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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-09-07

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

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

September 7, 2006

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't seeks strategic partner for state-run telecoms
  • [02] FM Bakoyannis to meet Dutch counterpart on Wednesday
  • [03] U.S. State Department comments on Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline project
  • [04] DM on Putin visit
  • [05] Rehn spokeswoman: EU expects Turkey to fully implement customs union protocol
  • [06] Parliament President meets Archbishop of America
  • [07] Greek frigate to leave for Lebanon in coming days
  • [08] Greek Eurodeputies comment on Association Agreement with Albania
  • [09] EU Commission proposes environmental strategy to protect the Mediterranean Sea
  • [10] PASOK party spokesman criticizes government over corruption issue
  • [11] Interior minister criticizes PASOK party for using inaccurate data
  • [12] Gov't on ministry decision to end Church confessional on school premises
  • [13] GRULAC ambassadors host reception in honor of FM
  • [14] EL.KE: Foreign investment interest soars in first 8-month period
  • [15] Greece the honored country at tourism exhibition in Egypt
  • [16] Gov't readies bill on outdoor tourism
  • [17] EU okays farm support after forest fires
  • [18] Inflation to slow to 3.3 pct in Sept., forecast
  • [19] Greek tax revenues up 8.8 pct in Jan-Aug
  • [20] Foreign tourist arrivals rose 8.3pct in 2005
  • [21] Business delegation to Istanbul
  • [22] Corinth Steel signs deals worth US$95.6 with three US companies
  • [23] Gov’t revokes licenses of two insurance firms
  • [24] Foreign capital in bourse edges up
  • [25] Greece honors its Mundobasket silver medalists
  • [26] Dutch FM: Turkey must normalize relations with Cyprus
  • [27] Cyprus protests new Turkish air violations to

  • [01] Gov't seeks strategic partner for state-run telecoms

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Wednesday announced the beginning of procedures to sell a further stake in state-run Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE).

    Speaking to reporters after a scheduled meeting of the inter-ministerial privatization commission, the minister said the commission agreed to begin procedures for a further privatization of Hellenic Telecoms and to seek a strategic partner to co-share the management of the organization.

    The Greek state will maintain a minority right in OTE. Alogoskoufis said the consultants for the sale would be hired over the next few weeks, while he stressed that the decision considers the vital national interests in the telecommunications sector.

    Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis said the government's aim was to find an investor for the utility and to offer cheaper and better services to customers.

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said the commission's decision was following the policy of reforms promoted by the government, adding that achieving this goal would strengthen competition and lead to better services and prices.

    The commission left open the size of the stake to be offered.

    In a later statement, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stressed that the "government is looking for a strategic partner amongst internationally recognized telecoms organizations, with the candidate offered a stake of the management".

    In response to a bevy of questions that coincided with several front-page articles in Athens dailies the same day, Roussopoulos pointed directly to a pre-election promise by the ruling New Democracy party to reform and privatize the wider public sector.

    Opposition: In a later reaction to the announcement, main opposition PASOK issued a statement condemning the prospect of OTE's privatization.

    "The plan for downgrading and selling off OTE, which began by the ND government in March 2004, is being finalized today. OTE's sale is exclusively aimed at generating income; it is injurious to the national economy and undermines the country's effort to cover the distance between it and other European countries in developing national broadband infrastructure for all citizens," PASOK said.

    In its statement, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) roundly criticized the decision, referring to the "completion of OTE's privatization by the government, one which will be against employees' interests as well as against the working-class portions of society in general. Workers must not be trapped in the dangerous pseudo-dilemma regarding the structure and manner in which the privatization will proceed," KKE said.

    Along the same line, the leader of the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos), Alekos Alavanos, said the development was an "extreme attack by the government against the country's own interests."

    Minister defends move to sell telecom: Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis on Wednesday defended the government's decision to retain a minority holding in Athens-quoted OTE telecom and hand over its management to a strategic investor.

    "The government has a mandate from the public to go ahead with its (privatization) program. This move will improve conditions for competition and benefit the entire public," the minister told reporters in reply to a question on rejection of the sale plan earlier in the day by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece.

    "The trade unions should perform their function and not try to take the place of politicians," he added.

    Unions blast plan to sell OTE: Greece's largest trade union umbrella group on Wednesday sharply criticized the government for its plan to sell more stock in state-run OTE SA, a heavily traded stock on the Athens bourse, leaving it with a minority holding.

