WASHINGTON .- Athanasios Ellis, ANA
Foreign Minister George Papandreou stressed the need for the resumption of negotiations on the Cyprus issue based on the Annan plan, in 30-minute talks with his US counterpart Colin Powell at the State Department on Wednesday. The issue of security for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games was also raised, while Powell reportedly had a positive approach to the preparations of the Greek authorities so far, which are cooperating closely with the US and other countries having necessary know-how and experience.
Also discussed was the volatile situation prevailing in the Balkans and Papandreou stressed the need for the continuation of close cooperation between the US and the European Union, which has proved to be effective so far.
Developments in the Middle East and Iraq were probed in depth. The Greek foreign minister assessed that past disagreements can be overcome and an agreement can ultimately be reached between the US and the Franco-German axis for the issuing of a Security Council resolution providing the UN with a substantive role and contributing to the country’s reconstruction.
In statements after the talks, Papandreou said he had a constructive discussion with Powell in the framework of regular contacts Greece has with the US at a bilateral level.
”However, we focused our discussion on issues of direct Greek interest such as the Cyprus issue, developments and possible initiatives and possibilities we have to utilize a new dynamic. Dynamic on the ground,” he said.
Papandreou further said ”there are Turkish Cypriots who are requesting to participate in this wider union (EU) in a united Cyprus, (as I ascertained from) meetings I also had with all sides, particularly with the Cypriot government of course, political forces, as well as the society of citizens and the Turkish Cypriots’ opposition. All this, of course, was placed in the framework of Turkey’s course towards the European Union, which the US is also very well aware of.”
”We discussed Balkan issues. I insisted that the Balkans have taken considerable steps, but despite the fact our attention as an international community has turned to Iraq, the Middle East and other possible places on earth, the Balkans remain a region requiring the attention, the affection if you like, the care of the international community to enable us to consolidate stability and overcome difficult problems such as that of Kosovo,” he said.
Referring to other issues discussed with Powell, Papandreou said ”we had the opportunity to discuss wider issues such as dialogue between the EU and the US, as well as Iraq and the Middle East in particular. The feeling I have both from last week’s meetings in Italy, as well as today and yesterday here in Washington is that there is a spirit, a mood, the international community, the EU with the US to see how they will help together to have the major problem existing in Iraq after the war to be overcome. There were disagreements, and indeed intense ones over the war itself. However, there is a will for a stable Iraq with a representative government and for us to ultimately reach, as soon as possible, an independent Iraq which will belong to the Iraqis.”
Asked to say whether he briefed Powell on the continental shelf issue, Papandreou said ”it strikes me that such reports exist because I did not have anything in particular to announce or to brief. In fact I did not even discuss the continental shelf issues with Mr. Powell. It is a known issue, of course. There is a process but this process has not reached a result. If we will have some result or some development we shall notify Greek public opinion immediately.”
On the question of whether there is any initiative on the issue of Cyprus on the part of the US, the foreign minister said ”Mr. Weston is continuing efforts and we hope that conditions will be ripe to enable us to support the UN secretary general once again in his own initiatives for a solution to the Cyprus issue.”
As regards Olympic Games security, Papandreou said Powell spoke positively of the aspect of security and of close cooperation existing on the issue.
MEETING WITH RICE
The situation in Iraq and the prospects for bridging the US-EU positions for the issue of a UN Resolution, the crisis in the Middle East and Palestinian president Yasser Arafat’s role, the fragile stability in the Balkans, and the Cyprus issue were at the focus of a 45-minute meeting at the White House Tuesday, between George Papandreou and president George Bush’s national security advisor Condoleezza Rice.
”We discussed many and general issues, such as Iraq, the Middle East, the situation in the Balkans,” Papandreou told reporters after the meeting, adding that, on the Greek side, ”we focused our attention on the Cyprus issue, on Turkey’s course to Europe, the strategic importance of that course, but also the need for these issues, particularly the Cyprus problem, to be seen in that course”.
