulation of local and regional expertise.
Earlier in the day Ambassador Koenig had sat with students at ACT to talk about his experience as the #2 US diplomat at NATO. Now the topic was one that was most dear to his heart of diplomat's hearts: a resolution to the division of the island of Cyprus into two major, protagonist sides, one Greek, the other Turkish.
The graveyard of diplomats, as the island is known to insiders, Cyprus was the place of Koenig's greatest personal successes and most disheartening professional setbacks. The endgame in the current talks is in site, Koenig explained, all that is needed is the final effort. Will it happen?
Ambassador Koenig staged his return to Thessaloniki at a banner moment in the history of the Dukakis Center. Commemorating five years since the old Dukakis Chair had been transformed into an academic center, and celebrating a burgeoning local partnership with the evening's co-hosts, the Navarino Network, the Center was organizing the 150th public lecture in the renowned series of Dukakis Lectures. (Incidentally, Ambassador Koenig first made an appearance in the Dukakis series in October 2000 at a round table dedicated to the then-upcoming US Presidential election.)
On the evidence of this early spring evening on the Thessaloniki waterfront, the Koenigs will return. Sooner, rather than later.