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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-07-21

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

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

Tuesday, 21 July 2009 Issue No: 3250

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Karamanlis visits firefighting aircraft base
  • [02] Greek MPs express undivided support to efforts for a Cyprus solution
  • [03] PASOK on grim anniversary of Cyprus invasion
  • [04] Gov't reiterates position on presidential election
  • [05] PASOK again urges early elections
  • [06] Alavanos on relations with Turkey, asylum issues
  • [07] SYRIZA leader calls for free access to Athens beaches
  • [08] President briefed on migration policy
  • [09] Deputy Min. meets with Macedonia-Thrace journalists' union
  • [10] German envoy visits Ecumenical Patriarchate
  • [11] Greece-Italy natgas pipeline discussed
  • [12] Djukanovic meets MIG chairman, CEO
  • [13] Fire-fighting equipment for NATURA areas
  • [14] Protesting peach farmers offered 22 cents per kilo
  • [15] PASOK tables draft law on consumer debts
  • [16] Industrial activity down in May
  • [17] Hellenic Bank Association in court action against unions
  • [18] Hellenic Exchanges enters T2S project
  • [19] Greek stocks end 2.01 pct higher
  • [20] Greek bond market closing report
  • [21] ADEX closing report
  • [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [23] Zakynthos wildfire still blazing
  • [24] Suspect held in taxi robberies
  • [25] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [26] Cypriot Foreign Minister says Turkey behaving like a bully
  • [27] President Christofias says two sides are poles apart on form of state in Cyprus
  • [28] National Guard to be reinforced while Turkish troops remain, says Minister

  • [01] PM Karamanlis visits firefighting aircraft base

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis visited the firefighting aircraft base in Elefsis, near Piraeus, on Monday morning, where he was briefed on the fleet's preparedness in light of the high fire-risk period.

    In a brief greeting, Karamanlis thanked the Air Force staff for the work they do, which he said benefits Greek society, adding that their task frequently brought them to the boundaries of human ability.

    The premier stressed that the destruction of the country's forest wealth is "one of the severest problems we are called on to confront, as a society", since "protection of the environment is a primary and prevalent necessity in order to preserve quality of life on our planet".

    "We need to be in a constant state of vigilance," Karamanlis said, and stressed that "wherever a forest expanse is lost due to fire, we needed to proceed immediately -- which we are doing -- with all those actions that ensure that it will once again become a forest".

    The premier said that the contribution of the firefighting airplanes and helicopters to an immediate and effective confrontation of the fires is decisive, particularly in the dase of extensive burning fronts and blaces in inaccessible areas.

    The state and the government are, and will be, constantly at the side of the airborne firefighers' side, solving, to the degree possible, any problems that exist, the prime minister said, and thanked them for the fight they wage against fires with a high sense of duty and spirit of self-denial.

    [02] Greek MPs express undivided support to efforts for a Cyprus solution

    NICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A.Viketos/CNA)

    Greek MPs, in Cyprus to participate in the events to condemn the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in the summer of 1974, reiterated on Monday their country's undivided support to the efforts for a political settlement in Cyprus.

    The Greek delegation, comprising MPs from various political parties, was received on Monday by President Demetris Christofias.

    In statements after the meeting, head of the delegation, President of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee Krinio Kanellopoulou said that President Christofias briefed the delegation on current efforts to achieve a settlement.

    ''Today is a day of memory and a day of honour for the Cypriot and the Greek people,'' Kanellopoulou said, adding ''the message of a day like today is that we must all strive for the solution of the Cyprus issue as best and as correctly as possible.''

    She added ''we have expressed the undivided support of the Greek government, the Greek parliament and the Greek people to the Cypriot government and the Cypriot people.''

    The delegation, headed by Kanellopoulou, comprises President of the Committee on Cultural and Educational Affairs Maria Kollia Tsaroucha (New Democracy - ND) and MPs Alexandros Athanasiades (PASOK), Charalambos Charalambous (Communist Party of Greece - KKE), Sophia Andriopoulou (Syriza) and Giorgos Georgiou (LA.OS).

