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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-03-30

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Simitis: Helsinki the pinnacle of Athens’ foreign policy achievements in past 4 years
  • [02] Twenty-six political parties to contest April 9 general elections
  • [03] Simitis sees exciting future for Greece
  • [04] DHKKI leader calls on voters to turn down ND, PASOK
  • [05] Electronic forum on women in politics
  • [06] Greece contributes 150.8 million dollars to Balkan funding over 2000-2001 period
  • [07] Synaspismos calls for Birdal's release from prison
  • [08] Athens mayor discusses Balkans and Greek-Turkish relations with US officials
  • [09] Archbishop calls on youth to resist the steamroller of globalisation
  • [10] Morgan Stanley considers upgrade for Greek economy
  • [11] UK company to build 7,000-bed hotel in Crete
  • [00] 12trol prices rise, heating oil drops
  • [12] Petrol prices rise, heating oil drops
  • [13] Greek stocks rebound strongly on ASE
  • [14] National Bank to establish new European private equity arm
  • [15] Lufthansa Live Internet ticket auction in Greece
  • [16] Alpha Trust launches venture capital company
  • [17] Public Works Minister goes on trial run with Athens Metro to new destination at Daphne
  • [18] Greek chapter of NGO 'Doctors of the World' honored in Istanbul
  • [19] Cypriot and Israeli presidents look forward to peace in eastern Mediterranean

  • [01] Simitis: Helsinki the pinnacle of Athens foreign policy achievements in past 4 years

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis called last Decembers EU summit in Helsinki the high point of his governments foreign policy over the last few years, saying Cyprus unhindered course towards EU accession and a framework for normalizing Greek-Turkish were achieved.

    Speaking on Wednesday during a wide-ranging press conference in downtown Athens focusing specifically on Greeces foreign policy -- and in light of the upcoming general elections on April 9 -- Simitis emphasised that he considers the island republics possible accession regardless of a solution to its political problem the 26-year division and Turkish occupation a paramount achievement of Greek foreign policy.

    A noteworthy improvement in Greek-Turkish relations recently followed two devastating earthquakes that struck NW Asia Minor and the greater Athens area late last summer, as a result of an outpouring of sympathy and assistance between the two peoples.

    In other matters, the Greek premier said he doesnt expect an extreme confrontation between Montenegros leadership and the Milosevic regime or a worsening of the tense situation on the frontier between Kosovo and southern Serbia, noting that both issues were discussed at the recent special EU summit in Lisbon. The Greek PM also said Greece doesnt expect to increase its forces in the strife-torn Yugoslav province of Kosovo As far as the contentious name issue still comprising a thorn between Greece and its immediate northern neighbor, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Simitis said it is obvious that ongoing talks under the UNs auspices have not yielded results, while stressing that Athens has told FYROMs leadership that it is time for a solution.

    In a brief response to a question regarding Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevics presence vis-a-vis stabilization in the Balkans, Simitis simply repeated that Athens desires free and democratic elections in Yugoslavia.

    Relations with Ankara: Asked earlier what he expects from Ankara in the aftermath of Helsinki and criticism by the opposition and other quarters in Greece over the lack of substantive moves by the Turkish side, Simitis cautioned that Athens views Ankaras harmonization with the Unions acquis communautaire as well as respect for international law and human rights as a long-term prospect.

    theres a major democratic deficit in its (Turkey) institutions in such a country things dont change from one moment to the next, he said, adding that current talks between Athens and Ankara are not low level but significant for both countries future. Along these lines, he cited a deal alleviating double-taxation and cooperation in the energy field as two primary interests of the Greek side in the current phase.

    Simitis also reiterated that the only bilateral difference between the two countries is the Aegeans continental shelf, repeating a long-standing Greek view that the International Court at The Hague is the proper venue for its solution, while he said Greece will exercise its right to extend territorial waters to 12 nautical miles when it judges that the time is right.

    Goals: In a brief address before taking questions, the Greek premier unveiled 10 goals for his government if elected to a new four-year term next month, including what he called Greeces supreme target, namely, an upgraded presence within the 15-member EU.

