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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-08-28

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Thursday, 28 August 2008 Issue No: 2981


  • [01] Inner Cabinet approves guidelines for 2009 budget
  • [02] Gov't announces measures to combat tax evasion, cut spending
  • [03] SEB on new economic measures
  • [04] KKE leader Papariga on tour of Argolis prefecture
  • [05] Tsipras on visit to Ikaria
  • [06] Former ND deputy Stathopoulos passes away
  • [07] Gov't announces 10% tax on share dividends, capital gains
  • [08] PASOK calls for cuts in utilities' rates
  • [09] Attica Bank: profits up 68.5 pct in H1
  • [10] Flexopack says turnover up, profits down in H1
  • [11] Profile reports higher H1 results
  • [12] Greek stocks end 0.37 percent lower
  • [13] ADEX closing report
  • [14] Foreign Exchange rates: Thursday
  • [15] Foreign nationals charged in abduction, forced prostitution of compatriot
  • [16] Holy Synod convenes
  • [17] Anastasiadis summoned to make plea
  • [18] Wildfire in Kastoria prefecture
  • [19] Hooligan violence outside Olympiakos' stadium
  • [20] Fair on Thursday
  • [21] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [22] Presidential Commissioner meets Nami ahead of September 3rd meeting
  • [23] Cyprus and Syria launch new era of cooperation
  • [24] FM says EU-Russia relations should continue despite differences Politics

  • [01] Inner Cabinet approves guidelines for 2009 budget

    The Inner Cabinet, chaired by prime minister Costas Karamanlis, on Wednesday approved the basic guidelines of the 2009 state budget, following a proposal by economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis.

    Alogoskoufis told reporters after the meeting that measures were approved to enhance the transparency of the budget, through the incorporation of the ministries' special accounts into the state budget.

    The Inner Cabinet further decided the creation of an inter-ministerial committee responsible for approving the expenditures of the state Organi-zations, which he said are currently not subject to government control.

    It further decided measures to expand the taxation base and to curb tax-evasion.

    The ministry's aim, Alogoskoufis explained, was better use of the public expenditures, transparency in the budget, low tax rates, and to ensure that everyone paid their share of the taxes.

    Alogoskoufis said that he also briefed the Inner Cabinet on developments in the economy.

    He also said that, for the past year, there has been an international economic crisis and a rise in inflation, adding that, as a country, Greece had the obligation of reducing its deficit by 0.5 percentage points annually.

    [02] Gov't announces measures to combat tax evasion, cut spending

    The Greek government will continue its efforts towards fiscal consolidation and in reducing the country's fiscal deficit, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday during a wide-ranging press conference following an inner Cabinet meeting.

    Speaking to reporters following the Cabinet's approval of the guidelines of the 2009 budget, Alogoskoufis said the government was facing two main challenges: containing spending and introducing a fairer tax system. The Greek minister said the inner Cabinet approved the guidelines of next year's budget and noted that the ministry will table draft legislation to Parliament on Thursday envisaging measures to boost transparency in the state budget, promote measures towards a fairer tax system and regulations to better control spending by local authorities, hospitals and pension funds.

    The draft law will also include provisions for the incorporation of so-called ministries' special accounts to the state budget, along with measures to combat tax evasion and to expand the tax base.

    Alogoskoufis said the government was taking measures to cut the tax burden of wage-earners and pensioners and noted that the tax exempt level for wage-earners will be increased again.

    The minister said it was necessary that this policy be accompanied with measures to combat tax evasion. Alogoskoufis said there were around 200 special accounts currently managed by government ministries, although he noted that special accounts covering research and the environment would be preserved.

    He also announced that a special inter-ministerial commission would be set up with the aim to continuously control the finances of public hospitals, local authorities and pension funds. The draft legislation envisages the strengthening of these entities to draft their business plans, but also sanctions for failure to meet their obligations.

    [03] SEB on new economic measures

    The Federation of Greek Industries (SEB), commenting on Wednesday on announcements made earlier in the day by Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, cited two positive elements, namely, that wage-earners and pensioners will not be affected and that preconditions are being set to boost transparency in public finances and to restrict state extravagance.

