Turkey continued to block an agreement on the activation of NATO headquarters in Greece at yesterday's defence ministers meeting here, despite sustained pressure by NATO member-states to get Ankara to lift its objections.
The issue dominated yesterday's session. "Despite pressure on Turkey by many countries, Turkey did not back down, and the session ended without agreement concerning the allied headquarters in Larissa and the installation of the Multinational Rapid Deployment Force command in Thessaloniki," Greek Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis told reporters afterwards.
Nevertheless, "Greece scored an important diplomatic victory," he continued, "as, for the first time, NATO member-states such as Germany and the US adopted positions in favour of Greek views and distanced themselves from Turkey.
"During the discussion, Turkish Defence Minister Mehmet Golhan was isolated, having nothing to say, the result being a non-agreement, with fourteen against one... Political balances and positions in Ankara did not allow it to back down," he said. Mr. Arsenis stressed that the situation challenged the credibility of the alliance.
"Greece cannot accept a compromise harmful to its national sovereignty. We cannot accept the operation of a HQ which allows our sovereign rights to be eroded through the back door," he said. Mr. Arsenis further explained that the ministerial session had arrived at an arrangement concerning the budget of NATO HQ blocked by a Turkish veto.
Turkey, he specified, had agreed, under pressure, to lift its veto by the end of 1995. For its part, Greece, whose veto had frozen only the budget of the land forces HQ in Izmir, "has not lifted its veto, but has accepted an interim suspension of the freezing for three months".
Mr. Arsenis said this suspension offered an opportunity to NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes to seek a solution with Turkey before the informal ministerial meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia, next October. In this way, he stressed, pressures must be exercised only on the side of Turkey, and not Greece.
The issue, he repeated, is not Greece's differences with Turkey, but Turkey's with NATO. "Countries with a special weight in NATO, such as Germany and the US, must assume their responsibilities and solve Nato's problem with Turkey," he said.
Questioned on the optimism he had expressed prior to the meeting on the issue of the installation of the Multinational Rapid Deployment Force in Thessaloniki, the defence minister said there had, indeed, been estimates that Turkey would consent, adding that Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General George Joulwan had already expressed his support for the proposal. Mr. Arsenis had a half-hour meeting with NATO chief Willy Claes and US Defence Secretary William Perry shortly before yesterday's session began.
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou said he hoped that the Greek initiative in Pale and Belgrade earlier this week would help lead to peace in the region.
Speaking on arrival in Paris yesterday to participate in an informal EU summit, Mr. Papandreou said the initiative by the Greek foreign and defence ministers, Karolos Papoulias and Gerasimos Arsenis, along with other initiatives and with the cessation of military intervention, could help in the search for peace.
"This is our hope, but this assumes the realisation by all parties that only a political solution is appropriate," he said. The Arsenis-Papoulias initiative won the release of 111 UN hostages after marathon talks with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and Serb President Slobodan Milosevic on Monday and Tuesday. "Greece's role is important," he said, "because it is the only country which has simultaneous contact with Pale and Belgrade."
The prime minister said he was optimistic, "despite the overuse of the word, but unless a peaceful solution is found, we will be witnessing a Balkan tragedy." In Brussels, meanwhile, Mr. Arsenis briefed his NATO counterparts on the content of his talks in Pale and Belgrade.
Mr. Arsenis reiterated Greece's position for a diplomatic solution to the Bosnian crisis, adding that the Bosnian leadership also shared this view. He said that military operations and air strikes would not help in creating a suitable climate for consultations, adding that UN forces should remain in the region and that rapid reaction forces should be deployed only with the aim of supporting and protecting UNPROFOR.
Mr. Arsenis said that isolating the Bosnian Serb leadership did not help in the search for a solution to the crisis and stressed that official and unofficial meetings should be held at which Bosnian Serb leaders would be able to state their positions. "It's not possible to speak of a political solution if interested parties can not participate," Mr. Arsenis said.
The Italian, Canadian, Dutch and British defence ministers congratulated Mr. Arsenis on his initiative with the Canadian and Dutch ministers saying that Greece had acted as an international player and its role as such had been recognised.
The Foreign Ministry's Secretary-General for European Affairs Athanassios Theodorakis will brief the 15 ambassadors of European Union member-states on the Greek mediatory initiative for Bosnia today, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday.
Questioned whether the initiative had any other aspects, he said the substance of the initiative was the finding of a political solution to the problem. He added that Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou would possibly brief European Union leaders on the matter during tonight's dinner, hosted by French President Jacques Chirac in Paris, despite the existence of a specific agenda.