    Greek-Turkish rapprochement, Cyprus EU accession, a greater regional role with a view to maintaining stability, as well as a heightened international role and promotion of an economic and cultural diplomacy were mentioned.

    He also emphasised that efforts to maintain and increase Greeces military deterrent and defence capability are a long-standing goal.

    Finally, in directing criticism against the main opposition New Democracy party, ruling PASOK's rival to win the upcoming election, the incumbent premier said ND is a "political force that wants the country limited...with closed borders" and with a cursory presence in international affairs. He also charged that the opposition, especially ND, failed to back every initiative in foreign policy inaugurated by his government.

    [02] Twenty-six political parties to contest April 9 general elections

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    A total of 26 political parties and coalitions will contest next week's general elections, out of 34 parties that initially submitted applications, the Areios Paghos (Greek Supreme Court) announced late Tuesday.

    Areios Paghos said 26 of the 34 applicant parties had fulfilled the criteria for running in the April 9 elections, as eight parties had either submitted their applications past the deadline expiry or had failed to submit candidate lists.

    Included among the 26 are all five political parties that held seats in the recently dissolved parliament: the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), the main opposition New Democracy party (ND), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI), and the Coalition of the Left and Progress (SYN).

    The other 21 parties are: Self-Sufficient Movement of National Policy (AKEP), National Alliance, Demosthenes Vergis-Greek Ecologists, Olympism, National Patriotic Front (EPAK), Alternative Ecologists, Militant Socialst Party of Greece (ASKE), Liberals Party (formerly Greek Liberals Party), Chris-tfaith, Centrists' Union, Communist Party of Greece-Marxist-Leninist (KKE-ML), Marxist-Lenninist-Communist Party of Greece-Left (ML-KKE-Aristera), Party of the Working Greeks "Peace-Justice-Love-Liberty-Religion-Homeland-Fa-mily" (KO.E.EL), Panhellenic Direct Democracy Party of Active Citizens (PAKEP), Radical Left Front (ME.R.A), Organisation for the Restructuring of the KKE (OAKKE), Front Line (contianing also the Greek Front Party), Panhellenic Democratic Party for Peace (PA.DH.KE.), Democratic Regional Union, Federation of Democratic Parties, and the Hellenism Party.

    The Greek Hunters' Party (KOK) will not be contesting the elections because its candidates lists were submitted past the deadline expirty, and consequenty its candidates will be able to contest the elections only as Independents, while the Greek European Party submitted its application past the deadline.

    The six parties disqualified for failing to submit candidate lists altogether are the Financially Displeased Greeks, the Blank Movement of Today's Ideology (ELSKO), Social Welfare, Independent Political Presence, Democratic Party, and the Blank Party.

    [03] Simitis sees exciting future for Greece

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    Greece has realised significant improvements in recent years and will continue in the same path in the next four years, particularly in the social sector, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Wednesday.

    "All pensions will rise to above 150,000 drachmas monthly after 2001, in the framework of the social policy which (the ruling) PASOK has formulated. We now have the possibility to create a much better welfare state," he said in an election rally in Halkida.

    He said Greece faced an exciting future and that PASOK has showed it knew how to attain targets.

    "We are the most suitable, the best prepared and the most reliable to continue the progress towards Europe," he said.

    Simitis stressed the crucial nature of the April 9 election, emphasising that ND had failed the test as the main opposition party.

    "The people are being called upon to decided whether to walk in certainty, or leave the fortunes of the country go with the wind, to the ignorance and the makeshift and improvisation methods of (main opposition) New Democracy," he said.

    Meanwhile, New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis charged that the ruling party's election campaign on television simply amounted to a refinement of the mechanisms of propaganda, and that this only fuelled the revolution in the conscience of the people.

    In an election speech in Athens he said his party aimed to invest in the human factor and that it was unacceptable that Greece spent the equivalent of 300 billion drachmas in foreign exchange for students going abroad.

    "Greece is in position to import students and export culture," he said.

    He further said his party would free the market from state regulation, reform taxation, provide incentives for the creation of new jobs, and support innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives.