    However, SEB considers "the decision to impose additional taxes on dividends very unfortunate, combined with an increase in the advance payment of taxes. It is a measure that shakes the stability of the taxation system, deals a blow at the competitiveness of the country and harms entrepreneurship, that currently constitutes the main lever for growth and development. The commitment for a future decrease in rates does not dull the immediate repercussions from this new blow for businesses."

    SEB added that it reserves judgement on the minister's announcements on a more integrated basis until after the relevant bill is submitted.

    It added, however, that the country needs a new model of growth, based on a modern institutional framework and that the shaping of this framework is the great wager of responsibility for all.

    [04] KKE leader Papariga on tour of Argolis prefecture

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga who began a tour of Argolis prefecture on Wednesday, said in Nafplion that, for her party, it was not important when elections would be held, but that a change in the correlation of political forces arises from the electoral result.

    During a press conference at the Argolis Prefectural building, when asked to comment on the prospect of early general elections, Papariga said that the ruling ND party will assess when it it would be advantageous for itself to call elections.

    The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), she continued, could want elections, due to the high percentages it was receiving in opinion polls, but was a social-democratic party with common elements with the main opposition PASOK party.

    She said early elections was any easy option, but added that this does not change anything, while for the KKE what mattered was not the timing of elections but a change in the correlation of political forces resulting from the elections.

    [05] Tsipras on visit to Ikaria

    Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alexis Tsipras began a two-day visit to the eastern Aegean island of Ikaria on Wednesday, where he was briefed by local officials on problems facing the island, as well as the neighbouring isle of Fourni.

    Local officials called for central government assistance to facilitate solutions for many of the problems of Ikaria's residents.

    [06] Former ND deputy Stathopoulos passes away

    Ruling New Democracy (ND) former MP Vaios Stathopoulos passed away Tuesday night at the age of 56.

    The Volos-born Stathopoulos was suddenly taken ill on his inflatable boat shortly after it docked at a pier in the coastal town of Anavyssos, east of Athens, following a boat ride with a physician friend.

    According to the friend, Stathopoulos collapsed in the late evening, and the physician administered first aid, but the former MP did not recover. He was rushed by ambulance to hospital, where the doctors pronounced him DOA (dead on arrival).

    Merchant marine minister George Voulgarakis, upon learning of the incident, expressed his deepest condolences to the family of the deceased.

    Stathopoulos was a founding member of the ND youth organization ONNED in 1974, serving later as a member of its Executive Committee responsible for Public and International Relations (1982), while as secretary for International Relations that year he brought ONNED into the European youth organizations EDS and DEMYC. In 1983 he was elected to the Executive Committee of the DEMYC.

    Stathopoulos was first elected to parliament in 1985 on the ND ticket, representing the Athens A' district. He did not win re-election in 1989, but in March 1990 replaced Anna Synodinou in the House after her resignation and was re-elected to parliament in elections a month later. He chaired the ND Parliamentary Task Force (OKE) on Transport and Communication, in 1990 while that same year he was also elected to the presidium of parliament's Education Affairs Committee.

    In May 1994, in a letter to then ND leader Miltiades Evert, he resigned from the party, which he rejoined in November of the same year.

    Stathopoulos also stood as an ND-backed candidate for mayor in the October 1998 municipal elections for Kalyvia, Attica prefecture.

    Financial News

    [07] Gov't announces 10% tax on share dividends, capital gains

    The government will impose a 10-percent tax factor on self-employed and income-earners' income, up to 10,500 euros (currently tax-exempt), while it will impose a 10-pct tax on dividends from stock shares and a 10-pct tax on capital gains tax as of Jan. 1, 2009, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis told reporters on Wednesday.

    The minister said the government was also promoting a new effort to reschedule outstanding debt to the state and a new programme to deal with all open tax cases covering the fiscal period from 2000 to 2006. Also, the government will raise the tax advance payment rate to 80 percent, from 65 pct currently, for enterprises.

    Alogoskoufis said that a 1.5 per thousand tax on securities transactions will be preserved by Dec. 31, 2008, and will be scrapped as of Jan. 1, 2009. He also said the government will raise by 20 pct all vehicle registration duties next year.

    [08] PASOK calls for cuts in utilities' rates

    Main opposition PASOK party development rapporteur Mihalis Chrysohoidis, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday together with other party officials, called for an immediate decrease in public utility rates and prices, in general, citing implementation of the law on competition.

