|Monday, 18 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-12-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 29 December 2008 Issue No: 3082
 Greece expresses deep concern over Gaza flare upGreece on Sunday expressed its "deep concern" and condemnation of the dramatic escalation in Gaza violence over the past 48 hours, which has so far cost the lives of several hundred Palestinian civilians.
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said Athens is aligned with the European Union presidency's statement over the worrisome developments.
"Hamas' rockets, which sparked a new cycle of violence, and the disproportionate answer by Israel with air raids and bombings, are killing and injuring people along with the hope and prospects for peace in this tragic part of the world. They are threatening the region's already extremely fragile security," Bakoyannis stated, adding:
"A conflagration in the Middle East amid an international economic recession is a nightmare prospect that must be avoided at all costs ... The international community has a huge responsibility, it cannot remain idle; it must immediately assume initiatives for a de-escalation of tension."
Among others, the Greek FM called for the immediate dispatch of humanitarian aide to victims in Gaza, more intense diplomatic efforts to protect the peace process and a leading role for the European Union.
"Greece, which condemns every form of violence and terrorism, is ready to contribute towards this effort. It is also ready to offer humanitarian aid as soon as this is possible," she added.
 Political parties condemn Gaza violence; Israeli embassy statementGreece's opposition parties on Sunday issued stern condemna-tions over the devastating escalation in Gaza violence, following a massive and deadly Israeli retaliation against Hamas targets in answer to a wave of recent rocket attacks targetting southern Israel.
Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, who is also the president of the Socialist International (SI), called for an immediate ceasefire in the region. "We condemn every act of violence in the most categorical manner," he said in a statement.
"These actions, such as military operations, feed a vicious cycle of blind violence and bloodshed in the Middle East, erasing even the slim hopes for the finding a peaceful and viable solution based on UN resolutions and with the goal of a peaceful co-existence of two states," he said.
"We condemn the deadly Israeli bombing of Gaza as well as rocket attacks against Israel, and demand an immediate ceasefire," the SI president added, noting that the international political grouping is ready to assume any necessary initiative towards this direction.
 PASOK leader talks to Arab League SGMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou held a telephone conversion on Sunday with Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League.
The talks focused on Monday's conference of the League regarding the situation in Gaza.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) issued a statement condemning what it called the "new and wholesale crime against the Palestinian people being carried out by the government of Israel. The bombing of public buildings in Gaza today (Saturday) has led to a new wholesale slaughter. The attack violates and annuls the ceasefire agreed to by the government of Israel with Hamas; it means an escalation in Israeli aggressiveness."
KKE also criticised the US and EU for "tolerating and backing the Israeli barbarity", as it stated.
On its part, the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) charged that the "continuing crime against the Palestinian people, which is being aided by the United States and the dominant circles in the European Union, climaxed today (Saturday) with a barbaric military air operation that resulted in hundreds of civilian victims, both dead and injured.
Finally, when asked about the dramatic escalation in Mideast violence, Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) president George Karatzaferis said that "someone must finally pull the ear of this overly spoiled child of the west, Israel..."
Israeli embassy statement
Earlier on Sunday afternoon, the Israeli embassy in Athens issued a press release, stressing that "Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 in order to allow a new prospect for peace in the region. However, since then its citizens have suffered attacks with Hamas' rockets on a daily basis ... Only this past week hundreds of rockets were launched from Gaza against Israeli cities, 80 in one day alone. No country in the world can tolerate such a situation," the announcement reads.
"Until now Israel has shown self-restraint, however, it had no other choice but to react with military operations in order to protect its citizens, acting on the basis of the self-evident right to self defence."
 Dep. FM: EU member Cyprus doesn't need 'guarantor' for external securityNICOSIA (ANA-MPA / A. Viketos)
Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis emphasised here that Athens eagerly promotes "the position that Cyprus, as a European Union member-state, has no need of whatever guaranties by third parties regarding both its internal functioning and external security."
In an interview with the Sunday edition of Cyprus' "Phile-leftheros" newspaper, the Greek minister noted that Athens, in international meetings, within the EU and outside, as well as in bilateral contacts with other guarantor powers, always explains this position which, as he noted, is "gaining ground".
Under the 1959-60 Zurich-London Agreements, three countries -- Britain, Greece and Turkey -- gained the status of "guarantor powers" of the independence of Cyprus.
Valinakis also said that Greece's ambassador in Turkey had "successfully" supported this position in talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, during a meeting the latter convened with EU member-states' envoys in Ankara.
Regarding Turkey's EU prospects, Valinakis reiterated Greece's positions, namely, that the neighbouring country should not "ask for time limits from the EU. Turkey must proceed quickly ahead in its tasks, by fulfilling, in an initial phase, the obligations it has already undertaken, by opening its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and air transport."
 Papandreou rules out 'cooperation' scenarioMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou again reiterated his call for early general elections -- the last were held in September 2007 -- due to the "prolonged crisis" and lack of leadership, as he called it, in published statements on Sunday appearing in an Athens weekly.
Papandreou qualified his statement by saying he wants early elections after a quick resolution to the Vatopedi land swap furor, while also reiterating that his aim is a "clear electoral victory" and Parliament majority.