Greece said a decision by the Turkish National Assembly yesterday to invest the government in Ankara with power to take military measures against Greece was a flagrant violation of international law. "The threat voiced by the Turkish parliament constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and makes Turkey, once again, accountable to the International Community," government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said.
The Turkish parliament today approved a resolution empowering the Turkish government to "take necessary measures including military steps against Greece", if Greece implemented the internationally-recognised Law of the Sea convention, which the Greek parliament ratified last week.
The convention restates Greece's sovereign right to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean. Turkey has repeatedly said it would consider any extension of Greek waters beyond the present six miles as a reason for war.
"According to the Turkish National Assembly, the enforcement and implementation of international conventions has become a pretext for the reiteration of brutal and historically constant threats against Greece, but also against peace and stability in the greater region," Mr. Venizelos said. "This provocation becomes even sharper when the Turkish side refers to the Treaty of Lausanne, which it has blatantly violated".
Mr. Venizelos said that Turkey's "behaviour and perception of international relations" would not be tolerated by international organisations, which will be briefed on the issue by the Greek government. "Turkey must realise that Greece's sovereign rights and its international practice are not dependent on threats or... Turkey's approval." "Greece reiterates once again that the delineation of its territorial waters constitutes its sovereign right which it will exercise when it sees fit," he added.
The Turkish resolution said the move had been taken to defend "vital interests". "The Turkish Parliament has decided to empower the government with powers to take all measures including military steps deemed necessary to protect the vital interests of our country," the resolution said.
The resolution, signed by the representatives of all political parties in the Turkish parliament, was proclaimed "to the world and Greece with friendly sentiments." Ankara said that if Greece extended its territorial waters to 12 miles in the Aegean that would make 70 per cent of the Aegean Greek and leave Turkey's access to international waters subject to passage through Greek national waters.
"Turkey has vital interests in the Aegean," the resolution said. Opposition Political Spring party leader Antonis Samaras in a statement later, said the Turkish resolution constituted a "provocation" and called on the government to internationally renounce Turkey as "a state terrorist against world peace."
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert said yesterday Bulgaria agreed with his proposal for a Balkans agreement to mutually recognise the present borders of the region's states.
"Greece and Bulgaria can play a leading role in the Balkans," Mr. Evert said at the end of an official visit to Bulgaria yesterday. Mr. Evert held talks with President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Jan Videnov, Foreign Minister Georgui Pirinski and Parliament President Mr. Sedov.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr. Evert stressed the need to strengthen the Athens-Sofia axis, adding that his talks were "useful, constructive and effective" and hailing every effort aimed at pacification in the region. Replying to a questioner, Mr. Evert said he did not discuss the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with Bulgaria's political leadership.
"It was a mistake on the part of Mr. Arsenis and Mr. Papoulias to discuss the issue of Skopje (FYROM) with (Serbian President Slobodan) Milosevic. The issue of Skopje should be resolved through the UN and with the negotiators appointed by the Secretary-General. Any other involvement is dangerous. It was a mistake on the part of the government to accept such a discussion and it should have denied it," he added.
Mr. Evert said final decisions on the problem of managing the waters of the Nestos River should be taken when the Bulgarian prime minister visits Athens on June 19, adding that Bulgaria supported the passing of the oil pipeline through Greece and not Turkey. He expressed the conviction Russia would also agree and said the pipeline crossing through Greece was cheaper than other alternative solutions.
In Athens, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said the Skopje issue was discussed during the Arsenis-Papoulias-Milosevic meeting "as it is every time there is a meeting with the (Serbian) president". He clarified, however, that the issue was not the focus of the meeting and that Mr. Milosevic was concerned to see a normalisation of relations between Belgrade, Athens and Skopje.
Twenty years after the signing of the Mediterranean protection accord, 20 Mediterranean countries are participating in the UN-sponsored Barcelona conference on its revision. Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Under-Secretary Elizabeth Papazoi is attending the conference at the head of a Greek delegation.
Major issues to be dealt with at the conference are the protocol on curbing toxic and phosphorous refuse being dumped in the Mediterranean, for which Greece supports a strict timetable, as well as a protocol on creating special marine safe areas.
The conference will also focus on new policies on protecting the environment in the Mediterranean as part of the Mediterranean Action Programme (1995-2005) headquartered in Athens. Greece proposes that tourism and energy be included in these policies.
Two hundred journalists, writers and intellectuals are participating in the 4th Panhellenic Journalist Conference, which will officially begin on the high seas en route to the island of Samothrace. The conference, due to end on June 12, will focus on "Modern-day and Greek reality in the mass media" and is jointly organised by the Evros Prefecture, the local municipality and community union and the municipality of Samothrace.