    Karamanlis noted that Greece held last place in the use of new technologies among EU member-states.

    [04] DHKKI leader calls on voters to turn down ND, PASOK

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas on Wednesday called on voters to "teach a lesson" to both main opposition New Democracy (ND) and ruling PASOK, ending, what he called "right wing politics".

    "Greeks should teach a lesson to ND and the leadership of today's PASOK, stating to them 'enough mockery, end the right wing policies of ND or the supposed modernising PASOK," Tsovolas said during a press conference in Larissa prefecture, central Greece.

    Tsovolas also stated that, should none of the two major parties achieve a ruling majority, DHKKI will be open to cooperative schemes with other "progressive" parties, as well as PASOK.

    [05] Electronic forum on women in politics

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    Three Greek women politicians said on Wednesday that women do not aspire to offer more than men but are entitled to equal participation and representation since women comprise 52 percent of the electorate.

    Vasso Papandreou from the ruling PASOK party, Dora Bakoyianni from the main opposition New Democracy party and Maria Damanaki from the Coalition of the Left and Progress replied to questions put to them during the electronic forum on "The woman in politics", organised by the women's electronic magazine "Fe mail" in cooperation with the Ideal group and Microsoft.

    The electronic forum was a great success, while more than 1,200 visitors asked questions during the first half hour alone.

    Bakoyianni said there was no question of her being a candidate for ND's leadership in the event the party loses the April 9 general election.

    Referring to the issue of succession in PASOK, Papandreou said the next congress will be in 2002 and there is no leadership question in the visible future.

    Commenting on the development of a working mother and the form of a family in 20 years' time, Damanaki expressed the hope that in time the family will give more qualitative time to a mother and said that the development of women is possible but will face many obstacles.

    [06] Greece contributes 150.8 million dollars to Balkan funding over 2000-2001 period

    BRUSSELS, 30/03/2000 (ANA - Y. Zitouniati)

    Overseas Hellenism Secretary General Dimitris Dollis said on Wednesday that Greece's contribution to the funding of the Balkans will amount to 150.8 million dollars over the 2000-2001 period.

    Dollis, who represented Greece at the two-day Conference of Donors for the funding of the Balkans in Brussels, aimed at completing plans to implement top priority programmes, said that 115 million dollars from this amount represent bilateral aid to Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria, Romania and Kosovo.

    He said that the funding is part of a five-year national action programme for economic reconstruction and cooperation in the Balkans, totalling 320 million dollars.

    [07] Synaspismos calls for Birdal's release from prison

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    The Coalition for the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) on Wednesday called for the release from prison of Akin Birdal, the former president of the Turkish Human Rights Association, following a similar call on Tuesday by the Human Rights Watch, an international human rights watchdog.

    "The re-incarceration of the Turkish Human Rights Association leader Akin Birdal for the remainder of his term - imposed on him last June, for having spoken openly in favour of a peaceful solution of the Kurdish problem - is an inhuman and undemocratic action, which shows just how difficult the road to Turkey's democratisation and European orientation is," the Synaspismos press release noted.

    "The Turkish state should move to immediately abolish the undemocratic laws, which hinder and penalise the freedom of expression. No expediencies can justify the suppression of elementary human rights and individual freedoms," the press release concluded.

    On Tuesday, the international watchdog group, Human Rights Watch, issued a communique calling for the immediate release of Birdal from prison, once again focusing international attention on the Turkish human rights leader, who still suffers from health problems caused by a failed assassination attempt in 1998.

    "Birdal's release from prison on health grounds in September 1999 was widely viewed as an attempt to avoid official embarrassment during the Istanbul OSCE conference in November, and the European Union Helsinki Summit in December 1999," a Human Rights Watch report noted.

    "We are not only distressed that the Turkish government made this insincere gesture to international opinion, but that it is now compounding the farce by putting Birdal back in prison," group Central Asia Division Director Holly Cartner said.

    "Of the various articles of the Turkish Penal Code used to inhibit debate in Turkey the most commonly used is article 312. Convictions under article 312 lead to bans of participation in politics or civil society," the report stressed.

