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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-09-12

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, 12/09/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greek-Albanian relations at best stage ever
  • Alternate FM unsurprised at Yilmaz comments
  • Miller reiterates US interest in Cyprus issue
  • Delays at airports
  • Georgian President to visit Greece
  • Armenian official discusses bilateral, regional issues
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greek-Albanian relations at best stage ever

Greece today presented Albania with two billion drachmas as urgent economic aid for the Albanian state, with Athens saying relations with Tirana were developing "in a most favourable manner".

"This is an element which Greece considers definitive for its foreign policy," Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said.

Pangalos handed the money to visiting Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo after their one-hour meeting at midday.

Milo, who is on a three-day official visit to Greece, the first by an Albanian foreign minister since civil unrest wracked the neighbouring country earlier in the year, also met earlier with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and President Kostis Stephanopoulos.

Speaking to reporters after their meeting, Pangalos said the Greek president had extended an invitation through Milo for his Albanian counterpart to visit Greece in the first half of 1998.

He said that, apart from the two billion drachmas, expert committees from both countries would be meeting soon to thrash out the details of 18 million drachmas worth of Greek loans promised to Albania to aid in the implementation of public works projects in Albania.

Pangalos and Milo called their meeting "the most favourable development in Greek-Albanian relations in recent times", with Pangalos adding that a friendship and cooperation agreement between the two countries would be ratified by the Greek Parliament by March next year - with the prospect of a new pact on cooperation in the education and cultural sectors - and announcing a series of measures and initiatives that would further strengthen ties between the two Balkan neighbours.

Among these, Pangalos said, were plans for contacts between the public order ministries of both countries to "maintain law on both sides of the border", a planned visit by the chief of the Albanian armed forces to discuss the reform and reorganisation of the Albanian military with his Greek counterparts, as well as the establishment of three new customs points on the border with Albania and the beginning of talks on territorial borders and the delineation of the continental shelf.

Pangalos said their discussion, which was also attended by Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis, also ranged over the issue of a European prospect for Albania, the Balkan summit in Crete in early November and on problems in the region.

Milo said that bilateral relations were at "their best point ever", thanking the Greek people and government for "standing by Albania in its difficult times".

"This was a historic stance and something the Albanian people are not likely to ever forget," Milo said.

Milo called on Albanians residing and working in Greece to abide by Greek laws and "act honourably".

At the beginning of the year there was an estimated 400,000 Albanians in Greece, although that figure may have increased following the violence and mayhem in the neighbouring country when thousands lost their savings when 'pyramid' investment schemes collapsed.

Milo invited back Greek investors who had fled Albania in the wake of the unrest, assuring them that "the situation is now under the control of the Albanian government and the Albanian people are ready to welcome them and assist you".

"We will take all the necessary steps to protect your businesses," he said.

Milo said the spirit of cooperation noted in his talks in Athens was "a passing phase" but a "strategic choice in the interests of both countries and their peoples".

Pangalos told reporters that Athens, in cooperation with the European Union, was examining ways to create a regime to the benefit of both Tirana and Athens regarding the issuing of visas for Albanian nationals.

"The system of entry into Greece from third (non-EU) countries is governed by the Schengen treaty," Pangalos said, adding the two options were being studied: one, the granting of multi-entry visas for those with jobs or making frequent visits to Greece; and the creation of the status of a 'border resident', who would be able to move freely in the border region on the presentation of an identity card.

"We will do everything we can to make the Greek-Albanian border region a zone of growth," Pangalos said.

Turning to relations with other Balkan neighbours, Pangalos revealed that he had called on the governments of Albania and Federal Yugoslavia to meet on the sidelines of the Balkan Summit in Crete in November.

"I hope the two governments will consider the proposal in a positive light, " Pangalos added.

Milo said that Tirana was hoping to upgrade its relations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and had been "sending messages of understanding and cooperation" to Skopje.

The substantial number of Albanians residing in FYROM, he said, will have to find solutions to their problems in the framework of international law, stressing the need for the respect of the large minority's rights to education, cultural expression and local government.

"Without the understanding of the Albanian population of FYROM, FYROM will be unable to have stable prospects," Milo warned, adding that he hoped Skopje would be able to contribute to the efforts for stability and peace in the Balkan region.

Turning to Albania's recovery from the rioting and looting of earlier this year, Milo said the disarming of insurgents in the south was proceeding at a satisfactory rate and said that a large proportion of the arms looted from military camps would have been recovered by the state by the end of the month.

Finally, Pangalos said a planned visit by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to Tirana next month was in the context of bilateral relations and unconnected with visits to other Balkan capitals in light of the Crete summit.

"FYROM," he added, "is among the countries which have responded positively to the invitation to participate in the Balkan summit, but it is not yet clear whether it will be represented at the presidential or prime ministerial level."

Alternate FM unsurprised at Yilmaz comments

Greece said today that statements by Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz threatening the annexation of the occupied north of Cyprus were "no surprise".

"(These statements) are an indication of the 'dead-end' policy that Turkey is following in issues which concern us, particularly Cyprus," Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou told reporters.

"The international community is awaiting the respect of international law. I hope Turkey realises that only if it follows the rules of international law will it find a response to its course towards Europe," he said.

