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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-09-11

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, 11/09/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece, Georgia to sign cooperation pact
  • Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Thessaloniki
  • US official in Athens for talks
  • Athens blames Ankara for lack of progress
  • Tsohatzopoulos-Pangalos meeting
  • Defence Minister comments on S-300 controversy
  • Opposition party's view
  • Industrialists welcome economic policy priorities
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece, Georgia to sign cooperation pact

Greece and Georgia will sign a friendship and cooperation agreement on Monday when Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze begins an official three- day visit to Greece, at the invitation of his Greek counterpart Kostis Stephanopoulos.

Shevardnadze will meet privately with Stephanopoulos on Monday morning and later with Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

He is also expected to meet with Parliament of President Apostolos Kaklamanis and the leaders of political parties as well as Development Minister Vasso Papandreou and Greek business figures interested in investing in the region of the former Soviet republic.

Shevardnadze will receive the Onassis Foundation's prize for International Understanding and Social Achievement during his visit to Athens and will also fly to Thessaloniki to visit the neighbouring autonomous monastic community of Mount Athos.

Shevardnadze's visit is an indication of the increasing closeness of Greek- Georgian relations: Athens and Tbilisi signed a defence cooperation protocol in July, during Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos's visit to the Georgian capital, while Shevardnadze recently announced that Greek would be officially taught in Georgian schools. Some 60,000 Black Sea Greeks are estimated to reside in Georgia.

On the business level, Greece's telecoms organisation OTE clinched in May a 14 million dollar contract for the construction of a fibre optics cable system in Georgia, while Greek telecoms firm Intracom recently announced it had won the contract to introduce a card telephone system in the country.

Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Thessaloniki

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will visit the northern port city of Thessaloniki later this month on the invitation of the Thessaloniki Cultural Capital Organisation, an announcement said.

Vartholomeos will officially begin his visit on September 28 when he is received at the city's main Aristotelous Square with full head of state honours.

President Kostis Stephanopoulos and a government delegation, Thessaloniki Metropolitan Panteleimon, and other dignitaries will be present at the official reception.

Vartholomeos will be accompanied by the patriarchs of Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia. The Patriarch will officiate at a service at the city's Ayios Dimitrios church and is scheduled to have meetings with Macedonia-Thrace Minister Philippos Petsalnikos, Thessaloniki Mayor Constantine Kosmopoulos and other local and regional figures.

Also on the programme are visits to the the exhibitions "Treasures from Mount Athos", "Alexander the Great in European art", and the Cultural Capital's book exhibition.

On September 30, Vartholomeos will lead volunteers planting trees at the Seih-Sou forest near the city, which was almost destroyed in a fire earlier this summer and, at the same time, decalre open the international conference on the environment of Mount Athos.

On the same day, he will receive an honorary doctorate from the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki.

The Patriarch's visit will end on October 2.

US official in Athens for talks

The new United States special coordinator on the Cyprus issue Thomas Miller arrived in Athens today for talks with Greek officials.

Miller arrived from Ankara and is to continue on to Nicosia, the final stop on his tour of the region, aimed at preparing the US initiative in dealing with the Cyprus issue undertaken by US presidential emissary Richard Holbrooke.

He is to meet this afternoon with National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and later with Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis.

Athens blames Ankara for lack of progress

The failure of the spirit of the Madrid communique to carry over into Greek- Turkish relations is entirely Ankara's fault, Athens stressed yesterday.

Asked to respond to recent statements by US State Department spokesman Jim Foley, who criticised the use of the term "casus belli" by both sides, Mr. Reppas told reporters that Ankara' stance was such that it was not facilitating progress in bilateral relations.

According to an ANA dispatch from Washington, Mr. Foley said references by both sides to war were "out of line".

Mr. Reppas noted that Mr. Foley's statements were made in connection with the Cyprus issue and noted the spokesman's comment that the US government recognised only one government in Cyprus, that headed by President Glafcos Clerides.

"The Greek government believes that its policy, which is in accordance with international law and treaties, does not create problems. On the contrary, it contributes decisively to rapprochement between the two sides, showing a consistency that the other side does not," he said.

Mr. Reppas stressed that when there are positions on changing the status quo, whether in Cyprus or in the Aegean, Greece would not stand idly by.

"In such a development, Greece will act accordingly and not be standing by, " Mr. Reppas said.

Tsohatzopoulos-Pangalos meeting

Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus problem and the potential for defence cooperation in the Balkans and the Caucasus were the focus of a meeting yesterday between Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

According to a statement by Mr. Pangalos after the meeting, emphasis was placed on the importance of defence cooperation for the country's diplomatic relations, while Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also mentioned the "real cooperation" with the foreign ministry's political leadership, which he said helped boost Greece on the international front.

Mr. Pangalos declined to comment on criticism by Mr. Foley, but said: "I don't think Greece's declared position on the Cyprus issue amounts to a threat of war in our bilateral relations with Turkey. The Cyprus problem is one of a violation of inter national legality.

"Statements made to avert a worsening of the situation are necessary. With regard to our bilateral relations, we have made a commitment, through the Madrid communique, not to use the threat of war. I hope that this at least will be adhered to, since eve rything else has deteriorated in many ways and on many levels."