    "Since January 2008 and until today, we have been watching with grave concern the continuing and rapid worsening of crucial fundamental indicators of the Greek economy," Chrysohoidis said, adding that "it is evident even to the most well-meaning citizen that the 41 measures announced by the government last February to crack down on high prices have failed."

    [09] Attica Bank: profits up 68.5 pct in H1

    Attica Bank on Wednesday reported a 69.1-percent increase in its pre-tax profits to 17.099 million euros in the first six months of 2008 and said after tax profits rose 68.5 percent to 12.079 million euros over the same period.

    The bank's loan portfolio grew by 27 percent and its assets by 30 percent in the January-June period this year. Tryfon Kollintzas, the bank's chairman and chief executive, said "a significant increase of results and figures are the consequence of an operating restructuring of Attica Bank its subsidiaries, a restructuring of its portfolio, reducing operating costs and boosting productivity".

    [10] Flexopack says turnover up, profits down in H1

    Flexopack AEBE on Wednesday reported a 8.84-pct increase in its consolidated turnover to 23.950 million euros in the first half of 2008, from 22.005 million euros in the corresponding period in 2007, and said earnings before taxes, interest and amortization (EBITDA) totaled 3.662 million euros, from 3.794 million euros, for a decline of 3.47 pct.

    Pre-tax earnings totaled 2.037 million euros, down 13.63 percent, while profits after taxes and minorities fell 12.87 pct to 1.553 million euros.

    Parent turnover rose 7.51 percent to 21.282 million euros, EBITDA fell 6.34 pct to 3.273 million euros and pre-tax earnings fell 16.20 pct to 2.006 million euros. After tax earnings dropped 15.21 pct to 1.528 million euros.

    The company attributed its first half results to higher raw materials and energy costs. Exports jumped to 13.089 million euros in the January-June period, from 10.758 million euros last year, accounting for 61.50 percent of total turnover.

    [11] Profile reports higher H1 results

    Profile on Wednesday reported a 19.3-pct increase in its consolidated after tax profits to 1.224 million euros in the first half of 2008, up from 1.026 million euros last year and said sales rose 8.6 pct to 8.458 million euros.

    Earnings before taxes and interest rose 6.7 pct to 1.732 million euros, while EBITDA rose 6.0 pct to 2.243 million euros in the January-June period this year, from 2.377 million euros last year.

    Parent turnover rose 5.2 pct to 7.633 million euros, while after tax profits totaled 978,000 euros.

    [12] Greek stocks end 0.37 percent lower

    Greek stocks eased in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with the composite index of the market ending at 3,243.99 points, off 0.37 pct. Turnover was a low 139.04 million euros, of which 5.1 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower, with the Telecommunications (3.34 pct), Media (1.50 pct) and Personal/Home Products (0.68 pct) scoring the gains and the Insurance (1.98 pct), Food/Beverage (1.71 pct) and Banks (1.22 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day. The FTSE 20 index eased 0.61 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.13 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.25 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 115 to 95 with another 59 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.98%

    Industrials: +0.06%

    Commercial: -1.16%

    Construction: +0.66%

    Media: +1.50%

    Oil & Gas: -0.67%

    Personal & Household: +0.68%

    Raw Materials: -1.11%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.30%

    Technology: -0.56%

    Telecoms: +3.34%

    Banks: -1.22%

    Food & Beverages: -1.71%

    Health: +0.68%

    Utilities: -0.82%

    Chemicals: +0.28%

    Financial Services: -0.20%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), Bank of Cyprus and OPAP.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 17.86

    ATEbank: 2.35

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 17.80

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.22

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.42

    National Bank of Greece: 27.94

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 13.90

    Intralot: 9.50

    OPAP: 23.90

    OTE: 14.22

    Piraeus Bank: 17.02

    Titan Cement Company: 25.40

    [13] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising slightly to 71.761 million euros. The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.16 pct and the August contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 1.93 pct.

    Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 6,804 contracts worth 60.160 million euros, with 34,168 open positions in the market, while there was not trading in futures contracts on the Mid Cap index.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 7,120 contracts worth 11.086 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,783), followed by OTE (1,139), OPAP (354), Hellenic Exchanges (413), Alpha Bank (560), Marfin Popular Bank (878) and ATEbank (322).