In commenting on a series of press articles and speculation last week over possible cooperation -- i.e. consent in appointing key ministers -- with ruling New Democracy, Papandreou categorically ruled out any such prospect.
"The economy's salvation is not an issue for technocrats. It is a matter of trust and political direction, one that is radically different from that of the current government," he said.
Asked about "cooperation" with the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), the junior leftist faction in Parliament, Papandreou repeated that a majority government is his aim, although such a goal does not come in opposition to cooperation.
"We will pursue post-election cooperation, because we want to unite our forces, even if on specific targets."
Conversely, SYRIZA grouping head Alekos Alavanos flatly rejected cooperation with PASOK, further adding that ND-PASOK cooperation is no solution.
Interestingly enough, Alavanos referred to a "singular co-governance" between ruling ND, the Communist Party (KKE) and the rightist Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS), while indirectly criticising KKE for its continued sniping at SYRIZA.
 Pavlopoulos interviewIn a separate interview in the same weekly, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos warned against speculation and "leaks" of a coming Cabinet reshuffle.
"No one can recommend to the prime minister if they should or should not remain in a minister's post," he said, while ruling out the possibility of early elections.
"Unless, of course, PASOK does not want to cooperate on electing (via Parliament MP vote) a new president of the republic," Pavlopoulos added.
All three political leaders were quoted by the new weekly "Real news".
 Ecumenical Patriarch receives visiting Athens mayorISTANBUL (ANA-MPA)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (Vartholomeos) on Sunday received Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis at his Fanar-district seat in the Bosporus metropolis. Kaklamanis later met with the mayor of Beyolu (Peran), a historic district in Istanbul, who also visited the Patriarch on the occasion of the Christmas holiday.
Bartholomew later received two Armenian Church Archbishops of the city, representatives of Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople Mesrob II, who conveyed the latter's Christmas wishes to the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Orthodox faithful.
 Foreign Exchange rates: MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.411
Pound sterling 0.956
Danish kroner 7.509
Swedish kroner 11.320
Japanese yen 127.66
Swiss franc 1.516
Norwegian kroner 9.994
Canadian dollar 1.712
Australian dollar 2.070
 Shoppers flock to open stores; couple of protests notedA couple of groups held protests on Sunday in the heart of Athens' shopping district to protest a decision allowing shops and stores to remain open on Sunday --the last of the year -- in order to boost sales following riot damages earlier in the month and concerns over an economic slump.
One group of protesters included members of the Communist Party (KKE) affiliated PAME labour grouping, while the other was an anti-capitalist, anti-globalisation social grouping, with a few dozen members of either party pressuring store owners -- primarily bigger outlets and multinationals -- to close.
The Ermou street pedestrian way -- Greece's best-known fashion and shopping district -- was the "target" of protesters, although the presence of consumers and passers-by during the extra shopping day was reported as heavy.
The Athens prefecture on Friday reversed its earlier controversial ban -- under pressure by the government and merchants' association -- and finally acquiesced to the opening of stores and shops in the municipality of Athens.
 Shots fired at suburban railcarA suburban railway carriage was struck twice by gunfire late Thursday evening near the Piraeus district of Tavros.
Police said the rounds were fired from a 9mm weapon. Three passengers were in the carriage but they not injured. The exact point of the shootings has yet to be pinpointed, while police are continuing an investigation.
 Minor quake in N.GreeceA minor quake measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale was recorded on Saturday at 10:27 a.m in a sea region near Halkidiki prefecture, northern Greece, and east of the port city of Thessaloniki.
Three smaller quakes followed, while no damages or injuries were reported
 Foreign national charged in compatriot's deathA 25-year-old Romanian national has been charged with homicide in the strangulation death of a same-age male compatriot in the southern town of Nafplio, police announced on Sunday.
 Snow blankets north, central GreeceLight snowfall will continue in most mountainous regions of the country as well as in north and central Greece on Monday, with sleet forecast elsewhere, as snow already blankets much of northern Greece, extending from Epirus across western and central Macedonia. Temperatures between -2C to 7C in the north, including a low of -7C in the Florina region; 1C to 8C elsewhere on the mainland. North to northeasterly winds, 6 to 7 on the Beaufort scale.
Sleet in Athens, 3C to 8C; partly cloudy in Thessaloniki, -2C to 5C.
 The Sunday edition of Athens' newspapers at a glanceContinuing speculation over whatever political develop-ments in the new year, an ubiquitous front-page issue for the Sunday edition of Athens' dailies, along with polls, as well as economic concerns dominated the headlines on the last Sunday of 2008.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Reshuffle without compromises."
APOGEVMATINI: "Property tax rates dropping".
AVGHI: "100,000 unemployed degree holders."
AVRIANI: The paper banners the apocalyptic "Test runs for ... WWIII begun".
CHORA: "2008: Year of overturns."
ELEFTHERI ORA: "Shops open! We managed to turn the self-evident into the ... Mideast question."
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Hope amid the crisis. Despite economic and political uncertainty in the new year, citizens desperately demand vision and answers from parties."
