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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-12-01

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 01/12/1997 (ANA)


  • Defence minister to attend NATO meeting
  • Simitis meets with Chirac in Paris
  • Albanian interior minister in Athens
  • No visa scam, foreign ministry says
  • Burns: Reunification of Cyprus important for the US
  • Simitis to present Greece's WEU programme
  • Defence Ministry: No change in Aegean status
  • Cyprus hails announcement of specific date for EU accession talks
  • Blair on Greek-Turkish relations
  • Greek First Division soccer results
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


Defence minister to attend NATO meeting

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos left this morning for Brussels to attend tomorrow's meeting of Alliance defence ministers.

Informed sources said that despite Greek objections, Turkey had managed to put the issue of the coordinating centre for air operations and exercises on the NATO military committee's agenda for discussion.

The issue is expected to be discussed within the framework of talks on the implementation of NATO's new structure next spring or autumn.

Turkey reportedly wants the operation of the centre separate from the issue of the Flight Information Region, which would make it possible for Turkish aircraft to enter the Athens FIR without submitting flight plans, on the pretext that they were acting within the framework of the centre's operation.

Greece does not consider that NATO has a defined area of operational control since it no longer had a specific enemy, according to government spokesman Dimitris Reppas.

He stressed that even under NATO's new structure, each member state would retain responsibility for protecting its own territory.

Asked whether NATO's new structure would cancel out any of Greece's sovereign rights, Reppas stressed that Greece maintained its right to veto, as it had done with regard to Turkish participation in certain NATO military exercises in the past.

"When NATO exercises are being planned, we will continue to raise issues of concern to Greece, as we have always done," he said.

He noted that all member states had reached agreement on NATO's new military structure, while the details would be worked out over the next few months.

Simitis meets with Chirac in Paris

Prime Minister Costas Simitis has talks today in Paris with French President Jacques Chirac focusing on Turkey's participation in the proposed European Conference for countries wishing to join the European Union.

According to informed sources, Simitis stressed that Greece could not consent to Turkish participation in the conference as long as Ankara refused to fulfil the preconditions which govern the relations of all civilised countries.

French presidency sources said talks between the Greek and French delegations focused on the issue of EU enlargement, noting that France supported the Luxembourg presidency's proposal that Cyprus and the other 10 candidate countries should have "a common starting point" but "a different pace" in negotiations.

Meanwhile it was agreed that the reform of EU institutions should take place before completion of the first round of enlargement, while there were no major differences between the two sides on the issues of Economic and Monetary Union and Agenda 2000.

Chirac and Simitis also discussed Balkan issues. According to French presidency sources, Chirac expressed the desire for the rapid attainment of an agreement between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on outstanding issues and congratulated Greece on the successful meeting of Southeast European leaders of government and state on Crete last month.

Simitis is currently having talks with his French counterpart Lionel Jospin.

Albanian interior minister in Athens

Albanian Interior Minister Neritan Ceka had separate talks today with Public Order Minister George Romeos and Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis, as part of his official visit to Greece.

The talks were also attended by Albania's ambassador in Greece Kastriot Robo and the heads of the Greek and Albanian police forces, Athanasios Vassilopoulos and Sokol Baraj.

According to reports, the talks were constructive and provided an opportunity for a broad exchange of views and the further promotion of bilateral cooperation.

Ceka's talks with Romeos focussed on ways to improve cooperation in matters of training, while the possibility was examined of further cooperation through the joint working committee which has already been formed to combat drug trafficking, organised crime, and theft.

No visa scam, foreign ministry says

The foreign ministry today rejected press reports claiming that visas issued by the Greek consulate in Gjirokaster, southern Albania, were up for sale, stressing that all the legal procedures to issue a visa were being rigorously followed.

A foreign ministry announcement said that Greece's consul general in Gjirokaster was performing his duties well despite the difficult conditions prevailing in the region.

Burns: Reunification of Cyprus important for the US

Nicholas Burns, the new US ambassador to Greece, arrived in Athens yesterday to take up his post. On his arrival at Athens' Hellenikon Airport, Mr. Burns declined to answer a reporter's question on reactions by the US and European Union to tension between Greece and Turkey, saying he had yet to meet with Greek government leaders.

"I don't think it is appropriate for me to respond in detail to questions like that, but suffice it to say that the United States has a very deep interest in making sure that our NATO allies in this region have a basis to resolve their problems together , and that's what the United States has tried to do for a very long time and will continue to do," he said.

Mr. Burns, who was officially appointed to the ambassador's post in Washington on Nov. 10, was until then the US State Department's spokesman.

In an interview with the Athens daily "AVGI" published on Sunday, Mr. Burns said the reunification of Cyprus was important for the United States, but needed patience.

"Some day Cyprus can be reunited, become a united island. This is important for the US, and we shall work hard in cooperation with the Greek government, towards this end. we must be realists. These are difficult problems which cannot be resolved overnight. They may not be solved in the next three years. But we shall try very hard to resolve them," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Simitis to present Greece's WEU programme

Prime Minister Costas Simitis will tomorrow outline the main elements of Greece's WEU programme when he addresses the Union's parliamentary assembly which starts here today.

Greece officially assumes the rotating WEU presidency on January 1, 1998.