    [14] Foreign Exchange rates: Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.479

    Pound sterling 0.801

    Danish kroner 7.473

    Swedish kroner 9.406

    Japanese yen 161.3

    Swiss franc 1.616

    Norwegian kroner 7.941

    Canadian dollar 1.544

    Australian dollar 1.714

    General News

    [15] Foreign nationals charged in abduction, forced prostitution of compatriot

    Three Bulgarian nationals were arrested by police in a remote village of northern Serres prefecture on Wednesday on charges of holding a 31-year-old compatriot captive and forcing her into prostitution.

    According to authorities, the woman was lured to Greece by a female friend, 29, with the promise of work in a tobacco plantation. However, she was imprisoned in a residence in the village of Triantafyllia.

    The case was uncovered when the victim managed to call her husband in Bulgaria, who in turn contacted local police; the latter informed their Greek colleagues of the woman's approximate whereabouts.

    Two Bulgarian men, aged 29 and 49, were arrested in relation to the case.

    All three suspects are due to face a local prosecutor in the town of Serres on a variety of felony charges. The victim returned to Bulgaria after provided a detailed statement to police and an investigating magistrate.

    [16] Holy Synod convenes

    The Holy Synod convened on Wednesday under the chairmanship of Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos.

    An announcement by the Holy Synod said that "the lesson of religion is for the Greek Orthodox pupil obligatory, in accordance with the relevant provision of Article 16, Paragraph 2, of the existing Constitution and is taught in all the primary and secondary schools, in accordance with the official obligatory program which has been determined by the Education and Religious Affairs Ministry.

    [17] Anastasiadis summoned to make plea

    Noted local TV personality and publisher Themos Anastasiadis was summoned by an Athens magistrate on Wednesday to enter a plea on Friday regarding misdemeanor charges of violating the law on the disclosure of personal data.

    Anastasiadis has been charged with involvement in the extortion against the former secretary general of the culture ministry, Christos Zachopoulos.

    [18] Wildfire in Kastoria prefecture

    A wildfire broke out in a remote mountainous region in the municipality of Vitsi, in the northwestern prefecture of Kastoria on Wednesday.

    Nine fire engines and 21 fire-fighters were battling the blaze with the assistance of two firefighting aircraft. Residential areas in the area were not reported in any danger.


    [19] Hooligan violence outside Olympiakos' stadium

    Hooligan violence erupted on Wednesday afternoon against Cypriot fans on Wednesday, who arrived in Athens to support their team, Anorthosis Famagusta, it its Champions League third preliminary round second leg match against Greek club Olympiakos at Karaiskaki Stadium later in the evening.

    Youths threw objects at Anorthosis fans outside a railway station leading to the stadium.

    Incidents had also occurred on Tuesday, when a coach carrying the Cypriot team was harassed after leaving Athens airport and outside Karaiskaki stadium, where the Cypriot team's players had gone for a training session.

    Weather Forecast

    [20] Fair on Thursday

    Fair weather with northeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 15C and 36C. Fair in Athens, with 5-7 beaufort northerly winds and temperatures ranging from 22C to 33C. Local cloud in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 22C to 32C.

    [21] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The rift between the US and Russia following the latter's recognition of the Georgia provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, the base grade point averages for university entry that were released on Tuesday, leaving more than 18,000 student positions vacant, the new tax measures to be approved at Wednesday's Inner Cabinet meeting, and prime minister Costas Karamanlis' round of meetings with the social partners ahead of the announcements on economic policy he will make during his address next week at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), where economic policy for the following year is traditionally unveiled by the prime minister, were the main front-page items in Wednesday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The base grade points released - 18,000 vacancies in AEI-TEI (institutions of higher education)".

    APOGEVMATINI: "The new 385 municipalities - The new map of the Local Administrations under the Capodistrias 2 program", explaining that the program provides for the unification or merger of smaller municipalities and communities, thus reducing the number of municipalities in the country to 385 from the current total of 1,034 municipalities and communities (914 municipalities and 120 communities).