    "It seems likely that the most immovable obstacle in the way of reforming article 312 is the army, the eminence gris of Turkish politics. In 1999 the chief of general staff warned that article 312 should not be amended," the report concluded.

    [08] Athens mayor discusses Balkans and Greek-Turkish relations with US officials

    Washington, 30/03/2000 (ANA - A. Ellis)

    Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos discussed his proposal on city diplomacy and the role Athens can play in this context with US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Mark Grosmann at the State Department on Tuesday.

    The situation in the Balkans was also discussed, as well as the course of Greek-Turkish relations, while Avramopoulos said Ankara holds the key to their further improvement which is "the solution to the Cyprus issue."

    On its part, the US side reiterated the importance it places on progress being achieved on the Cyprus issue, adding that it is working in this direction.

    Avramopoulos referred to the immediate reaction of the Athens municipality to last summer's earthquakes in Istanbul, which was appreciated by the people of the city and of Turkey in general. His American interlocutors showed particular interest in the idea of a friendship and cooperation protocol being signed between Athens and Istanbul.

    Avramopoulos also met with the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organisations David Welch for talks on the preparation of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, as well as with Senator Paul Sarbanes who appeared enthusiastic over the initiatives of Athens.

    [09] Archbishop calls on youth to resist the steamroller of globalisation

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Wednesday called on youth to resist the steamroller of globalisation by using Greek tradition and history as weapons and not allow Greece to turn into a European resort.

    Christodoulos, who arrived in the northern city of Thessaloniki in the morning, visited the Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki and the Ecclesiastical Lyceum of Neapoli and met with teachers and students.

    Addressing a large audience at the Ecclesiastical Lyceum, the Archbishop cautioned students on the pitfalls of life and warned of the dangers entailed for the survival of Hellenism by the phenomenon of globalisation.

    Christodoulos also referred to an Arabic proverb according to which "he who learns from his mistakes is wise, but he who learns from the mistakes of others is even wiser."

    [10] Morgan Stanley considers upgrade for Greek economy

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    International investment house Morgan Stanley was set to commence the process of re-examining the Greek economy in view of upgrading the status of the Greek market to that of a developed market, the Bloomberg agency said Wednesday.

    According to Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley announced late Tuesday its intention to re-assess the Greek economy for listing in the developed category in view of Greece's anticipated membership in the European Union's economic and monetary union (EMU).

    The upgrade was expected to boost the Greek stockmarket, as it would attract foreign institutional investors who had been hesitant due to Greece's long stint on the borderline between the emerging and developed markets.

    [11] UK company to build 7,000-bed hotel in Crete

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    LoyalWard Group Plc, a UK company, plans to build a luxury hotel site, with a capacity of 7,000 beds, in Crete.

    The hotel will be build on an area of 26,000 stremmata the UK firm has leased from a religious institution in the island.

    The project envisages the building of five villages, including a Grand Bay luxury hotel with 180 suites, one golf hotel with 305 rooms and a conference centre, a sports facility hotel of 330 rooms, a 243-room hotel and 190 separate rooms.

    The project also includes the building of 261 villas with a capacity of 1,107 rooms and 463 apartments with 1,105 rooms.

    LoyalWard plans the construction of two golf courses, of 18 holes each, and another smaller with nine holes, an 50-metre swimming pool, cultural centres and marine sports.

    Christopher Eggleton, LoyalWard's chairman, said the project's investment cost would total 250 billion drachmas and that he expected the first stage of the project to be completed before the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

    [12] Petrol prices rise, heating oil drops

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    The government announced a slight increase in suggested retail fuel prices on Wednesday, with super and unleaded hiked by 0.4 drachmas per litre.

    Diesel prices increased by a larger margin, up by 3.5 drachmas, while heating oil fell by 2.1 drachmas per litre as the end of the cold season nears.

    Specifically, in the greater Athens area and Thessaloniki prefecture the indicative price for super stands at 254.7 drachmas per litre, and 237.8 for unleaded. (One US dollar equals around 340 drachmas)

    [13] Greek stocks rebound strongly on ASE

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    Equity prices rebounded strongly on Wednesday with investors' confidence restored in the Athens Stock Exchange after a long period in doubt.