    "Today's decision by the ministerial privatization committee on the sale of OTE and handover of its management is an unacceptable, politically disastrous choice," the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) said in a statement.

    GSEE claimed that the move stemmed from the government's desire to plug state deficits, and would hurt the economy.

    It asked the government to review its decision over the further privatization or face industrial action.

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said earlier in the day that the state would retain a minority holding in OTE after a new stock flotation, and seek a strategic investor to share management of the telecom.

    [02] FM Bakoyannis to meet Dutch counterpart on Wednesday

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet with her visiting Dutch counterpart Bernard Bot at noon Thursday, a foreign ministry press release said on Wednesday.

    Issues to be discussed at the meeting include EU enlargement, the Constitutional Treaty, EU-Turkey relations, the Greek UN Security Council current presidency's program, NATO expansion, the situation in the Middle East, the Cyprus problem and the Western Balkans.

    The talks will be followed by statements to the press, the announcement added.

    [03] U.S. State Department comments on Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline project

    WASHINGTON, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack reiterated on Wednesday his country's position in favor of diversified ways of transporting energy sources when asked to comment on Monday's agreement between Greece, Russia and Bulgaria for the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline for the transport of Russian oil.

    "When Secretary of State (Condoleezza) Rice visited Greece spoke of the importance of the diversity of energy supplies as well as of different pipelines and ways of transport," McCormack said.

    "If it (the agreement) really contributes to a diversity of sources of energy and the way of transporting then it is something positive, but I have to look into details and then we will have a concrete answer," he added.

    [04] DM on Putin visit

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis was the latest top Greek official this week to comment on the high-profile visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who along with Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov met in Athens with Greek PM Costas Karamanlis to finalize an agreement for a long-delayed oil pipeline.

    Meimarakis called the Putin visit "very useful", while he nevertheless termed various local press reports citing purported "new deals" for Russian weapons systems as "exaggerated".

    "Greece is a country with open and transparent procedures for weapons purchases. In every arms procurement program we use international tenders open to everyone ... and we, based on what serve Greece’s best interests, the available quality and the price, select the one that best one for the country’s defense," Meimarakis said.

    [05] Rehn spokeswoman: EU expects Turkey to fully implement customs union protocol

    BRUSSELS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A spokeswoman for EU Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn on Wednesday reiterated here that the Union expects candidate-state Turkey to fully implement an extension of the EU-Turkey customs union protocol, a direct reference to Cyprus and the fact that Ankara continues to bar Cypriot-flagged vessels and airliners from its ports and airports, respectively.

    The spokeswoman said Rehn has repeatedly called on Turkish leadership to extend the customs union with the bloc's 10 new member-states, including Cyprus, warning that failure to do so will have repercussions on the course of Turkey's accession negotiations. She added that Turkey's accession course to date will be evaluated in a report up for approval on Oct. 24.

    Rehn is due to meet with Turkish Minister of State and chief EU negotiator Ali Babacan here on Thursday.

    [06] Parliament President meets Archbishop of America

    NEW YORK, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Parliament President Anna Benaki-Psarouda visited the offices of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in Manhattan on Wednesday and met with Archbishop Demetrios.

    Talks focused on issues concerning the overseas Greeks and views were exchanged on how the Greek Parliament could support the work of the Archdiocese.

    "We visited the Archbishop of America with great joy and emotion, on the occasion of our presence in New York, in the framework of another initiative by the Greek Parliament. It is always a great pleasure for me to talk with the Archbishop and find out about the work of the Archdiocese," Psarouda said after the meeting.

    "Our meetings are always constructive and creative and contain an exchange of views that helps and promotes the work of Orthodoxy and Hellenism both here and in metropolitan Greece and in the world in general," the Archbishop said on his part.

    The meeting was attended by Greece's general consul in New York, Ekaterini Boura, and the diplomatic adviser of Benaki-Psarouda, Kyriakos Loukakis.

    [07] Greek frigate to leave for Lebanon in coming days

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Athens on Wednesday confirmed that a fully-staffed Hellenic Navy frigate will depart over the next few days in order to participate in an international peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon, as recently decided by the high-ranking Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA).

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos made the statement during his regular press briefing, adding that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis informed UN Chief Kofi Annan of the development during a same-day telephone conversation.