    AVGHI: "Dangerous escalation in US-Russia relations - Medvedev (Russian president) recognizes Abkhazia and South Ossetia (with official decree)".

    AVRIANI: "Souflias (environment, town planning and public works minister) 'sees' (early general) elections in the spring - All the scenaria for elections or reshuffle".

    CHORA: "The fire in the Caucasus flares - Climate of insecurity on the world scene" caused by the crisis in Russia-West relations following Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, noting that 25 NATO and Russian warships have gathered in the Black Sea, while Russian president Dmitry Medvedev stated that Russia does not fear a new Cold War, and adding that Athens was keeping a neutral stance.

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Russia recognizes independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia - Peace hanging by a thread".

    ELEFTHEROS: "The civil servants' social security issue opening up - Dialogue commencing, will also include the matter of the civil servants' salary scale".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Who (which municipalities and communities) the Capodistrias 2 is uniting, separating".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Record vacancies (in AEI-TEI)- 60,000 customers for the (franchise) colleges", explaining that 60,000 lyceum graduates who did not amass the required grade points for university entrance, will in September seek a different route, while the AEI and TEI will operate this year with 18,435 vacancies (in student positions).

    ESTIA: "Populism threatening the economy - Everyone demanding benefits without collateral".

    ETHNOS: "Thousands of AEI-TEI candidates exiled - 18,435 vacancies, but 29,183 candidates left out".

    KATHIMERINI: "Full speed ahead to US-Russia Cold War following recognition of Abkhazia and S. Ossetia (by Russia) - Bush (US president) takes tough stance".

    LOGOS: "Record vacancies in AEI-TEI - AEI-TEI entry success at 70.04 percent (of total candidates)".

    NIKI: "The government isolated - Industrialists accuse it of management incompetence - ADEDY (Civil Servants' unions umbrella federation) also left the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters, where its presidium met on Tuesday with prime minister Costas Karamanlis) empty-handed - PASOK charges lack of governance".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "With shared blame of ND and PASOK, education inaccessible for the children of the working classes".

    TA NEA: "Shock: 18,500 vacancies in AEI-TEI - Closure and mergers of Schools".

    TO VIMA: "The new taxes on professionals and capital likely to be announced today (Wednesday) after the Inner Cabinet meeting".

    VRADYNI: "Uniform salary scale (for civil servants), and (civil servants') social security on the horizon - The commitments, the pledges, and potato".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [22] Presidential Commissioner meets Nami ahead of September 3rd meeting


    The aides of the two leaders in Cyprus, Presidential Commis-sioner George Iacovou and advisor to the Turkish Cypriot leader Ozdil Nami, held a meeting Wednesday during which they discussed procedural matters ahead of the commencement of direct talks between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus on September 3rd.

    In statements after the two-hour long meeting, which was held in the presence of UN Secretary General's Special Repre-sentative in Cyprus Taye-Brook Zerihoun, Iacovou said that UN Secretary

    General's special adviser for Cyprus, Alexander Downer, will be present at the start of direct negotiations on September 3rd, in Nicosia.

    The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities, President of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, will meet September 3rd to begin direct negotiations aiming at reunifying Cyprus, which has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied one third of the island's territory.

    Iacovou said that during his meeting with Nami they discussed procedural issues concerning the direct negotiations, adding that the procedure will not differ much from the previous meetings the two leaders have held since President Christofias assumed office in February 2008.

    Regarding the opening of a crossing point at Limnitis, on the northwest of Cyprus, to facilitate crossing to and from the occupied areas, Iacovou said they reached no decision during their meeting as regards the opening of Limnitis.

    Asked whether on September 3rd, an announcement will be made regarding the opening of the Limnitis crossing point, Iacovou said "the effort is to have an agreement and to announce it on September 3rd."

    Iacovou noted that many different issues arise during negotiations, some of which are "quite difficult."

    The Presidential Commissioner did not rule out the possibility to have one more meeting with Nami before September 3rd.

    [23] Cyprus and Syria launch new era of cooperation


    Cyprus and Syria are opening a new window of cooperation and enhancing their relations, said here Wednesday Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou.

    He was speaking after talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem who is concluding his two day official visit to the island. The two signed an agreement on the abolition of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic and service passports and a memorandum of understanding on Bilateral Political Consultations between the two countries.

