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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-06-15

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM Karamanlis in Lisbon for talks with Portuguese leadership
  • [02] Papandreou condemns violence in Lebanon
  • [03] FM addresses event on Balkan stability
  • [04] Group unveils initiative on Hagia Sophia

  • [01] PM Karamanlis in Lisbon for talks with Portuguese leadership

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis will meet on Friday in Lisbon with Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva.

    Karamanlis, who arrived in Portugal on Thursday night, is also scheduled to attend a working luncheon hosted by Portuguese Prime Minsiter Jose Socrates, and separately with opposition leader Luis Marques Mendes.

    The prime minister will return to Athens on Friday night.

    Portugal takes over the EU rotating presidency on July 1.

    A day earlier, Karamanlis was briefed by health care sector issues by Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.

    [02] Papandreou condemns violence in Lebanon

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou expressed his condemnation on Friday of yet another bomb attack in Beirut, with the latest terrorist act claiming the life of Lebanese MP Walid Eido, his son and six other people on Wednesday.

    Papandreou, who is also the president of the Socialist International, extended his condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and government of Lebanon.

    He also condemned any attempt to destabilise Lebanon by targeting the unity of the Lebanese people through political assassinations or other terrorist acts, while he reaffirmed his support in every possible way towards the country's stability, sovereignty and political independence.

    According to a PASOK press release, Papandreou spoke by phone with Arab League General Secretary Amr Moussa on Thursday, in view of the Arab foreign ministers' extraordinary meeting in Cairo on Friday, convened to discuss developments in the wider region, and in particular the dire situation in Gaza and Lebanon. The discussion reportedly focused on coordination of initiatives undertaken by Socialist International and the Arab League.

    Earlier, Papandreou also spoke with Shimon Peres to congratulate him on his election to the presidency of Israel. Additionally, the PASOK leader sent congratulations to Ehud Barak on his election to the helm of Israel's Labor Party.

    Caption: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou. ANA-MPA photo.

    [03] FM addresses event on Balkan stability

    Foreign ?inister Dora Bakoyannis on Friday inaugurated a two-day round-table discussion entitled "The Balkans as a Source of Eecurity and Stability in Europe", organised in Athens by the Princeton-based non-NGO "Project on Ethnic Relations" (PER).

    The event, financed by the US Service for International Development and the foreign ministries of Greece and Switzerland, will run through Saturday at a central Athens hotel, under the Aegis of the Greek foreign ministry. Political leaders from all the countries of SE Europe, along with Greece, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland and the United States are expected to attend, as well as officials from the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations (UN).

    Opening the discussion, Bakoyannis said it offered "an opportunity for an exchange of views on the region", and expressed conviction that such an event "will shed new light on the consolidation of peace and stability in southeastern Europe, which is "on the road to Ithaca, a long and frequently difficult road".

    Bakoyannis welcomed the reopening of negotiations between Serbia and the EU, describing as "fragile" the situation in the region following the end of clashes in the 1990s, while she stressed that "peace in the region is far from being guaranteed".

    She also referred to Greece's national strategy, which she said has the support of Greek public opinion as well as all the Greek political parties, and consists of the gradual incorporation of all countries of SE Europe in European institutions. On this issue, she described the contribution of former foreign minister George Papandreou, now leader of the main opposition PASOK party, as "significant".

    Bakoyannis warned that "the destabilisation of one section of SE Europe could destabilise the entire region", and called the European prospect "a driving force for achieving necessary changes and reforms in the countries of the region", explaining that "full compliance with the conditions set out by the EU is the only way to ensure the full accession of the SE European countries into the European family".

    She also stressed the need for further development of regional cooperation, stressing that Greece was contributing decisively in that direction both through the Greek investments in the countries of the region -- which the foreign minister noted were in excess of 18 billion dollars -- and through its participation in the construction of infrastructure projects as well as in a series of other sectors, including cooperation in the fields of education, tourism, culture and others.

    The two most important issues, she continued, were ensuring stability in Kosovo through a viable and functional settlement backed by a relevant UN resolution but without the imposition of tight deadlines, as well as accelerating domestic reforms in the region so as to achieve stability in democratic institutions.

    PER president Livia Plaks stressed the need for the active involvement of Balkan countries in resolving the Kosovo issue, adding that it was necessary to accelerate the accession of all Balkan countries into the European Union, particularly Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    Caption: FM Dora Bakoyannis. ANA-MPA photo.

    [04] Group unveils initiative on Hagia Sophia

    A nascent international initiative to restore the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul as a place of worship for all the world's Christians was outlined here on Thursday by a veteran Greek-American political leader, less than a week before a public hearing is scheduled on the religious monument's condition at the US Congress.

    Chris Spirou, a noted New Hampshire Democratic leader and Greek-American political leader, said the organisation he heads up (Free Agia Sophia Council of America) will present evidence showing the "violation" of Eastern Orthodoxy's most renowned basilica over the past 554 years.

    "We will demonstrate that the violations have turned this most sacred site for Christians into an international bazaar. We will present our belief, as a Council that believes in human rights, that no government has the right to determine the use of a church or has the right to appoint or approve of religious faiths, to ordain priests or to determine holy figures," Spirou charged in a clear reference to the Turkish government.

    He nevertheless stressed -- at the beginning of his comments during a press conference in Athens -- that the initiative has absolutely nothing to do with Greece or sensitive Greek-Turkish relations and US-Turkish relations, or even Greek-US-Turkish relations. He also said he has had no contacts with Greek officials or the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the campaign, noting that he learned of his invitation to appear before the joint Congressional Human Rights Caucus while on a visit to Athens.

    "The Ecumenical Patriarch is in the same position as the Hagia Sophia. He (the Patriarch) is in captivity ... I don't want to worsen his position," Spirou said in answer to a press question.

    Moreover, he emphasised that the Hagia Sofia is to Orthodox Christians what St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is to Roman Catholics, or the Wailing Wall to Jews and Mecca to Muslims.

    The Congressional Human Rights Caucus will convene next Wednesday to focus on reports of violations, brought up by the Council, at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the renowned early Byzantine-era cathedral that was converted into a mosque after Constantinople's fall in 1453 and later turned into a museum in the early 20th century with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.

    The hearing, held by the joint Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC), marks the first time that Congress will hear testimony on the situation concerning Hagia Sophia.

    The hearing will be chaired by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Ca), the chairman of the influential House Committee on Foreign Affairs, with Spirou representing the Free Agia Sophia Council of America group during his testimony before the caucus.

    Caption: Turkish policemen walk in downtown Istanbul as part of heightened security measures, in front of the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, 27 November 2006 prior to Pope Benedict XVI visit to the monument. ANA-MPA / EPA / KERIM OKTEN

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