August 13, 2010, Washington, DC – This week, the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) is sponsoring a delegation of 18 senior Congressional staffers to Macedonia and the Republic of Turkey. TCA and the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) are working together to educate the senior advisors about the primary issues of importance facing both nations and the status of their relationships with the United States.
"Combining the delegation's travel to Turkey with a visit to Macedonia will help provide the participants with a deeper perspective on the region and the crucial importance of their relationship to the US," said G. Lincoln McCurdy, president of TCA. "The centuries-long cultural bond between the peoples of Turkey and the Macedonia is a key issue that should be understood by members of Congress and their advisors." This will be the fifth TCA-sponsored delegation that McCurdy has led in 2010.
Over the course of their stay in Macedonia, the delegation will meet with the leadership of the country, including President Gjorge Ivanov, Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, and Defense Minister Zoran Konjanovski.. They will have the opportunity to receive a briefing from the US Ambassador to Macedonia, Ambassador Philip T. Reeker on the current status of the US-Macedonian relationship; be briefed by representatives of the Turkish Mission to Macedonia; and will also sit down with members of Parliament and representatives of non-governmental organizations working on both foreign and domestic policy prior to their departure for the Republic of Turkey. The delegation will visit three cities, Skopje, the birthplace of Mother Teresa and Justinian the Great; Bitola, where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk went to military academy; as well as Ohrid, considered to be the Pearl and Jerusalem of the Balkans.
"We are very enthusiastic about the TCA-sponsored Congressional staff delegation's visit to Macedonia," said Metodija A. Koloski, President of UMD. "We encourage all members of Congress and their staff to learn more about the rich history of Macedonia as well as the crucial importance of strong relations with the US and the strategic role Macedonia plays in the Southeast European region."
During their time in Turkey, the delegation is scheduled to meet with leaders of the Jewish community in Istanbul as well as other religious and secular community leaders, scholars from various think tanks, NGO representatives, academics, members of the press, and Turkish business community leaders. While in Ankara, the delegation will meet with representatives from the US Embassy as well as the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Given Turkey's rich history and culture, the delegation will also have the opportunity to visit a number of historical sites including the World War I battlefield of Gallipoli, the Blue Mosque, the Haghia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace.
"Given the current status of the relationship between the US and Turkey, now is a vital time to build harmony and mutual understanding between our nations," said Basak Kizildemir, Vice President of TCA's Istanbul office. "We are looking forward to hosting this diverse delegation and helping to build new friendships."