Ambassador to Cyprus: Who Is John Koenig?
Sunday, July 01, 2012
President Obama has nominated a career diplomat with extensive prior experience in the Aegean Sea region to be the next U.S. ambassador to the ethnically divided island nation of Cyprus. John M. Koenig has served previously in Cyprus, and while his knowledge of Greek will likely endear him to the 77% of Cypriots who speak that language, it may impede relations with the Turkish Cypriot minority, which in 1983 declared an independent Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.
Born in 1958 in Tacoma, Washington, John Koenig grew up in the Puget Sound area. He earned a B.A. in Anthropology at the University of Washington circa 1980 and an M.A. in Foreign Relations at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Koenig joined the Foreign Service in 1984. Early career assignments included service as vice consul at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, from 1984 to 1985; as political officer at the embassy in East Berlin, which was the capital of the former East Germany, from 1985 to 1987; and as political officer at the embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 1990 to 1993.
Koenig served his first tour in Cyprus as political counselor at the embassy in Nicosia from 1994 to 1997, followed by two postings to Greece, first as political-military officer/deputy political counselor at the embassy in Athens from 1997 to 2000, and then as principal officer at the American Consulate in Thessaloniki from 2000 to 2003, where he organized the largest ever U.S. public affairs event held in Greece to that time, “Honored Nation – USA,” at the Thessaloniki International Fair.
Relocating from Southeastern Europe to Northwestern Europe, Koenig served as deputy permanent representative and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium, from 2003 to 2006. As acting permanent representative for five months in 2005, he helped launch NATO’s support for the African Union Mission in Sudan.
Koenig served as chargé d’affaires ad interim and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany, from 2006 to 2009, when, according to cables released by Wikileaks, he successfully threatened the German government into not prosecuting 13 American agents who had kidnapped a German car salesman, Khaled el-Masri, and sent him to Afghanistan to be tortured and interrogated. As it turned out, it was a case of mistaken identity.
Most recently, Koenig has served as political advisor to the commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, from August 2009 to May 2012. He has also served at the State Department in Washington, as staff assistant in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and as watch officer in the Operations Center.
Koenig speaks German, Greek, and Indonesian. He is married to Natalie Koenig, who is from Bellingham, Washington. They have two sons, Ted (born 1990) and Alex (born 1992).
Cables Show Germany Caved to Pressure from Washington (by Matthias Gebauer and John Goetz, Der Spiegel)
I am not a State Secret (by Khaled El-Masri, Los Angeles Times)
The El-Masri Cable (by Scott Horton, Harper’s Magazine)
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