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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-07-09

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 09/07/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Reactions to Greek-Turkish agreement
  • Government spokesman's comment on accord with Turkey
  • Opposition parties' views
  • Greek think-tank calls for tighter economic policies
  • Greece backs Romania, Slovenia and Bulgaria for NATO accession
  • Fires still burning at several sites
  • Pharmacies to close in protest of revised drug price-list
  • Albanians escape from Halicarnassus prison
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Reactions to Greek-Turkish agreement

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said today that the joint communique on Greek-Turkish relations was the result of persistent efforts lasting several months.

The communique was signed yesterday by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Turkish President Suleiman Demirel on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid.

Simitis described it as a document of principles which will govern relations between Greece and Turkey.

In statements to the private Greek TV channel "Star", Papandreou said that two of the three conditions set by Greece, namely the non-use of force and the recognition of international treaties, had been incorporated in the text of the communique.

The third condition, concerning the mechanisms for resolving problems, was currently the subject of examination by the committee of experts.

Greece and Turkey recently each set up a committee of experts to examine procedural approaches to resolving differences between Athens and Ankara.

Papandreou said the joint communique contributed to creating a different climate in relations between Greece and Turkey "without this meaning that specific problems have been resolved, such as that of the continental shelf or the Cyprus problem which poisons relations between the two countries".

Government spokesman's comment on accord with Turkey

Meanwhile, acting government spokesman Nikos Athanasakis described yesterday's communique as "a particularly positive development" which could "open up a new era in Greek-Turkish relations".

The communique, he added, contained issues which Greece had continually raised "and which are now covenanted and jointly signed by Turkey at the highest level".

Athanasakis stressed that there had been no discussion of specific issues pertaining to Greek-Turkish relations, noting that Greece's position on these issues remained unchanged.

"This also includes Greece's position on the financial protocols (providing for EU funds to Turkey) within the framework of Ankara's customs union with the Community," Athanasakis said.

Replying to reporters' questions, the spokesman said the extension by Greece of its territorial waters to twelve miles was Athens' inalienable right emanating from international law.

He stressed also that Greece's position on the issue of the Imia islets remained unchanged.

Greece and Turkey nearly went to war in January last year after Ankara openly challenged Greek sovereignty of the uninhabited rocky islets.

As far as Greece is concerned, Athanasakis continued, the only specific issue referred to in the communique is the refraining from using force, "something which concerns Turkey".

He underlined also that the Madrid communique did not open any dialogue regarding the various separate issues comprising Greek-Turkish relations.

Athanasakis said Simitis had briefed President Kostis Stephanopoulos on the communique by telephone and would further inform him, if necessary, after returning from Spain.

Simitis will also brief the Cabinet which is scheduled to meet on Friday, as well as any political party leader so requesting, the spokesman said.

Replying to other questions, Athanasakis said Nicosia had welcomed the Simitis-Demirel communique, expressing the hope that it might have a positive effect on UN-sponsored direct talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, due to begin today in the United States.

The spokesman reiterated that the settlement of the Cyprus problem was the "key" for Greek-Turkish relations.

Opposition parties' views

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) today expressed concern about the joint communique on Greek-Turkish relations, claiming that it was not aimed at resolving differences between Athens and Ankara but at extending US influence in the Aegean.

Although the text contains declarations about respect for international treaties and international law, the KKE said, there are also points which Ankara can interpret as it pleases.

In particular, the KKE cited the reference to each country's "vital interests and concerns in the Aegean''.

"These ambiguous elements may pave the way for a dialogue on confidence- building measures which, within the framework of the known US plan, also serves the expansionist designs of the Turkish government," the KKE said.

The Communist Party underlined however that it was in favour of dialogue with Turkey, "provided there is a declaration affirming respect for the borders and sovereignty of each country".

The Coalition of the Left and Progress called for the immediate convening of a meeting of political party leaders in order to be briefed in detail on the course of Greek-Turkish relations.

A statement issued by the party's political secretariat said the joint communique could serve as a step towards the normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations, adding that "the relevant declarations will be judged in practice".

The Coalition urged the government to make use of the Madrid development "in a way which contributes to paving the way for a substantial dialogue, while protecting the country's interests".

At the same time however, the Coalition criticised the government, charging it with "an absence of strategy, the usual double-talk and the assigning of these issues in their entirety to the initiatives of third parties".

Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas described what he called "the US-inspired and guided" joint communique as "overturning the substance of the existing legal situation in the Aegean" and "a prelude to the partitioning and joint sovereignty" of the sea.

Tsovolas said he would tomorrow request an extraordinary session of the parliament plenary in order to discuss the latest developments.

The DHKKI leader claimed the communique contained specific commitments which were contrary to the treaties of Lausanne, Paris and Montreux as well as the international Law of the Sea.

Political Spring leader Antonis Samaras meanwhile termed the communique "painful" for Greece and "painless" for Turkey.

Samaras charged that the reference in the communique to "refraining from unilateral acts" in effect cancelled out Greece's legal right to extend its territorial waters to twelve miles and at the same time consolidated "the unacceptable new status quo of so-called grey zones which the government of Costas Simitis has accepted for Imia, resulting in (Turkey's) disputing of the sovereignty of hundreds of rocky islets in the Aegean".

Greek think-tank calls for tighter economic policies

Greece's socialist government should tighten its economic stabilisation policies in order to align with other European Union countries and take part in economic and monetary union, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said.