    The advance of prices was general and focused on smaller capitalisation stocks which suffered heavily in the last few weeks.

    The general index ended at 4,754.29 points, up 1.94 percent, off the day's highs of 4,780 points. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks jumped 1.05 percent to 2,690.86 points and the FTSE/ASE 40 index soared 5.74 percent to 690.97 points.

    Turnover, however, remained at a low 130.3 billion drachmas reflecting the fact that dealers were unable to trade on several stocks because they had been "locked" at the day's 10.0 percent limit up.

    Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: 9,158.31

    -0.15% Leasing: 1,076.30 +2.68% Insurance: 3,238.23 +1.80% Investment: 2,065.69 +3.80% Construction: 2,340.73 +8.55% Industrials: 2,815.90 +3.76% Miscellaneous: 5,155.54 +4.92% Holding: 5,199.65 +5.04%

    The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended at 811.50 points, up 9.90 percent.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 329 to 14 with only one issue unchanged.

    Hellenic Telecoms, Alpha Credit Bank, Panafon, Pegasus and National Bank were the most heavily traded stocks.

    Leading shares' closing prices (in Drs):National Bank: 24,210 Alpha Credit: 25,000 Commercial Bank: 20,500 Ergobank: 8,210 Eurobank: 11,400 Heracles Cement: 9,230 Titan Cement (c): 14,260 Hellenic Petroleum: 4,335 Intracom: 15,490 Minoan Lines: 7,290 Hellenic Bottling: 6,215 Hellenic Telecoms: 9,940 Panafon: 5,320

    Derivatives prices end sharply up: Derivatives prices ended sharply up on the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday following gains in the two benchmark indices, FTSE/ASE 20 and FTSE/ASE 40. Turnover was brisk and exceeded 10 billion drachmas.

    A total of 1,155 futures contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 index with a turnover of 6.1 billion drachmas. The April expiring contract ended at 2,703 points, the May contract at 2,727, the June contract at 2,740 and the September expiring contract at 2,800 points.

    A total of 1,625 futures contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 40 index, with a turnover of 4.3 billion drachmas. The April expiring contract ended at 715 points, the May at 722 and the June contract at 723 points.

    Bonds flat in negligible trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Wednesday were more or less unchanged from the previous session in negligible trade with most players keeping out of the market before national elections on April 9, dealers said.

    Little action is expected until after the polls, despite the attractiveness of Greek paper, including the 20-year bond, the dealers said.

    The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 6.20 percent, the same as a day earlier, from 6.23 percent on Monday and around 6.13 percent in the two previous trading days.

    The paper's yield spread over German bunds was 92 basis points from between 91 and 93 basis points in the two previous sessions and 93 basis points on Friday.

    Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled a scant 8.0 billion drachmas against 24 billion drachmas a day earlier and 34 billion drachmas on Monday.

    Of the total, buy orders accounted for the bulk of turnover and sell orders the remainder. Ten-year bonds soaked up 6.0 billion drachmas of trade.

    According to the final opinion polls allowed under electoral law, the ruling socialist PASOK party and main opposition conservative New Democracy party are likely to run neck-and-neck in voting.

    The market has not been hit by negative sentiment over the elections, unlike the Athens Stock Exchange

    Drachma drops vs euro, dollar: The drachma on Wednesday fell against the euro and the US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market, and outflows totalled about 150 million euros, dealers said.

    The central bank had sold roughly 750 million euros last week in a spate of interventions, but did not step into the market on Monday. On Tuesday, it sold about 75 million euros.

    At the central bank's daily fixing, the euro was set at 334.450 drachmas from 334.350 drachmas a day earlier and 334.260 drachmas on Monday.

    Also at the fixing, the US dollar was set at 349.830 drachmas from 346.350 drachmas in the previous session and 343.300 drachmas on Monday.

