Washington, D.C. ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis appeared here on Wednesday night “particularly satisfied” after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which lasted 45 minutes. Bakoyannis also ascertained that a new cooperation between Greece and the U.S.A. begins, characterized by a will for deepening the strategic relationship between the two countries.
Speaking to reporters after a working luncheon with Under Secretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns and the meeting that followed with Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg, Bakoyannis referred to “positive meetings that took place in a particularly good climate.”
“This is not diplomatic dialect, but the substance,” she added.
“A wide range of issues of particular interest to Greece was discussed, such as Greek-Turkish relations, EU-Turkey relations and the Cyprus issue, as well as other issues of broader interest like the Middle East problem and, due to Greece’s 2009 OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) presidency, the problems in Caucasus and the talks we intend to start with Russia,” Bakoyannis said.
The Greek foreign minister, whose three-day visit to Washington ended on Wednesday night (Greek time), was due to depart for New York later in the night.
“I completed my contacts with the new U.S. administration by meeting Mrs Clinton as well as all State Department cadres,” Bakoyannis told the press.
“The talks were positive, held in a particularly good climate, constructive, and I do not say this in the diplomatic dialect but in substance, and I believe that this is the beginning of a good cooperation, to which we will advance in the coming months. Mrs Clinton was very clear. She spoke of a relationship of strategic importance, which will be taken over by very specific working groups that will elaborate and debate on some issues of particular interest to the two countries. Mrs Clinton has proposed the broadening of this Greece-U.S. strategic relationship and cooperation, on specific affairs such as those preoccupying the OSCE and Balkan and Middle East issues,” the Greek foreign minister added.
Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos earlier on Wednesday stressed the significance of a visit by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis to the United States, especially her meeting later the same day with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“I believe that it is an important visit. First of all, it is taking place shortly after the new U.S. administration took over and gives Greece the opportunity and possibility, precisely within a short space of time, to present its positions, views, concerns but also proposals on a series of issues. Whether these concern broader issues or mainly top priority issues for Greece, such as the situation in the Balkans, the Cyprus problem or our relations with Turkey,” Koumoutsakos said in statements to the state-run satellite TV channel NET.
The spokesman said that the Greek side had high hopes for the results of the meeting between Bakoyannis and Clinton, especially in terms of the Greece’s request to be included in the U.S. visa waiver programme. Koumoutsakos anticipated that close cooperation on this issue between Greek and U.S. authorities will lead to a final solution within the current year.
“Its waiver for Greek citizens wishing to visit the United States is necessary. It is necessary for practical but also for symbolic reasons,” he noted, adding that it was also “just”.
Resolving this will be “a step reaffirming the traditional friendship of two modern, democratic countries with shared principles and values,” Koumoutsakos said.
Developments in the Middle East and relations with Russia were at the crux of Greek foreign minister and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) chairperson Dora Bakoyannis meetings in Washington on Tuesday with the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, while developments in Greek-Turkish relations, the prospects for a solution of the Cyprus issue and Turkey’s role in the ongoing process under the aegis of the UN, as well as the FYROM name issue, were also examined.
During her meeting with the Congressional committee dealing with the OSCE, the role of the current Greek chairmanship of the organization was discussed, as well as the renewal of the OSCE’s mission in Georgia.
Bakoyannis stressed the need for abolition as soon as possible of the visa requirement for Greek citizens wishing to visit the US and for Greece’s entry into the US’s Visa Waiver Program.
The Greek foreign minister met earlier Tuesday with Obama’s National Security Adviser General James Jones and members of Congress.
Speaking to Greek state NET television station afterwards, Bakoyannis said she had ascertained good knowledge of the issues and understanding on the part of Gen. Jones and the Congressional members, as well as a desire for cooperation.
Bakoyannis said she had initiated on Tuesday a series of meetings with the new US government, with her meeting with Gen. Jones, adding that they had the opportunity to discuss a large number of issues.
“It was a lengthy and very good meeting, held in a particularly good climate,” Bakoyannis said, adding that “we discussed issues of wider international interest which, of course, also fall under the competency of the OSCE chairmanship, issues that will be discussed at the next NATO summit, and naturally issues of specific Greek interest.”
Bakoyannis continued that she briefed Jones on Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue and the FYROM issue, while the also discussed the Visa Waiver program, which she said was always an aspired target.
She said it had been a good and useful meeting, as were her meetings in the Senate, where she briefed the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee in-depth.
IN NEW YORK
While in New York, Dora Bakoyannis met on Thursday with the UN secretary general’s special envoy on the FYROM name issue, Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, and with the US representative to the UN, Ambassador Susan Rice. Bakoyannis told reporters after the half-hour talks that the exchanged views on where the issue stood at the present time.
From the Greek side’s point of view, she said, the meeting served as a review, adding that the issue in the present period was stationary.
It was also noted that the FYROM name talks would be resumed at a time to be designated by Nimetz.
With Rice, Bakoyannis discussed issues concerning Greece as well as the current Greek chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“The Greek Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) 2009 presidency occurs in “a difficult year” and it will actively work for handling crises as “an honest neogotiator”, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said on Friday.
In statements after her address to the UN Security Council on Greece’s priorities as the 2009 chair of the OSCE, the foreign minister reiterated that there was “a progress, even not very big” at the Geneva talks on Georgia. “We have agreed on the mechanisms for preventing escalation and this is an important step of progress. We will continue trying to reach a consensus for the presence of the OSCE mission in Georgia. It is an important mission, necessary in the region. There are some proposals by the Greek presidency and I hope that we will succeed in having an agreement on that,” she added.
On the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, Bakoyannis noted that “discussions are underway”, and expressed hope “reaching an agreement before the end of 2009”.
In her address to the UN Security Council, she urged a greater OSCE role and action in crisis management, involving closer cooperation with other international agencies, such as the United Nations. In terms of tackling the global economic crisis, especially, Bakoyannis underlined the need to “further enhance the partnership relationship between the OSCE and the UN”.
Referring to areas of OSCE activity, Bakoyannis pointed to the events in the Caucasus in 2008 and highlighted efforts being made by the Greek OSCE chair to ensure that a peace-keeping mission remained in the area and that the OSCE had a “more rounded” presence in the region.
She also marked the progress made in terms of mechanisms to manage the crisis through an agreement achieved in Geneva the previous week, saying that this was “a vital first step toward building confidence and a possible resolution of the dispute”.