    In response to a press question, Roussopoulos said the Greek vessel will operate within the framework of the "rules of engagement" laid down by the United Nations.

    [08] Greek Eurodeputies comment on Association Agreement with Albania

    STRASBOURG, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Ruling New Democracy party Eurodeputy George Papastamkos, addressing a plenum session on Wednesday during the discussion on the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Albania, said that he supported "the new framework of relations between the European Union and Albania, looking forward to the speeding up of adjustment rates. The benefits expected to appear both for the Albanian people and the EU itself are obvious."

    Papastamkos referred to the need for the modernization of the judicial, police and administrative sector, with the aim of combating organized crime and corruption, as well as the need for the greatest possible participation of the society of citizens in the political process and the establishment of apparatuses of viable and transparent operation of the market economy.

    Main opposition PASOK party Eurodeputy Panayiotis Beglitis made a special address during the session being the editor of the International Trade Committee's report.

    Beglitis said that "despite the fatigue that is now evident in the EU's enlargement strategy, the target of defending the European course of the Balkan countries remains firm."

    According to the Greek Eurodeputy "it is of decisive significance for the future of the region" that the decisions of the European Council in Thessaloniki, in June 2003, are being reconfirmed with the Agreement.

    [09] EU Commission proposes environmental strategy to protect the Mediterranean Sea

    BRUSSELS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a long-term environmental strategy for cleaning up and protecting the Mediterranean Sea.

    This unique ecosystem is deteriorating as environmental pressures such as pollution and construction increase. The major oil spill that occurred during the recent conflict in Lebanon has dramatically highlighted the vulnerability of the region's environment. The Mediterranean's decline threatens the health of the 143 million people living on its shores as well as the long-term development of key economic sectors that depend on the sea, such as fishing and tourism.

    Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “We have to act for the promotion of economic development of the Mediterranean and the protection of the health of its people. Inaction is not an option. This strategy aims to revitalize and strengthen cooperation between the EU, our Mediterranean neighbors and the relevant international organizations to safeguard the region's environment and natural resources for the long term. If we fail, the Mediterranean could deteriorate beyond repair."

    [10] PASOK party spokesman criticizes government over corruption issue

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanasakis, referring on Wednesday to the ongoing discussion on corruption and cracking down on it, said that the ruling New Democracy (ND) "came to power with handling and cracking down on corruption as its flag, a flag which after the elections it has forgotten, folded and placed in the closet, because it was a plastic opportunity flag for ND before the elections."

    Athanasakis also said that "the ND government ignored and is continuing to ignore systematically the very specific proposals of PASOK and its president on the issues of handling corruption. We call on it even now to see these proposals again and take a serious and responsible position. Our position is transparency everywhere, transparency for everything."

    [11] Interior minister criticizes PASOK party for using inaccurate data

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Wednesday criticized the main opposition PASOK party for using inaccurate and inadequate data.

    Pavlopoulos was speaking on the occasion of a question by PASOK deputies on a "black hole" in the account of the Thiseas program and for selective support for pro-government mayors.

    PASOK deputy C. Rovlias said that in the Special Operational plans for part-time employment recently announced by the government, 72 percent of subsidized jobs concerns municipalities affiliated to the ruling New Democracy party and only 22 percent of jobs concerns municipalities affiliated to PASOK.

    Pavlopoulos said on his part that it was "ironic, on the eve of municipal and prefecture elections, for PASOK to exercise criticism for the Thiseas program, when at a time when it had been in government it had embezzled local administration resources."

    [12] Gov't on ministry decision to end Church confessional on school premises

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The government on Wednesday answered a bevy of questions following an unexpected decision by the education ministry to end a decades-old practice of allowing Orthodox Christian priests to periodically take voluntary confessions on school premises from interested pupils after classes.

    "A circular by the responsible directorate of the education ministry has already been issued, and as the minister (Marietta Yiannakou) already said, once a relevant letter by the Holy Synod is received she will answer," the government spokesman told reporters in reference to sharp same-day reactions by the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece against the decision.

    [13] GRULAC ambassadors host reception in honor of FM

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Ambassadors of Latin American and Caribbean countries (GRULAC) hosted a luncheon in honor of Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday at the embassy of Mexico in Athens.