The event will be held in Kamariotissa and will be attended by Minister of Macedonia and Thrace Constantine Triarides, Minister of the Aegean Antonis Kotsakas and the Ambassador of Cyprus to Athens Christoforos Christophorou.
Greece's National Art Gallery announced yesterday it had clinched a deal to buy El Greco's "Saint Peter" for 1.2 million dollars. The deal was finalised Wednesday when Stanley Moss, a prominent art collector, agreed to the final Greek offer. The US dealer had initially set a 1.8 million dollar price tag on the painting of Saint Peter, by the 16th century Greek-born artist Dominicus Theotocopoulos, better known as El Greco.
"We have been negotiating for over a year," said Marina Lambrakis-Plaka, chief curator of the National Art Gallery. "A down payment has already been made and we expect to pay off the rest by August," she told the ANA.
For over a year the gallery has headed a nation-wide fund-raising campaign to buy the painting. "There are not many El Greco's out in the market these days. But what makes the Saint Peter so unique is that it is part of a lost series of Apostles painted by El Greco," Ms Plaka said.
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou voiced satisfaction at Greece's acquisition of the work, saying it reflected the nation's sensitivity to culture and tradition. "The work of Saint Peter by Dominicus Theotocopoulos was bought at a time of difficulty with the support of all classes of Greek society. Once again, they displayed their sensitivity to tradition and culture," he said. The premier's wife, Dimitra Liani-Papandreou, actively participated in the fund-raising campaign, gathering some 100 million drachmas in donations by state organisations.
Ms Plaka said the work was purchased with donations from patrons of the gallery, such as the Lilian Voudouri Institute, the Onassis Foundation and the Latsis and Leventis institutes. She said the painting, dated 1605, is one of El Greco's most mature works and brings into play every resource of his dynamic art to express religious ecstasy. His distinctive style features flame-like lines accentuated by vivid highlights.
Elongated and distorted faces play against vibrant colours contrasted with subtle grays. Born in Crete, El Greco initially trained in icon painting. He was later schooled by Titian in Venice and became an established painter in Toledo, Spain.
"The Saint Peter reflects a rare fusion of the artist's roots in Byzantine art and his Renaissance influence," Ms Plaka said. El Greco has been widely celebrated for his works in the twentieth century and modern critics rank him among the greatest inspired visionary artists. The Saint Peter has been on display at the National Greek Gallery for the past year.
Foreign Under-Secretary for Greeks Abroad Grigoris Niotis visited UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday in his capacity as president of the committee to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UN in Greece.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr. Niotis said Mr. Boutros-Ghali gladly accepted the Greek proposal for the transfer of the Delphi flame to UN headquarters in New York in October at the height of celebrations marking the UN's 50th anniversary. "Despite the fact it was not the object of our meeting, we of course had the opportunity to exchange views with Mr. Boutros-Ghali on Greek national issues," Mr. Niotis said.
Replying to a questioner on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Mr. Niotis said Mr. Boutros-Ghali reassured him that the issues of FYROM and Cyprus were at the focal point of his concern. "He promised to intensify his initiatives for their resolution and said he faced these two important national issues of ours with particular interest," he added.
Merchant Marine Minister George Katsifaras will leave for Norway today, at the invitation of his counterpart Grete Knudsen. The ministers will discuss issues of mutual shipping interest concerning general shipping policy, both in the framework of the European Union and other international organisations.
Mr. Katsifaras will hold talks with the Union of Norwegian Shipowners and attend the inauguration of the international shipping exhibition Nor-Shipping. He will also be present at the launching of the new passenger and car ferry, Aretusa, belonging to the Minoan Lines.
Government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said evidence concerning terrorist activities was the responsibility of judicial authorities conducting preliminary investigations. Mr. Venizelos was responding to questioners yesterday on a statement by former public order minister Stelios Papathemelis that he also knew the names of Greeks reportedly involved in terrorist acts. Mr. Venizelos said all evidence coming into the possession of police authorities should be conveyed and was conveyed to the competent judicial and prosecuting authorities.
Athens Journalists Union (ESHEA) President Dimitris Glavas was yesterday elected President of the Panhellenic Federation of Journalists Unions (POESY). Nikiforos Antonopoulos was elected Secretary-General and Klearchos Tsaousidis first deputy president.
Four NATO nations and two candidates for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation began naval manoeuvres in the Black Sea yesterday, Radio Bucharest said. The exercises, code-named "Co-operative Rescue 95", involve Greece, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands plus Bulgaria and Romania, both members of the Partnership for Peace programme, and are taking place off the Romanian coast, moving later into Bulgarian territorial waters.