According to an ANA dispatch from Istnabul yesterday, Yilmaz has warned that Cyprus' division would become permanent if the process of the island's accession to the European Union (EU) continues.

"If the Greek side, hiding behind the EU and inviting Russia to Cyprus, forces us towards a solution in accordance with its own views, the present situation in Cyprus will become permanent," Yilmaz said.

He said that Turkey seeks Greek friendship, adding that if Greek-Turkish relations improve, armament expenditures will be reduced.

Yilmaz was quoted by the Turkish Anadolu news agency as saying that the Cyprus issue could be solved if Greece abandons what he claimed were "demands on the Aegean".

Miller reiterates US interest in Cyprus issue

The United States has decided to work hard towards resolving the Cyprus problem, according to an announcement yesterday evening in Athens by the US State Department's special coordinator on the Cyprus issue, Thomas Miller.

He made the statement after a meeting with Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis.

Mr. Miller, who is in Athens as part of his visit to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, said he will work in close cooperation with US presidential envoy Richard Holbrooke.

The US official noted that his country was still in the early stage of the effort to find a solution to the problem, which he described as a complex and serious, and one that has no relation with Bosnia.

Replying to a question as to why the US allowed a build-up of tension over the purchase by Cyprus of the Russian-made S-300 missile systems, escpecially since it was known that installation of the missiles was not to take place in the near future, Mr. Miller said the US had expressed concern over the issue from the beginning.

He added, however, that it was important that interested parties focus their attention on the core of the Cyprus problem.

Speaking on the same issue, Mr Kranidiotis reiterated that the Cyprus Republic has the self-evident right to defend its territory, and underlined that Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides had long ago submitted a proposal to demilitarise the island.

The foreign undersecretary said he told Mr. Miller of the need to exert appropriate pressure on Turkey to comply with international legality towards a solution of the protracted Cyprus problem, and expressed his disappointment over the stance adopted by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash at the recent direct Cyprus talks in Montreux.

Mr. Miller arrived from Ankara and is to continue on to Nicosia, the final stop on his tour of the region.

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said after his meeting with Mr. Miller that there had been "an exchange of useful opinions" on the prospects for a resolution of the Cyprus problem.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said he hoped that the joint effort by Mr. Miller and Mr. Holbrooke would be met positively by all sides, so that in the time it takes Cyprus to accede to the European Union, a positive solution could be found.

"The Cyprus issue is one of high priority for President Clinton," Mr. Miller reiterated.

He clarified that he was not bringing any specific proposal for a resolution to his tour of the region.

Delays at airports

There have been long delays of Olympic Airways flights at airports around the country today as the airline's flight attendants are refusing to work overtime.

The flight attendants' union is to hold a general assembly meeting this afternoon to decide on future action.

Transport and Communications Minister Tasos Mandelis this morning refused to receive a delegation of union representatives who wanted to express their objections to an Interior Ministry bill, saying the issue did not come under his jurisdiction.

The management of Olympic Airways today issued a statement stressing it wuold exhaust all legal means at its disposal to ensure that all flights were carried out.

It said the union had, without prior notice, reneged on arrangements it had agreed to during the summer of 1996.

Georgian President to visit Greece

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.

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

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

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

Mr. 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' visit to the Georgian capital, while Mr. Shevardnadze recently announced that the Greek language would be officially taught in Georgian public schools. Some 60,000 Black Sea area ethnic Greeks are estimated to reside in Georgia.

On the trade and economic level, the Greek telecoms utility OTE clinched in May a US$14 million contract for the construction of a fibre optics cable network in Georgia, while the largest private Greek telecoms firm Intracom recently announced it had wo n the contract to introduce a card telephone system in the country.

Armenian official discusses bilateral, regional issues

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis held talks yesterday with Armenian First Foreign Undersecretary Vartan Oskanian on issues concerning bilateral relations between the two countries, both at political and economic level.

According to a relevant announcement, progress in the framework of Black Sea cooperation was discussed, prospects for tripartite cooperation between Iran, Armenia and Greece, issues concerning Armenia's relations with the European Union, as well as deve lopments in the Caucasus region, with emphasis on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Mr. Kranidiotis briefed Mr. Oskanian on Greek foreign policy issues, the Cyprus issue, Greek-Turkish relations and developments in the Balkans.

WEATHER

Mostly fine weather will prevail throughout Greece today except in the eastern regions of the country where there will be local clouds. Winds will be northerly, moderate to strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Temperatures in Athens will range between 19-29C, while in Thessaloniki from 17-27C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 280.250 Pound sterling 445.706 Cyprus pd 528.141 French franc 46.463 Swiss franc 189.670 German mark 156.200 Italian lira (100) 16.004 Yen (100) 235.650 Canadian dlr. 201.932 Australian dlr. 202.428 Irish Punt 421.283 Belgian franc 7.566 Finnish mark 52.175 Dutch guilder 138.687 Danish kr. 41.027 Swedish kr. 35.900 Norwegian kr. 37.871 Austrian sch. 22.201 Spanish peseta 1.852 Port. Escudo 1.540

(M.P.)


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