Mr. Pangalos expressed satisfaction that the Turkish government had decided to participate in the inter-Balkan conference in Crete in early November.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Omer Akbel reportedly announced yesterday that Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz would attend that conference.

Asked to comment on contradictory statements by European officials with regard to the Cyprus issue, particularly by German Foreign Minster Klaus Kinkel and his Italian counterpart Lamberto Dini, Mr. Pangalos referred to the European Union's legally bind ing commitment to start accession talks with Cyprus six months after the signing of the new IGC treaty, namely, in April 1998.

He also drew attention to the EU's oft-repeated position that resolving the Cyprus issue would contribute to a speedy conclusion of accession talks.

"It appears, however, that Mr. Kinkel has interpreted this statement in a more absolute manner," the minister said.

As no one knew how long these negotiations might take, Mr. Pangalos said Mr. Kinkel would do well to avoid making statements that referred to events likely to take place two or three years away.

"After all, he doesn't know if he will still be in office then," observed Mr. Pangalos, adding that Cyprus' accession to the EU was a question for all member states and was not just up to Kinkel.

"It is Greece that will determine when Cyprus will join the European Union, " he said, noting that it was usual for the most interested member state to determine the accession of a new member.

Referring to Mr. Dini's view that there were "two entities" in Cyprus, Mr. Pangalos said his Italian counterpart "appeared to have some difficulty with diplomatic terminology", as no one knew quite what he meant by "entity".

The minister said Cyprus' accession to the EU was not linked to a resolution of the Cyprus problem, while the "entity" negotiating with the EU was a state, "and states do not negotiate de facto situations, but a legal framework".

"That is what the Cypriot government is doing on behalf of all Cypriots, including the Turkish Cypriots, who will decide if they accept the legal provisions agreed upon."

He pointed out the contradiction in letting Ankara and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash "have a say in Cyprus' accession to the EU and yet declare, as Kinkel has, that Turkey itself has no hope of joining the EU."

Defence Minister comments on S-300 controversy

The defence minister, meanwhile, commenting on the controversy surrounding the installation of S-300 missiles in Cyprus, reiterated that every United Nations member state had the inalienable right to secure its defence.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos added that this sacred right meant much more to a small country, a sector of which was under the occupation and threat of violence from another country.

He stressed that the missiles in question were purely serving the purpose of defence.

"Whoever criticises a small country for arming itself with anti-aircraft systems is condemning it to remain defenceless and a hostage to any threat, " he said.

Such threats, continued Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, were continually being made by Turkey, whose officials frequently declared that Turkish air force planes could be over Cyprus in six minutes.

Opposition party's view

Main opposition New Democracy party spokesperson Aris Spiliotopoulos said that Turkish intransigence and provocations were not likely to be contained as long as the government continued its policy of creating impressions.

Mr. Spiliotopoulos' remark follows recent statements by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit that Turkey will take "all necessary political measures" against Greece and Cyprus over the purchase of Russian made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles."

Mr. Spiliotopoulos criticised Mr. Simitis for what he called "lack of courage" and a "willingness to give in", saying he has prompted Ankara's "audacity."

The Political Spring party spoke of "pale reactions of a defensive nature by the government" in the face of Turkish provocativeness on the occasion of a meeting between Mr.Tsohatzopoulos and Mr.Pangalos.

Industrialists welcome economic policy priorities

Policy priorities set out by Prime Minister Costas Simitis last week at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) live up to the present and future needs of the Greek economy, a Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) statement by SEB President Iason Stratos noted yesterday.

Confirmation that a decrease in the deficit will be pursued through a decrease in state expenditures and not through an increase in taxes met with a positive response. It was stressed that Greek taxpayers are already being taxed with particularly high percentages which must be decreased.

Incomes policy announced in the public sector must be applied with consistency.

In addition to a restriction in utility (DEKO) tariffs, what is also necessary is an improvement in productivity and the curbing of their operational cost, SEB stated.

The announcement by SEB said that the strengthening of Greek companies' competitiveness must be pursued, since for real convergence to be achieved economic growth rates must be speeded up.

However, Mr. Stratos pointed out that "the government must examine its "hard drachma" policy, given that the competitiveness of Greek industry has decreased by 20 per cent over a period of five years."

The announcement on the new EU support framework for the year 2000 was also considered positive.

The announcement concluded that social consensus on the major options of the future constitutes a substantive factor of success. And social dialogue being conducted in the current period constitutes an opportunity for a rapprochement in views.

WEATHER

Mostly fine weather will prevail throughout the country today apart from in central and northern Greece where there will be local cloud. Winds will be northerly, moderate to strong, turning to gale force in the Aegean Sea. Temperatures in Athens will range between 20-29C, while in Thessaloniki from 18-26C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 282.522 Pound sterling 447.154 Cyprus pd 529.827 French franc 46.436 Swiss franc 190.117 German mark 156.106 Italian lira (100) 16.004 Yen (100) 236.493 Canadian dlr. 203.955 Australian dlr. 205.160 Irish Punt 420.965 Belgian franc 7.562 Finnish mark 52.151 Dutch guilder 138.617 Danish kr. 41.015 Swedish kr. 36.079 Norwegian kr. 37.865 Austrian sch. 22.186 Spanish peseta 1.851 Port. Escudo 1.540

(M.P.)


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