They will last for six days and have as their aim search and rescue missions at sea. More than 1,200 servicemen from the six nations are taking part in the manoeuvres with a view, according to Romanian naval headquarters, to "reinforcing the co-operation between the armed forces of central and eastern Europe."
The Foreign Ministry yesterday revealed the contents of the joint Greek-Albanian subcommittee on borders and defence which met in Tirana on June 6 and 7.
According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantine Bikas, the sides agreed on the need to adopt such measures and carry out works in the border area that will avert violations of the border. The Greek side accepted an Albanian proposal for a draft agreement for the prevention of border incidents.
National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and his Albanian counterpart will examine matters of economic co-operation at the joint intergovernmental Greek-Albanian committee meeting in Athens on July 5.
Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias met at the Foreign Ministry yesterday with Archbishop of Albania Anastasios and the US Ambassador to Athens Thomas Niles. Mr. Papoulias briefed Mr. Niles on Greece's mediating effort to resolve the Bosnian crisis.
State subsidies to cover the deficits of social insurance funds and in the pursuit of social policy remain high, despite the exercise of a restrictive fiscal stabilisation policy, a special report by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Social Security on the Social Budget, released yesterday, says.
The report says that total social spending in 1995 is budgeted at 5,017 billion drachmas, up 12.5 per cent from 4,461 in 1994. The lion's share of social security spending (71.47 per cent) goes to main and supplementary pensions, 20.23 per cent to sickness pensions, and 3.61 per cent to welfare. Total revenues for 1995 are expected to reach 5,352.3 billion, up 13.9 per cent.
The report says that almost the entire population is insured in social security funds and the state. Statistical data shows that on August 31, 1994 over 4,097,000 people were insured for main pensions, 3,465,893 people for supplementary pensions, 5,790, 280 for sickness, and 930,649 for welfare.
Of those insured for main pensions, 1,846,638 were employed in the private sector, 799,016 were self-employed, and 1,161,000 were farmers. Employees in the private sector contribute one per cent of wages towards insurance against unemployment, with employers contributing two per cent.
The Vardinoyiannis Group has concluded a major agreement for the supply of Russian oil to Ukraine through Greece, Greek Television (ET1) reported yesterday. It provides for the supply of two million tons this year, six million tons in 1996, and for a joint venture in a chain of petrol stations throughout Ukraine. The agreement has to be approved by the Ukrainian Cabinet.
Greek and Polish businessmen and officials taking part in a Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) seminar to promote economic co-operation between the two states said bilateral trade relations were "stagnant" and in need of a fresh boost yesterday.
Sixty Greek businessmen in joint ventures with Polish firms have invested a total of 10 million dollars in the country, but the Polish government regards the amount to be minimal compared to a total foreign investment of 40 billion dollars.
Poland called on Greek businessmen to take advantage of the country's rapid economic development and invest in the fields of transportation, packaged food, textiles, electricity, processed agricultural products and tourism.
A co-operation agreement was signed in Hong Kong on Wednesday between the country's Trade Development Bureau (HKTDC) and the Greek Exports Promotion Organisation (OPE). The agreement, concerning close co-operation on promoting mutual economic and trade interests of the two countries, was signed by the heads of the two organisations, Francis Lo and Ioannis Tzen.
Apart from promoting Greek exports, the agreement also anticipates promoting investments and construction projects. An agreement was reached with a private company in Hong Kong on organising a Greek foodstuffs and beverages month in a number of major department stores in Hong Kong in February next year with the assistance of OPE. In addition, Greek food, beverages and wines will be on display at a major Hong Kong hotel in November later this year. OPE agreed to organise a Greek business mission to Hong Kong and Beijing in the autumn.
Greece and Ukraine yesterday signed a transit agreement, boosting co-operation between the two countries. The agreement was signed by Greek Transport Under-Secretary Christos Kokinovassilis and his Ukrainian counterpart Vitaly Reva.
The National Statistics Service announced yesterday the general wholesale price index for finished products increased 0.6 per cent in April, compared to increases of 1.3 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively for the same month last year and in 1993, an indication that wholesale inflation is slowing down.
Two new earth tremors rocked the Kozani and Grevena region at dawn yesterday. The first registering 4.1 on the Richter scale occurred at 5:14 am and the second 3.7 tremor at 7:54 am. Aristoteleion University Geophysics Laboratory seismologist Eleftheria Papadimitriou said the two tremors were part of seismic activity expected following the big earthquake registering 6.6 points on the Richter scale.