”We analyzed how the developments of the coming months — the next year — will be significant with respect to Cyprus, because not only will Cyprus be formally joining the EU, but the road is opening for new initiatives, provided a volition truly arises on the side of the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey. It is a firm position on the part of (UN secretary general) Kofi Annan and the UN, just as is the fact that Turkey is seeking a date for the commencement of negotiations (for EU membership) at the end of 2004, at which time its own stance, including on the Cyprus issue, will be assessed,” Papandreou said.
He added that he had stressed that continuous US support for the UN efforts, its continuous insistence on a just (Cyprus) solution, in accordance with the UN resolutions, ”is something that we would appreciate and would substantively aid the course towards resolution of the Cyprus issue”.
On the Balkans, Papandreou explained that continuation of the good cooperation between the US and Europe was necessary to confront the new frictions points arising in Kosovo and FYROM.
Greek diplomatic sources told ANA that Rice claimed that, despite the negative picture held by many, the domestic situation in Iraq ”is improving”, and the US was working hard for the political reconstruction of that country. Rice also opined that there would inevitably be agreement between the US and the France-Germany axis on the issue of a UN resolution, the sources said.
On the Middle East, Rice cast blame on Arafat and accused him of undermining resigned Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas and of not taking action to halt the terrorist activity of Palestinian extremist organizations, the sources said.
Papandreou, on an official visit to Washington, is also scheduled to hold consultations with US secretary of state Colin Powell at the State Department on Wednesday.
Review of items for talks with Powell: Papandreou also briefly reviewed the issues he was expected to discuss with Powell, with whom he said he had a “wider agenda”.
He said they would naturally discuss the wider developments, such as Iraq, the discussion taking place and which would take place in the UN. “We will have the opportunity, next week at the UN, to discuss these issues also in the framework of the EU, but also with the other members of the UN Security Council”.
He said that the EU position was that there may have been disagreements as to whether the Iraq war should have taken place and why, but on the other hand that it was of “vital importance to stabilize Iraq, for Iraq to enter a road of reconstruction, of representational government and, naturally, of independence”.
“Consequently, Europe is coming with a strategic choice, which does not differ from the statements which have been made by Mr. Powell. The issue, though, is how this will be materialized, through what procedures, and what will be the important role of the international community, and of the UN more specifically,” Papandreou said.
On Greek Turkish relations, Papandreou said there were seven years of efforts which, along with the Cyprus issue, would be facing assessment in 2004.
Indeed, he said, the decisions of the EU Helsinki summit “explicitly speak of 2004”. “Indeed, the Helsinki decisions chronologically coincide with the Copenhagen (summit) decision for assessment of Turkey and whether it may proceed to the next stage, which is the commencement of negotiations (for EU accession). Consequently, these issues will be assessed, beyond the Copenhagen criteria — human rights, internal reforms, the role of the army — on which the present government of Turkey has truly made steps”.
Papandreou reiterated the Greek position that there was only one outstanding bilateral issue between Greece and Turkey, which was the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf.
This issue, he explained, had a “territorial dimension, as we consider that our borders are a given fact”. The continental shelf had not been set out because, with the treaties of the past, “the issue of the continental shelf did not exist, so there was no reason to do so”. Now, however, such an issue existed, “and we must resolve it”.
In these efforts, he said, Greece insisted on international legality, and on its firm position that it does not negotiate its sovereign rights, and that the continental shelf issue can be resolved within the framework of international law, through referring it to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
Papandreou noted that “exploratory” talks were ongoing between Greece and Turkey, but explained that they enabled simply an exchange of views and in no instance comprised negotiations. The talks were “an exchange of views to see if we can reach a negotiation”.
Although there was nothing significant to report, no change, for example, the fact that those discussions were taking place, the effort for rapprochement in that direction was, in itself, positive, Papandreou said, adding that other contacts in which a series of other matters were being discussed were also ongoing, in an effort to formulate a climate of greater confidence between the two countries.
“And it is this entire effort that will be assessed in 2004,” Papandreou said.