    [14] National Bank to establish new European private equity arm

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    National Bank of Greece, through its international banking arm NGBI, plans to establish a European private equity arm (NBG Private Equity) to invest development capital and back the buyout of small- and medium-sized companies in Britain and western Europe.

    According to a press release issued on Wednesday, the new company will allow National Bank to develop its private equity business in western Europe and to integrate these activities along with the bank's existing private equity operations in Greece and in SE Europe under a unified management structure.

    The fund will managed from London.

    [15] Lufthansa Live Internet ticket auction in Greece

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    Lufthansa German Airlines is running a live Internet ticket auction on the Greek virtual highway for the third time on Thursday, starting at 10:00 a.m.

    Interested bidders will have not only the opportunity to purchase one of the 18 paris of tickets to Lufthansa international destinations, as in the previous auctions, but also tickets to specific destinations of the Air Canada, Austrial Airlines, Thai International Airways and Singapore Airlines network.

    Due to the strong relationship with other worldwide partners in this year's live auction in Greece, hotel accommodation at the Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel can also be purchased at auction price, as well as car rental services of the Sixt company in Crete, Rhodes and Thessaloniki.

    With the new millennium, Lufthansa has further decided to open the live ticket auction in Greece without setting any minimum price.

    Registrations can be made, with immediate effect, through the Lufthansa Internet hompage at www.lufthansa.gr.

    The first two ticket auctions held in Greece met with enormous success, according to a Lufthansa spokesman, with more than 6,500 Internet users visiting the event each time, of which some 1,500 took part in the auction. The lowest ticket price reached 50 percent off the market fare.

    Lufthansa was in June 1997 the first European airline to launch live Internet ticket auctions.

    As in previous years, the Lufthansa Live Internet ticket auction will be hosted and supported by Hellas On Line, as far as technological and Internet services are concerned.

    [16] Alpha Trust launches venture capital company

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    Alpha Trust, a Greek investment firm, on Wednesday announced it was launching a new venture capital company, named Alpha Trust Innovation, with an initial equity capital of 3.8 billion drachmas.

    The new company's aim is to invest and participate in non-listed companies in the rapidly growing sector of information technology and Internet.

    Haris Stamatopoulos will head the new company, with Ion Siotis as vice-chairman and Phaedon Tamvakakis, George Vasalakis and David Gibbs as members of the board.

    [17] Public Works Minister goes on trial run with Athens Metro to new destination at Daphne

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis on Wednesday made a trial run with the Athens Metro from Constitution Square to the new destination at Daphne and said the new line is 90 percent ready. Trains will start trial runs in two months' time and it will be delivered to the public for use in September.

    Laliotis said the total cost of the Metro project has amounted to 530 billion drachmas, adding that the Metro has given a new impetus to the city and serves 250,000 people daily.

    [18] Greek chapter of NGO 'Doctors of the World' honored in Istanbul

    Athens, 30/03/2000 (ANA)

    The Greek chapter of the non-governmental organisation "Doctors of the World" was honored in Istanbul on Tuesday evening by the mayor of Duzce for the group's assistance in caring for Turkish quake victims and for promoting friendship among the two peoples.

    An award bestowed on the Greek chapter was the fourth given by a Turkish entity since the group arrived to offer assistance following last August's devastating earthquake in NW Asia Minor.

    [19] Cypriot and Israeli presidents look forward to peace in eastern Mediterranean

    JERUSALEM, 30/03/2000(CNA/ANA)

    President Glafcos Clerides and his Israeli counterpart Ezer Weizman on Wednesday referred to the two countries' efforts to peacefully solve their problems and turn the eastern Mediterranean into a region of peace, tranquility, progress and development.

    Speaking during the official reception of the Cyprus president to Israel, at the Bed Hanossi, Weizman also thanked Clerides for the wise way in which he handled the issue of two Mossad agents, who had been arrested in Cyprus for espionage and were let free after serving only a short time in prison.

    President Clerides said that his government's policy is to work "for closer relations with Israel, as well as with all the surrounding countries".

    He said "we look forward to the day when the eastern Mediterranean will be an area of peace, tranquility, progress and development for the mutual benefit of all its inhabitants".