Mr. Simitis is expected to focus on the Greek presidency's programme, as well as a summing-up account by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel this morning - Germany currently holds the WEU's rotating six-month presidency.

The parliamentary sssembly is composed of 115 deputies, all representatives of national Parliaments.

The session will also be addressed by WEU Secretary General Jose Cutilheiro this morning and NATO's Secretary General Javier Solana on Thursday afternoon.

Among reports expected to be discussed of particular interest are a report by the Dutch deputy Blau on the issue of the WEU after the European Union's Amsterdam summit and NATO's summit in Madrid.

Defence ministry: No change in Aegean status

Turkey will not acquire operational control in the Aegean with the new NATO command structure, there is no joint sovereignty and no allocation, while Athens will not give up its national positions on the Aegean, national defence ministry sources categorically stated, in light of a NATO defence ministers' session in Brussels tomorrow on the specific issue.

The same sources clarified that both NATO's founding proclamation and its new strategic conception explicitly mention that in no case does the alliance deprive member-states of sovereign rights and consequently, every member-state has the exclusive resp onsibility for its defence and the safeguarding of its sovereign rights.

Given that the veto principle applies in all of NATO's institutional bodies, Greece is not committed and can veto activities it believes harm its national interests, the sources stressed.

Among others, NATO's new structure anticipates establishment of four sub- headquarters in the southern flank. One each in Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey, which will basically concern land forces and will have small staffs for the navy and air force branches.

The new headquarters to be created will be responsible and will only control NATO's activities and not national ones, in addition they will be multinational NATO entities and not a national NATO entity.

The sources expressed concern regarding the issue of covering the administrative posts of NATO's new administrative structure and the issue of conducting airforce operations.

On the first issue, the sources stated categorically that Greece will not accept the placement of a non-Greek commander of the sub-headquarters proposed for basing in Larisa. On the second issue, they clarified that security valves exist which secure na tional interests, namely, 127 MC/CS, by which the regions to be defined for conducting operations must be approved by the military committee and where the principle of unanimity prevails.

Additionally, the sources stressed that the Greek government will not agree to whatever phraseology indicated to create problems at a national level in connection with the document on the issue of the functioning and operation of the Combine Air Operati on Center, something Turkey does not want linked to the FIR.

Cyprus hails announcement of specific date for EU accession talks

Cyprus hailed the announcement of a specific date for the start of the island republic's accession negotiations with the European Union which will start on April 10.

Cyprus Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou told the state-run RIK Network that that Nicosia now awaits official notification.

The finance minister said that unless other obstacles appear, Cyprus could be a full member in two years' time, while its economy could be in the same, if not in a better state than certain countries that are already full EU members.

Mr. Christodoulou said that due to the implementation of measures for harmonisation with the European establishment, unfavourable repercussions were experienced, particularly in public finances.

However, he said the situation will change when Cyprus becomes a full EU member and acquires access to support funds and participates in decision- making. Mr. Christodoulou offered assurances that the economy is in a position to handle all the unfavoura ble repercussions until succession.

Blair on Greek-Turkish relations

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said an understanding on longterm goals could help Greece and Turkey improve their relations.

"I would like to see Greece and Turkey approach issues with greater self- confidencee, a more direct communication between the two governments, and greater effort to discuss differences with sincerity and calm. An understanding on some longterm goals cou ld help," he said in an interview with the Athens Sunday newspaper "To Vima", in an article published yesterday. "Proceeding on the basis of the principles of the Madrid communique, and planning on where they would like their relationship to be in 10 year's time, the two countries could find a more comfortable framework within which to make smaller steps in specific difficult issues," he added.

Regarding Cyprus, Mr. Blair said Britain saw its EU accession in a positive light, and expressed the hope that "a serious opportunity will be given to the Turkish Cypriots to participate in the negotiations".

Greek First Division soccer results

Veria - AEK 1-2 Heraklis - Kalamata 2-1 Apollon - Xanthi 1-2 Panahaiki - OFI 0-2 Proodeftiki - Pyros 0-1 Ethnikos - Athinaikos 1-0 Kavala - Ionikos 2-3 Panionios - PAOK 0-3 Olympiakos-Panathinaikos play today Standings-points: AEK 31, Panathinaikos, Olympiakos, Ionikos 27 Heraklis 23, PAOK 22, Xanthi 20 OFI, Apollon 17, Pyrgos 15, Panionios, Panahaiki, Ethnikos 13


Cloudiness, rain and rainstorms are forecast throughout the country today with an improvement in the afternoon starting from the west. Winds southwesterly, moderate to strong in the east, turning to gale force in the Aegean Sea. Athens will be overcast, rainy and windy with temperatures from 13-17C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 13-16C.


Friday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 274.834 Pound sterling 460.447 Cyprus pd 531.712 French franc 46.521 Swiss franc 192.592 German mark 155.675 Italian lira (100) 15.895 Yen (100) 215.294 Canadian dlr. 193.004 Australian dlr. 188.128 Irish Punt 405.887 Belgian franc 7.546 Finnish mark 51.511 Dutch guilder 138.156 Danish kr. 40.898 Swedish kr. 35.498 Norwegian kr. 38.194 Austrian sch. 22.122 Spanish peseta 1.842 Port. Escudo 1.522


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