NEW YORK.- GreekNews
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is expected to arrive tonight (Monday) in the United States for an official visit at the invitation of US President George W. Bush. Karamanlis and President Bush will be discussing bilateral Greek-US relations, the issue of Cyprus, relations between Greece and Turkey and between Turkey and the European Union, as well as major international and regional problems, while the Athens Olympic Games will also be high on the agenda of talks. According to a CBS news report, Olympic security will be the main item on the agenda when President Bush and Greek Premier Costas Caramanlis meet at the White House next week.
“I think the Olympics is a big issue,” Thomas Miller, the U.S. ambassador to Greece, said Friday.
The United States is among a seven-nation security advisory group assisting Greek authorities. Greece also has asked NATO to help safeguard the Olympics, mainly with aerial surveillance, sea patrols and protection against a chemical, biological or nuclear attack.
“We all understand it is a difficult environment,” Miller said. “It’s a big challenge, but cooperation is excellent.”
Caramanlis will also meet with Vice President Dick Cheney. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser.
While in New York, prime minister Karamanlis will be having meetings on Tuesday with the Archbishop of America Dimitrios and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as well as attending a reception to be given in his honor by the Council of Hellenes Overseas (SAE). On Wednesday, Karamanlis will visit the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the exhibition ”Byzantium: Faith and Power” and attend a breakfast given to him by the Hellenic American Business Council and then leave for Washington.
Karamanlis will be meeting Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday at 10 am and later he will be received at the White House by President Bush who will host a luncheon for him.
Later on the same day, the prime minister will have consecutive meetings with the president of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee and with the president of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. Karamanlis will be addressing the Council on Foreign Relations on Friday morning and then he will be returning to Greece.
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos stated that Mr. Karamanlis’ intention is to underline the need to keep the prospects open for a solution to the Cyprus problem, stressing that the efforts of the Greek government move toward this direction.
Foreign Minister Petros Moliviatis, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis, Assistant Foreign Minister Takis Skandalakis and the Government Spokesman Thodoros Rousopoulos, will accompany Mr. Karamanlis in his US trip.
Mr. Koumoutsakos stated that among the goals of the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States is going to be the strengthening of the traditionally good bilateral relations.
The US political leadership will be briefed on the priorities of the Greek foreign policy as well as on Athens’ views and priorities regarding regional, European and international issues.
On the Olympic Games, it will be stressed the progress made in the preparations which have reached the final stage, while a reference will be made to the preparations concerning security. Mr. Karamanlis will also promote bilateral economic relations.
Before leaving for the US, Karamanlis spoke with President of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos and discussed the tactics. Karamanlis asked Papadopoulos to inform him on Nicosia’s latest positions.
As it was reported Saturday in Athens daily Kathimerini, on the eve of Karamanlis’ meeting with Bush, the political leadership in Cyprus itself appears to be divided on how best to go forward after Greek Cypriots rejected a UN blueprint for reunification in a referendum on April 24.
The Greek Cypriots have three different opinions as to how to proceed from here. Cyprus joined the European Union on May 1 but, because of the Greek-Cypriot vote, Turkish Cypriots will not enjoy the benefits of membership. The Cypriots are now waiting to see what the fallout will be at the level of the EU’s and the United States’ relations with the Turkish-Cypriot breakaway state, as Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the UN plan.
President Tassos Papadopoulos is said to be among those who believe that Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan has to undergo critical changes which will make it more functional and acceptable.
A second school of thought is said to reflect the thinking of Parliament Speaker Dimitris Christofias, who is president of the Communist AKEL party, which is Cyprus’s largest and which supported the center-right Papadopoulos’s candidacy for the presidency. This approach is less demanding in that it seeks guarantees that the Annan plan will be implemented. Unless the mood among Greek Cypriots changes, this approach appears likely to be supported by most of them. This is most probably also the only viable choice as the Turkish Cypriots disagree with any new negotiations or changes to the Annan plan.
A third approach demands new negotiations from scratch. Supporters of this include those who (with minimal support) want no discussion on the issue of reunification.
Those who want changes to the Annan plan want Turkey to be stripped of the right to intervene in Cyprus, a withdrawal of Turkish troops and a balance between what the two sides are giving up. As Papadopoulos said in the speech with which he called on Greek Cypriots to vote “no,” Greek Cypriots should not have to dissolve the Republic of Cyprus immediately in turn for the expectation of benefits of the Annan plan to come from 3.5 years to 19 years down the road and only if Turkey shows the necessary good will. It is not clear how the Greek Cypriots’ differing approaches will be reconciled.