    He also noted that he is honoured to be the first president of the Cyprus Republic to visit Israel and to have received his Israeli counterpart to the island.

    On his part, Weizman noted the historic relations between the two countries and their similarities in being "two democratic countries in the eastern Mediterranean".

    In a reference to the incident with the Mossad agents, he thanked President Clerides "for the cooperation you gave us when we made a mistake which could harm relations between the two countries, but you with your wisdom and courage helped to solve the problem".

    President Ezer Weizman hosted a dinner in honour of Clerides at the presidential home on Wednesday night.

    President Clerides, accompanied by Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and other officials, went to Israel on Tuesday for a four-day state visit.

    Knesset meeting: The two presidents also inspected a military party at the sound of their two national anthems, before President Clerides departed for a meeting at the Knesset.

    Speaker of Israel's Knesset (parliament), Avraham Burg, on Wednesday expressed certainty that peace in the Middle East would cover the whole region, noting that Greek Cypriots and Israelis share common roots, as they come from the same region of the world, the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Welcoming Clerides, Burg expressed certainty that his country will be able to achieve peace in the region, and that "the blessing of peace will shine out from here over the entire region".

    During a private meeting between President Clerides and Burg, the Israeli Speaker said he was pleased that the Cypriot delegation will also visit Ramallah and will meet with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

    Burg said this "helps towards the normalisation of relations".

    During his visit to the Knesset, President Clerides laid a wreath at the monument erected in memory of Israeli soldiers, whose burial place is not known.

    Clerides-Barak talks: Bilateral relations and efforts to peacefully solve the Middle East question and the Cyprus problem, were discussed on Wednesday at a meeting between President Clerides and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who reaffirmed his country's intention to contribute in efforts to solve Cyprus' political issue.

    Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou told CNA that President Clerides and Barak both acknowledged a satisfactory development in relations between their countries, to the benefit of both Cyprus and Israel, and the region in general.

    Papapetrou said Barak briefed President Clerides on "the peace efforts with Syria and the Palestinians and stressed his determination to exploit every possibility offered with mutual substantive concessions in order to consolidate peace in the region".

    He noted that President Clerides briefed Barak "on the current phase of the Cyprus problem and expressed hope that the new round of talks in May would signal a shift in Turkey's intransigence and pave the way for a solution to the Cyprus problem, based on UN resolutions".

    UN-led proximity talks on the Cyprus problem began late last year, aimed at creating conditions for substantive talks towards a comprehensive settlement. A third round of talks is scheduled to begin on May 23, in New York.

    Responding to questions, Papapetrou said that Barak expressed his country's readiness to contribute in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem and noted that the Israeli premier views the problem as "part of the general effort for peace in the eastern Mediterranean region".

    FMs sign three agreements: Foreign Minister Kasoulides and his Israeli counterpart David Levy signed three agreements on Wednesday.

    The first agreement concerns mutual assistance between the custom administrations of the two countries, the second is a protocol on consultation between the two foreign ministries, and the third is a programme of cooperation in the field of culture, education and science for the period 2000-2002.

    After signing the agreements, the two foreign ministers ministers began a working session, attended by other Foreign Ministry officers, the Ambassador of Cyprus to Israel Evripides Evriviades, and Israeli Ambassador to Cyprus Shemi Tzur.

    Kasoulides, said Levy believes Cyprus could be a bridge between Europe and the MiddleEast.

    According to Kasoulides, during their meeting Levy said he established the "Gesher" party, which means "bridge", and that "Cyprus can be the 'Gesher' between Europe and the Middle East, not only from an economic point of view, but also as a bridge for the new security system against the new enemies of democracy and freedom, such as organised crime, drug trafficking and terrorism".

    Kasoulides noted that he discussed with Levy "the efforts to create comprehensive peace and conditions of stability in the whole region", which includes Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus.

    He also said they exchanged views on how the Middle East would become in conditions of peace, "taking into consideration that Cyprus will be a member of the European Union and that Europe's borders would hence touch the shores of the eastern Mediterranean".


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