    "We consider this a very important meeting," said Kyprianou after the talks, noting the two countries have "very long standing relations since the beginning of the Republic of Cyprus and even before then between the peoples of the two countries."

    He said they discussed bilateral, international issues which concern the region and the EU and "we have expressed once again and reaffirmed our friendship towards the Syrian Arab Republic and also the people of Syria and we have agreed to remain in constant contact and coordination."

    Kyprianou remarked that as a member of the EU and belonging to this part of the region, Cyprus "can, not only become the bridge between the EU and the region here but also the ambassador of the countries of the region in the EU. We understand, know the issues better than any other country in the EU."

    He said more agreements will be signed which will put into a more practical way cooperation between the two countries.

    The Cypriot FM said "both countries are facing issues of occupation, we discussed the latest developments both regarding the solution to the Cyprus problem, the reunification of the island, the upcoming talks between President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat but also had the opportunity to listen to my colleague on recent developments regarding the Golan Heights and the occupation."

    "The position of Cyprus is firm on the territorial integrity of all countries and against occupation, against illegal settlements," said Kyprianou, adding that "this position stands firm on the issue of the Golan Heights as well."

    The two also talked about President Christofias future visit to Syria while Kyprianou will travel to Damascus in advance to prepare the President's visit.

    "We feel that now we are opening a new window of cooperation and enhancing relations between the two countries," the Cypriot Minister remarked, noting they had "a very frank and open discussion on all the issues which concern the two countries and with this dialogue we can find solutions to any problems that may exist or may arise in the future."

    The Syrian Minister said "I am very glad to be in Cyprus. This is my first official visit and I hope that this will be a day which will mark and enhance our bilateral relations. We are the closest neighbours of Cyprus and we are looking hopefully for the future cooperation."

    Asked if they had discussed the issue of illegal immigrants from Syria who arrive through the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, Kyprianou said that it "was one of the issues raised," adding it was discussed at different levels between Cyprus and Syria.

    "We exchanged views; we referred the issue to our colleagues of the interior to discuss the details. There is willingness on both sides to resolve the issue. Cyprus is open to legal immigration and we believe the illegal one affects negatively the possibility of Syrian people to work in Cyprus. There is a common interest in finding a solution to this," he stressed.

    The Syrian FM said "it is not the Syrian government policy to encourage illegal immigrants."

    Replying to questions, Kyprianou said they touched upon the issue relating to the illegal ferry route between the Syrian port of Latakia and the Turkish occupied Cypriot port of Famagusta, which has been declared by the government of Cyprus a closed port following the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island.

    "We have to continue working to find a solution to this issue which is of concern to us. We will continue the dialogue and discussion in trying to resolve this issue," he concluded.

    The Syrian FM was expected to depart Cyprus early afternoon.

    [24] FM says EU-Russia relations should continue despite differences


    Minister of Foreign Affairs Markos Kyprianou said on Wednesday that the government is concerned about developments in Georgia but believes that Russia should continue its cooperation with the EU, despite their differences on the issue.

    Commenting on the recognition by Moscow of the declaration of independence by South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Kyprianou said that relations of the two countries are very close but on the other hand Cyprus supports ''the respect and protection of the territorial integrity of states, and this is a principle which the Republic of Cyprus supports and supported in the case of Kosovo, so developments of the past few days in Georgia have worried us.''

    He added however that ''Cyprus believes that apart from these disagreements that might exist between the EU and Russia, it is of great importance that cooperation between Russia and the EU continues, and that a dialogue continues to discuss all the political matters between the two sides.''

    Asked if this recognition might have a fallout on efforts by the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime, in northern Turkish occupied Cyprus, to gain recognition, the Minister pointed out that ''every case is different.''

    He said that the situation in Cyprus' occupied areas is the result of Turkey's invasion in 1974 and continuing occupation.

    ''There was no geographical separation of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots into north and south, before 1974, as it was unfortunately created by the invasion and occupation, and thus they are two different cases,'' he added.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The Turkish Cypriot regime, in occupied Cyprus, has been seeking recognition since it was set up. The UN describes the regime as "legally invalid" and has called on all states not to recognize or facilitate the regime.

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