In a quarterly report on the economy, IOBE urged the government to shore up existing policies aimed at convergence because the country still fell short of targets set in the Maastricht treaty.

Even a shift to more lax criteria for a unified EU economy or postponement of a single EU currency could leave Greece behind, it said.

"Greece would face the added risk of being the only country excluded from the Euro," said the report, although welcoming government statements that existing economic policy would remain in place.

It strongly criticised the manner in which social dialogue on employment and social insurance was being conducted.

"To date, the social dialogue has emerged as a simple exchange of widely known views among the social partners (government, employers, employees) ... Social consensus per se has taken precedence over the ultimate target of extensive and truly effective structural reforms", it said.

IOBE called for swift, bold action in ""politically thorny problems" mainly to ensure maximum flexibility on the job market.

It further called for deep changes in the social security and taxation systems, public administration, public utilities, the health system, and state banks.

Noting that the government enjoyed the confidence of markets due to its cautious macro-economic policy", IOBE warned: "This auspicious climate is already tending to be weakened mainly due to serious delays in structural policy".

IOBE also criticised a controversial recommendation of a lump-sum tax on business profits contained in a recent government-sponsored report by a committee headed by Professor Ioannis Spraos. It attributed the proposal to "solely political aims".

IOBE anticipated GDP growth in excess of three percent this year, and inflation running at 5.5-5.6 percent.

It also warned there was no room for complacency over inflation, despite a declining trend. Greater caution and wider consensus was needed on incomes policy.

IOBE criticised the government's "hard drachma" policy for its adverse repercussions on production and employment, but said markets had indicated an outright devaluation of the drachma was unlikely in the near future.

It further criticised the government for "minimal progress" in reducing public spending and creating new deficits in public sector utilities and companies.

Greece backs Romania, Slovenia and Bulgaria for NATO accession

NATO leaders, in an historic move to erase Europe's Cold War division, invited Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to join the alliance yesterday and held out real membership prospects to other former communist states.

A NATO summit climaxed a day of wrangling by reassuring Slovenia, Romania and the Baltic states that they would be considered seriously in future expansions and pledged that all the new democracies had the right to join the defence body.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis backed Romania, Slovenia and Bulgaria for membership in the alliance, saying that the Balkan countries should have equal treatment with the central and eastern European countries.

"In our view, the enlargement process should eventually embrace all European countries, interested in joining the alliance and fulfilling a number of criteria. The stability of our continent is greatly dependent upon NATO's enlargement," Mr. Simitis said.

Fires still burning at several sites

Forest fires were still raging in northern Evia, Ilia, Arcadia, Messinia prefectures as well as on the island of Ios yesterday, according to forestry officials.

They added that eight Canadair and four Grumman firefighting planes, army contingents, firefighters as well as dozens of forestry service and fire brigade vehicles were deployed at the various fronts.

Officials told ANA that the massive fire in Seikh Sou urban forest in Thessaloniki, which broke out on Sunday, had been contained after burning an estimated 1,700 hectares of forest land.

Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas - whose ministry is responsible for forests and fire prevention - said that after the fire was completely extinguished, aerial photographs would be taken of the area, while soil retention works and extensive reforestation would also be carried out. In Evia, the fire was subsiding although it had not been contained.

Pharmacies to close in protest of revised drug price-list

Pharmacies in Athens will remain closed for as many as five days, starting tomorrow until next Wendesday, after a dicision taken yesterday during an Attika Pharmaceutical Association's meeting.

Pharmacies in the rest of the country will go on strike on Thursday and Friday. During the strike, pharmaceuticals could only be bought from druggists that are open overnight.

Pharmacists are demanding a withdrawal of the government's revised drug pricelist, which trims their profits on pharmaceutical products.

Meanwhile, the hospital doctors' strike ends today, with a decision pending on further action.

Doctors at the Social Security Foundation (IKA) have called a strike for July 14 and 15 over institutional and economic demands.

Albanians escape from Halicarnassus prison

Three Albanians serving long prison sentences for crimes ranging from attempted murder to robbery escaped from the Halikarnassus prison in Heraklion early today.

The three prisoners were named as Tsela Piza, 27, Kouri Paskim, 22 and Melik Brahza, 29, who were serving sentences of 17 to 23 years.

The trio made their escape after sawing through the bars of a window and climbing down to the street using a rope and bedsheets tied together.

Police on Crete have launched a manhunt for the three Albanians while an investigation into the circumstances of the escape is currently under way at the prison with the participation of a Heraklion public prosecutor.

WEATHER

Mostly sunny weather is forecast for most parts of the country today. Local clouds in central and northern Greece with intermittent storms in the north in the afternoon. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Athens will be mostly sunny with temperatures between 22-33C. Sunny to partly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 18-30C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 273.941 Pound sterling 463.978 Cyprus pd 530.720 French franc 46.301 Swiss franc 187.205 German mark 156.121 Italian lira (100) 16.029 Yen (100) 243.268 Canadian dlr. 198.698 Australian dlr. 203.598 Irish Punt 416.104 Belgian franc 7.566 Finnish mark 52.481 Dutch guilder 138.692 Danish kr. 40.989 Swedish kr. 35.285 Norwegian kr. 37.339 Austrian sch. 22.184 Spanish peseta 1.848 Port. Escudo 1.545

(Y.B.)


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