    [14] EL.KE: Foreign investment interest soars in first 8-month period

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Several large-scale investment plans, budgeted at 1.197 billion euros, were submitted with the Hellenic Investment Center (EL.KE) in the period from January to August this year, within the framework of investment law 3299/2004, envisaging the creation of 1,929 new job positions in the country.

    ELKE, in a report, said the projects were in the sectors of tourism, industry and manufacturing, energy, high technology, broadband networks and wholesaling.

    The report underlined the "fundamental interest", as it noted, showed lately by foreign investors to set up industrial units in the country, as more and more foreign investors are opting to base their production units in Greece due to improving infrastructure, the country's geographical position and networks.

    [15] Greece the honored country at tourism exhibition in Egypt

    CAIRO, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greece will serve as the “honored country” at the Mediterranean Tourism Exhibition hosted here, with a special "Greek night", complete with traditional dishes and dances, sponsored by the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO).

    GNTO President Dimitris Labadarios led the Greek delegation at the event, which was attended by Egyptian officials, including the country tourism minister, Mohamed Zoheir Garana, and foreign diplomats.

    [16] Gov't readies bill on outdoor tourism

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Tourism Minister Fani Palli Petralia said on Wednesday that a bill will shortly be sent to parliament allowing creation of Greek Outdoor and Agrotourism Organization, owned by the state.

    "Outdoor tourism is a cornerstone of balanced, sustainable development," Petralia said during a visit to the eastern port town of Volos.

    Among innovations in the bill are concessions on land owned by the agriculture ministry to help spur agrotourism through investment programs.

    "We are implementing a national policy for outdoor tourism and mild, alternative forms of tourism, based on sustainable development and the protection of local identity," the minister added.

    [17] EU okays farm support after forest fires

    BRUSSELS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The European Union has approved a program of state grants to offset farmers' losses from forest fires in March 2003 to December 2005, Agriculture and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos announced on Wednesday.

    The programs total 22 million euros, the ministry said in a statement.

    [18] Inflation to slow to 3.3 pct in Sept., forecast

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Alpha Bank expects Greece's annual inflation rate to slow to 3.3 pct in September from 3.5 pct in August, despite the burden of higher cigarette prices on the consumer price index.

    Alpha Bank's analysts, in a report, said "monopoly conditions" in several domestic markets were affecting price levels but stressed these were not strong enough to have any impact on inflation.

    [19] Greek tax revenues up 8.8 pct in Jan-Aug

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greek tax revenues rose 8.8 percent in the first eight months of 2006, slightly below an annual budget target for a growth rate of 8.9 percent, to 31.2 billion euros, from 28.7 billion euros in the same period last year, the finance ministry said on Wednesday.

    A ministry report said that regular tax revenues grew 7.1 percent in the January-August period, exceeding a budget target of 6.5 pct. Tax revenues totaled 3.91 billion euros in August, up 5.0 pct from 3.72 billion euros last year, with customs and tax agencies reporting a 5.2 pct increase in revenues (tax agencies up 9.2 pct, custom agencies down 3.6 pct).

    Revenues of electronic value added tax rose 13 percent to 731 million euros in August, from 647 million euros last year, while total VAT revenues was 789 million from 708 million in 2005, for an increase of 11.4 pct, exceeding an annual target of 7.2 pct.

    [20] Foreign tourist arrivals rose 8.3pct in 2005

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Foreign tourist arrivals in Greece rose by 8.3 percent in 2005 over the preceding year 2004, according to figures released Wednesday by Greece's national statistics service ESYE.

    According to the ESYE data, arrivals from Europe, which account for 93 percent of the tourist market, rose by 6.5 percent in 2005, with the largest proportion (19 percent) coming from the UK, followed by Germany (15.7 percent), and Italy (7.9 percent).

    A substantial increase was also recorded in arrivals from Romania (51.5 percent), Bulgaria (36.3 percent) and Russia (28.1 percent).

    With respect to an analysis of data concerning "travel means" and "point of entry", the airports with the highest rate of traffic in 2005 were Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (AIA) with 24.1 percent, followed by Heraklion Airport (Crete) with 12.8 percent, Rhodes with 7.8 percent, and Corfu with 5.6 percent.

    In a comparison with 2004, the airports with the largest increase in traffic in 2005 were Mykonos (14.8 percent) and Santorini (10.5 percent), while declines in arrivals were recorded at the airports of Kavala (25.6 percent), Rhodes (77.8 percent) and Patras (49.3 percent).

