WASHINGTON.- Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis concluded a successful visit to the United States, during which he met with President Bush, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the leadership of the US Congress, as well as business leaders, policy makers, American media and prominent members of the Greek American Community.
Addressing a press conference for Greek and foreign journalists, few hours after the meeting with President Bush at the White House, Costas Karamanlis expressed full satisfaction over U.S. President ‘s statement on the security of this summer’s Athens Olympic Games, saying that it ”constitutes a vote of confidence the fact that his father will in essence head the U.S. delegation.”
Karamanlis noted that he briefed the U.S. leadership in depth on preparations for the Olympic Games and on the close cooperation with allies and partners, which is in progress, on security matters, underlining that Bush’s response was very satisfactory.
The Greek prime minister yet again denied information that the American side indirectly raised a demand for tighter security measures for U.S. athletes.
Karamanlis underlined that regarding the security of the Games, Greece has spent 1.2 billion dollars, three times more than Sidney in the previous Games and thirty times more than at the Games in Atlanta in 1996.
Bush surprised Karamanlis, when he wished him in front of the cameras, for his name day. Furthermore he said he was excited for Greece to host the Olympic Games.
“I wish I could attend, but this is a political season. So, instead, I’m sending my father to lead our delegation”, he said.
Bush thanked Karamanlis for the very close cooperation with the US, “to make sure the Games are successful, that people are able to travel to your beautiful country in as secure an environment as possible. You’re making very good progress, Mr. Prime Minister, and I appreciate your hard work. I know your intentions are to have this the best possible Games, and for that, I’m grateful”.
According to reports, Karamanlis raised the issue of the Halki School of Theology with the US president, explaining its importance for the role played by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and President Bush, according to government sources, was positive and expressed support for the school’s opening.
According to reports, issues discussed by the two leaders included Iraq, the Balkans, and the situation in Kosovo in particular, the economy, investments, tourism, the increase in oil prices, the situation in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue, child pornography in the internet and the trafficking of humans.
President Bush also asked Karamanlis about the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and whether there will be developments and the Greek prime minister replied that discussions are underway at the UN and that it is a very sensitive issue for Greece.
A senior-ranking US official told ANA that Karamanlis’ visit and his talks with Bush were viewed as “very constructive” by the US side, adding that the Greek premier’s presence was “impressive” and praising his presentation of the Greek positions.
On the Cyprus issue, the official said that Karamanlis and Bush shared the view that “the Turkish Cypriots must be helped”, and reiterated the US view that the Annan plan constituted the only solution.
Speaking at a press conference, Karamanlis said on Iraq “There was no hint for the despatch of Greek military forces to Iraq,”
He further noted that “in the direction of better preparation for, and the security of, the (Athens 2004) Olympic Games, we cannot undertake additional obligations”.
He endorsed a speedy transfer of power and the democratization of Iraq, while also stressing Greece’s active participation in that country’s economic reconstruction.
The prime minister described his talks in the US capital with president George Bush and vice-president Dick Cheney as “constructive”, noting that the issue concerning visas for Greeks entering the US was not discussed.
On the Balkans, Karamanlis reiterated Greece’s firm position that there must be no change of borders. With respect to his discussions with the US leadership on Kosovo, he said Athens and Washington shared the same concerns, adding that he had brought up the matter of the Kosovar Albanians and the stance they are maintaining in the region.
Karamanlis urged active support for the Balkan countries so that they could consolidate democratic institutions, and political and economic normality, stressing the importance of keeping open the prospect of their inclusion in the wider European structure.
Greece, the prime minister noted, was the top investor in the Balkan region and actively taking part in its reconstruction.
Regarding the FYROM name issue, Karamanlis said there were no new developments in the on-going UN-brokered negotiations, but added that there was good cooperation between Greece and FYROM, stressing that “more flexibility is needed on the part of FYROM in order for us to move forward”.
Asked to comment on the differences between his ruling New Democracy party (ND) and the main opposition PASOK party (formerly the ruling party), Karamanlis said it was his standing policy not to speak about domestic affairs when abroad. He did stress, however, that it was a great achievement for Greece, and an indication of maturity, that there was now consensus on foreign policy matters — albeit this did not mean absolute agreement — unlike in the previous decades.
After his White House meetings on Thursday, Karamanlis visited the US Congress where he met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, where talks focussed on Games security and the Cyprus issue.
The Greek prime minister underlined the need for international cooperation to combat international terrorism which, as he said, is a source of insecurity for all, adding that the problem can be handled by all together and not by every country by itself.
COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
Greece has established itself as a “factor of peace, maturity, and progress,” in Europe, the Balkans, and the eastern Mediterranean, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Friday during a speech he gave to the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington DC, wrapping up his four-day official US visit.
“We will prove worthy of this responsibility,” he added, committing to “a strong and productive trans-Atlantic relationship,” as well as a strong and effective European Union.
Referring to international terrorism, Karamanlis spoke of the need for “a decisive leadership,” and the existence of “joint responsibility.” As for Olympic Games security, he reiterated the massive amounts Greece has spent to ensure safe Games, as well as the multilateral cooperation between Greece and another seven countries, with the US playing a leading role in the matter, and the involvement of NATO.
The prime minister described Greece as “a source of inspiration,” and a country offering significant investment opportunities.
He also spoke about Turkey, emphasizing that the country’s European orientation, “which Greece warmly supports,” has set into motion forces of reform and moderation and has begun to transform Turkish society. Karamanlis also mentioned the good personal relationship he has with the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, noting that “never before have Greek and Turkish leaders met so many times in such a brief period.” He also said that Greece will be at Turkey’s side, helping the country to converge with the European constitutional, political and economic framework.
Regarding the Cyprus issue, Karamanlis emphasized that the results of the recent referenda “must be respected,” and said that the rejection of the Annan Plan cannot be the end of the road for Turkish-Cypriots. He asked that both sides, Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots, continue their efforts towards building a common future, always using the Annan Plan as a basis.
“Our effort to solve the Cyprus issue, eliminating distrust in Greek-Turkish relations, Turkey’s efforts towards a European course, promoting Romania’s and Bulgaria’s EU accession, encouraging the western Balkans towards a European course – all these things will change our neighbourhood forever,” the prime minister said.