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Government in a bind; prefers oversight by Brussels to IMF recourse."
ETHNOS: "Operation 'election' with goal either a ... miracle or an honorable defeat."
EPOCHI: "Although history doesn't repeat itself ... 2009 with a flavor from 1929."
KATHIMERINI: "Crisis of trust in institutions: politics, parties and mass media".
NIKI: "Year of the Dragon. The most tragic images of 2008."
PARON: "A 'post man' to Brussels (Commission). The goal: Overthrowing Karamanlis and George (main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou)."
PROTO THEMA: "Cabinet reshuffle to determine government's course, election date and PM's personal course."
REAL NEWS: "Exclusive interview by G. Papandreou: 'I am not going to bargain'."
RIZOSPASTIS: "Counter-attack with regrouped popular front."
TO VIMA: "Changes or hara-kiri. (Prime Minister Costas) Mr. Karamanlis faces dilemma of government reshuffle."
VRADYNI: "New wage, pension scales."
 Cyprus President: No passage for Turkish-occupying forces at KokkinaNICOSIA (CNA/ANA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said on Saturday that the Republic of Cyprus does not rule out the possibility for the passage of Turkish Cypriots civilians to Kokkina, adding however that it cannot accept the refueling of the Turkish-occupying forces stationed in the area.
Christofias was invited to comment on Talat's statement that the Turkish Cypriot side requested the granting of passage to Kokkina as a trade-off for the opening of a crossing point in Limnitis, in the northwestern part of Cyprus.
Kokkina, a coastal village in northeast Cyprus, was the centre of intercommunal clashes in 1964, when Turkish air force planes bombed Greek Cypriot villages in the area. Kokkina is accessible only through the free areas of the Republic or by sea. Turkish Cypriots have been visiting Kokkina by land with the consent of the government of Cyprus.
Christofias said that after Talat's statement he is ''obliged to restore the truth on some issues.''
The president said that initially the Turkish Cypriot side demanded a passage for the Turkish Cypriots at Pyla village as a trade-off for the opening of a crossing point at Limnitis, which ''was unacceptable both from a political as well as military point of view''.
Christofias explained that this is beacuse Pyla passage could be monitored by neither the Greek Cypriot side nor the UN Peace Keeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
He added that after UNFICYP made clear that they could not accept such a passage, the Turkish Cypriot side revised its position and demanded a land passage at Kokkina as a trade-off for the opening of a crossing point at Limnitis.
The Cypriot people must be aware that Kokkina is exclusively a military enclave, Christofias said, adding that ''there are no civilians in Kokkina''.
''Because at the early stages they requested the passage of civilians we said that we could discuss this, but later on refueling was mentioned. Of course we did not reject a controlled passage of some people but when the other side requests to refuel occupying forces I do not know who could accept such a request,'' Cyprus president said.
''Therefore, Talat does not tell the whole truth. The whole truth is that gradually we reached the point of refueling (of occupying forces). As I said there are not civilians in Kokkina and the fuel would be used for the Turkish troops,'' he added, wondering whether Turkish troops will be refueled ''with our consent.''
Invited to comment on Talat's statement that the talks could reach the desired pace if the two sides discussed on a plan like the Annan plan, Christofias said he repeatedly stressed to Talat that the Annan plan has been rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriots.
Noting that the course and the pace of the negotiations should be assessed according to the positions tabled by each side, President Christofias added that he is not satisfied with the positions of the other side.
''I will continue with cautious optimism to work hard for a just, viable and functional solution under the circumstances,'' Christofias underlined.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Christofias and Talat so far held 13 direct meetings in the framework of UN-led negotiations for a Cyprus solution.
For the past 45 years, Greek Cypriot residents in the area of Limnitis have to travel to Paphos, on the western coast, and Limassol, on the south, in order to reach the capital Nicosia.
Opening a crossing point at Limnitis would make this journey far shorter. In the recent past, several crossing points to and from the island's northern Turkish occupied areas have opened to facilitate the movement of people.
 Cyprus calls for the immediate termination of acts of violence in GazaNICOSIA (CNA/ANA/MPA)
Cyprus government has called for the immediate termination of acts of violence in Gaza amid information that Israel is considering a ground attack.
An announcement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here Sunday says that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus expresses its grave concern over the recent escalation of violence in Gaza which has led to the loss of many innocent lives and condemns all indiscriminate attacks against civilian targets.
"The Government and the people of Cyprus express their sympathy to the families of the victims. The recent events also add further to the already grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza," the announcement adds.
Furthermore, the announcement stresses, "Cyprus calls for the immediate termination of acts of violence and of use of disproportionate force. Cyprus underlines the need for the full resumption of the cease-fire (tahdiya) and supports positive efforts of neighbouring countries towards this aim".
It is also added that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus stresses the need for the continuation of the direct peace talks of the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships towards a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.
Finally, Cyprus government expresses its support to the Palestinian Authority and emphasises the prospect of intra-Palestinian reconciliation efforts under the mediation of Egypt, considering that there can not be a military solution to the issue of Gaza.
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