    A 2.6 percent increase was also recorded in passenger arrivals on charter flights in 2005 against 2004.

    [21] Business delegation to Istanbul

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A business delegation will visit Istanbul on December 4-7 in a bid to forge contracts with Turkish importers that will boost Greek exports to the neighboring country.

    The trip is arranged by the Thessaloniki Chamber of Trade and Industry and HEPO, the national exports board.

    Greek exports to Turkey totaled 724 million US dollars in 2005, up 21.8% on a year earlier, representing 0.6% of all imports to that country.

    [22] Corinth Steel signs deals worth US$95.6 with three US companies

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Corinth Steel Pipes on Wednesday announced the signing of a series of contracts, worth 95.6 million US dollars, with three of the largest natural gas companies in the United States for the supply of steel pipes.

    The contracts were signed with Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co., Enbridge Energy Ltd. and Cheniere Creole Trail Pipeline LP. All are expected to be completed by the first half of 2007.

    [23] Gov’t revokes licenses of two insurance firms

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou on Wednesday signed two ministerial decisions to revoke the operating licenses of two insurance firms, Amina AEGA and Inter Hellas AEE Road Assistance. The Greek minister also approved sanctions against Aspis Insurance after the company launched a new insurance product that failed to meet the standards set by insurance market regulators.

    [24] Foreign capital in bourse edges up

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Placements by investors from abroad in the Athens Stock Exchange rose to 43.30% in August 2006 versus 42.47% a month earlier, the Central Share Depository said on Wednesday.

    Foreign placements in the FTSE-ASE/20 high capitalization index accounted for 47.36% of the index, up from 46.11% in July; and in the FTSE-ASE/40 medium capitalization index 46.97%, down from 47.02%, the depository said in a monthly statement.

    Athens Bourse Close: Stocks drop: The Athens share index closed at 3,915.69 points, showing a decline of 0.95%. Turnover was 221.8 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.88% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 1.06% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 2.12% down.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 213 to 48 with 47 remaining unchanged.

    Derivatives Market Close: PPC top in stock futures trade

    Stock Futures:

  • Most Active Contract (volume): PPC (2443)

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 141.8 million euros

    Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4.13 pct

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2016): 4.13 pct yield

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2016 (1.2 bln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.9 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.289

    [25] Greece honors its Mundobasket silver medalists

    ATHENS, 7/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greece's men's national basketball team, the reigning European champions and silver medalists in the FIBA World Basketball Championship 2006 that ended Sunday in Japan, was received by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday morning at the presidential mansion, where he presented the team members and coach Panayotis Yannakis with medals in honor of their feat.

    Papoulias wished the team the best of luck in their endeavors and more distinctions, noting that he considered himself to be a lucky President as he had also had the honor of presenting medals to the team after their clinching of the European championship last year.

    The President thanked the athletes who "gave us so much at a time when things are difficult".

    Team coach Yannakis presented President Papoulias with a team shirt and basket ball, signed by all the team members, who attended a reception in their honor hosted by the President.

    PM receives national basketball team: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday received the players of the national basketball team, who had visited President Karolos Papoulias earlier in the day, at the Maximos Mansion together with his wife Natasha.

    The players were received after winning the silver medal in the 15th World Basketball Championship, held in Japan recently.

    They were also welcomed by Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos, Sports Secretary General Stavros Douvis, Communist Party of Greece Secretary General Aleka Papariga, main opposition PASOK party Secretary Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou, Fotis Kouvelis on behalf of the Coalition of the Left party, and the managing director of the national team's sponsoring company, Nikos Nanopoulos.

    "I wish to express to you a big thank you. I wish to express congratulations to you for this great success. You made us proud, you gave us joy and you are an example for the young children of our country. Primarily, however, you are proving the possibilities that this country has," the prime minister said in his address.

    The national team's coach, Panayiotis Yiannakis, gave the prime minister a basketball shirt and a basketball with the signatures of all the players, while Mrs. Karamanlis received from Yiannakis two small basketballs with the players' signatures.

    Karamanlis then told Yiannakis "we shall be here again next year, after the Eurobasketball competition in Spain. We take it for granted."

    Later in the day, the players of the national basketball team were also received by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos.

