The US Secretary of State leaves Athens out of her first official visit to Europe, while she will be going to Ankara
Washington.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Greece was left out of the first round of visits by the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, between February 3rd and February 10th. Secretary Rice will visit eight European countries, as well as Israel and the West Bank. According to the Department of State Spokesman, Richard Boucher, the trip comes in advance of the President’s visit to Europe between February 22nd and 25.
“She will this opportunity to advance the President’s agenda and the United States agenda in cooperation with our European friends and allies”, Boucher explained.
Both Secretary Rice and the newly appointed deputy secretary Robert Zoellick intend to pay visits to all NATO member-countries, including Greece. Responding to a question, Richard Boucher said on Friday that Greece is one of the most important U.S. allies, adding that in this spirit Rice and Zoellick will prepare their program so as to include a visit to Athens before next spring.
Neither the Department of State, nor the Greek Embassy were ably to confirm if the Secretary will make the trip, or the trip’s date.
At the same time, both foreign ministries discuss a possible trip in the US by the Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, initially scheduled for February. Now the US administration talks about middle of March, or even to follow a trip in Greece by Mr Zoellick.
Mrs Rice’s first official visit to Europe will include the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Turkey, Israel, Italy, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. As Boucher said, during the course of her visit, she intends to promote President Bush’s vision of democracy and freedom as the keys to peace and prosperity. She will work to identify a common agenda for 2005 with our European partners and our partners in the Middle East — an agenda of fighting terrorism, proliferation, disease and poverty, as we support democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
“ She will coordinate with European partners and institutions to support reform in the broader Middle East and North Africa. She looks forward to working with European allies to advance the Middle East peace process, and she expects to support development of European institutions while in Europe.
US decision to leave Greece out, created biter feelings amongst Greek American Community leaders, especially after Turkey was included. A prominent member of the Greek Lobby told GreekNews that since 2001, only twice Bush cabinet members visited Greece. Secretary Rumsfeld for a NATO meeting in Thessaloniki and Secretary Abrahams in the eve of the Olympics, while a scheduled trip by the Secretary of State Colin Powell in August (for the Olympics closing ceremony) was cancelled.
George Savvaides, Ambassador of Greece in Washington DC US told GreekNews that we should examine the whole picture of meetings between high officials of the two countries.
“During this period we had many visits of Greek Prime Ministers, and ministers. There was never lack of communications at the highest level”, he said.
No one expects a change in US policy towards Greece, under Mrs Rice. Both countries describe their links as strong. Few of the problems involve the Greek participation of the NATO training in Iraq and the issue of Kosovo.