    [26] Dutch FM: Turkey must normalize relations with Cyprus

    NICOSIA, 7/9/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)

    If Turkey wishes to continue its EU accession negotiations, it must normalize its relations with the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state since 1 May 2004, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Bot stressed here Wednesday.

    Bot, in Cyprus for a working visit at the invitation of his Cypriot counterpart George Lillikas, said that he came to the island in the light of the October EU progress report on Turkey.

    ''It is in this light that I have come to listen about the situation in Cyprus, what their opinion is about a possible progress in the negotiations between Turkey and Cyprus because I think that if you want to continue the accession negotiations with Turkey it is very important that the situation between Cyprus and Turkey be normalized,'' he said.

    In statements to the press after holding talks with Lillikas, the Dutch minister said that he had been informed about the Cypriot government's proposals on Famagusta, that provide for the opening of the Turkish occupied port of Famagusta under the joint administration of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and under EU supervision, as well as the return of the fenced off town Varosha to its legal inhabitants.

    He expressed regret that Ankara continues to refuse to implement the Ankara Protocol, by not opening its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and aircraft.

    ''Most important is to see whether we can create any progress because the situation is frozen at present, it is a matter of concern in all EU countries because we would like to see that negotiations between EU and Turkey can proceed even with a very slow pace, it would take 10 to 15 years,'' Bot added.

    He said that it would not be a good idea if the negotiations with Turkey were to stop, adding that ''we are trying to explore possibilities for a movement on all sides, so in October we can come to the conclusion that parties are approaching each other, that a compromise is possible and of course the difficulty is to explore the limits of that compromise, the possibilities that are present at the moment.''

    Bot said that one of the EU demands is that Turkey submits the Ankara Protocol to the parliament and described the ideas put forward by the Luxembourg EU presidency as ''a very good basis for finding a solution.''

    ''In the meantime we try to explore confidence building measures that would contribute to the process and help the start of the process.

    Both parties have to make a little move forward and others can help to push in the hope that this would lead to an overall satisfactory conclusion of a problem that has been haunting us for such a long period,'' the Dutch minister said.

    ''Turkey wants to become a member of EU and knows what the conditions are and I think because many people have submitted good proposals on the table for a compromise so it must be possible to work within these limits for a final solution,'' he concluded.

    After holding talks with Lillikas, Bot was received by President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos and later on met with Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Cyprus Michael Moller.

    Lillikas described the meeting as very constructive, adding that they had the opportunity to discuss Turkey's EU accession negotiations, as well as issues to promote the Cyprus problem.

    He added that he expressed the Cypriot government's views on Turkey's obligations to meet the EU commitments it undertook, which concern Cyprus as well.

    ''We also expressed hope that Turkey is convinced by other countries that share political relations with Ankara, so that Turkey exploits the time left until its assessment by the European Commission to fulfill its obligations,'' he said.

    The Cypriot minister referred to the government's proposal on Famagusta, saying that the government is ready to proceed with the proposal so that there is progress that would contribute to a better political climate for an overall solution of the Cyprus problem.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    Turkey refuses to open its ports and airports to Cyprus and thus implement the EU Customs Union Protocol, a precondition for EU membership.

    Although aspiring to become a full EU member state, Ankara still does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.

    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed on 8 July 2006, during a meeting in Nicosia in the presence of UN Undersecretary General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari, to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day-to-day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem.

    [27] Cyprus protests new Turkish air violations to

    UN NICOSIA, 7/9/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)

    Cyprus has protested to the United Nations new mass violations of its national airspace and Nicosia FIR by Turkish military aircraft, during the period 13 June-18 August 2006.

    In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Charge d' affaires of the Permanent Mission of Cyprus to the UN Andreas Hadjichrysanthou strongly protested the violations by the Turkish air force, appealing for their immediate cessation.

    ''Turkey's policy of non-observance of rules and regulations governing international aviation continues to gravely jeopardize flight safety and perpetuate insecurity and apprehension on the island'', Hadjichrysanthou stated in his letter.

    The Cypriot diplomat further stressed that ''Turkey's persistent provocations, aimed at consolidating the de facto division of Cyprus and further strengthening the illegal secessionist entity in the occupied areas, seriously undermine all efforts towards reunification and reconciliation''.

    ''At the same time, they indicate that Ankara's policy towards Cyprus remains one of aggression and disrespect for international law and principles,'' he added.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.


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