    [03] PASOK on grim anniversary of Cyprus invasion

    A main opposition PASOK spokesman on Monday underlined that "today marks the 35th anniversary of the coup and invasion of Cyprus: We do not forget, we do not forget that the tragedy of Cyprus was the beginning of the end of the dictatorship in our country; we remember all of the fighters and we struggle today to vindicate the sacrifices made".

    Spokesman George Papaconstantinou added that the "substance of the problem is occupation and the trampling of the Republic of Cyprus' sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity."

    [04] Gov't reiterates position on presidential election

    The government on Monday reiterated its position regarding the election of a new president of the republic, namely, support for current head of state Karolos Papoulias amid repeated calls by main opposition PASOK for early elections with a view to a previously agreed to consensus backing for the latter.

    A government spokesman's laconic comment came following a high-profile published statement by former PASOK Euro-MP and constitutional law professor Dimitris Tsatsos, who disparaged the prospect of causing early elections via an unsuccessful parliamentary process to select a new president -- a development envisioned for the spring of 2010.

    "We have a president that exercises his duties in an exemplary manner; a president that is loved by citizens and who symbolises Greece's unity. Therefore, for us, there is no reason for second thoughts," spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Monday, during a regular press briefing.

    The 300-MP legislature in Greece elects a president of the republic by an extended majority.

    PASOK reaction

    In a later reaction, PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou rejected Antonaros' charges against PASOK, especially that the main opposition is "playing with the political institutions", while he clarified that PASOK cadres, such as Tsatsos, "have the right to express their opinions; everyone's views are welcome and useful".

    "PASOK has a clear position: The issue is political, the country needs a change in direction. I do not believe there are many citizens that believe this government will lead the country until 2011 ... can this situation continue, decisions not taken, the economy stagnating and back-pedalling?"

    Papaconstantinou underlined that his party has clearly stated that it wants elections with a commitment for Papoulias' re-election, "if he so wishes," he added.

    [05] PASOK again urges early elections

    Main opposition PASOK on Monday repeated its call for early general elections in Greece, with PASOK sector-head for economic issues Louka Katseli saying they were vital to arrest the ever-worsening fiscal and economic straits of the country.

    "The issue is extremely political. The economy is currently entering ever deeper waters every day and a recession is outside the gates, the fiscal situation is derailed. Therefore, for the good of the country and national interests, elections must be held as quickly as possible, " she said.

    [06] Alavanos on relations with Turkey, asylum issues

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group president Alekos Alavanos on Monday said there was "a complete absence of any kind of foreign policy on the part of the government of New Democracy," in statements concerning the latest round of provocative overflights by Turkish military planes above the Aegean.

    He also stressed that accession talks between the EU and Turkey could not continue as long as that country continued to violate international law, did not adopt good neighbourhood practices and whose troops continue to occupy part of another EU member-state, the Cyprus Republic.

    Alavanos also commented on a decision of the UN High Commission for Refugees to turn down the Greek government's offer to review asylum applications, on the grounds that new rules introduced by Greece did not protect human rights and further hampered the asylum process.

    He said that this was a "slap" for the Greek government and toward Greece itself.

    [07] SYRIZA leader calls for free access to Athens beaches

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group president Alekos Alavanos on Monday met Elliniko Mayor Christos Kortzidis and again discussed the issue of free access to Athens beaches.

    "Today the issue is directly raised to stop the operation of a state within the state, where the kingdom of the night is the government of the Greek Republic," he said, adding that nearly everyone was being deprived of access to beaches the the opportunity to exercise a constitutional right of Greek citizens.

    Alavanos and Kortzidis stressed the need to hand over management of the beach to the municipality and to stop the lawless regime imposed by the owners of beachfront nightclubs.

    [08] President briefed on migration policy

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Monday received interior miniser Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who briefed him on the course of Greece's migration policy.

    Speaking to reporters afterwards, Pavlopoulos said that following the signing of the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum in Paris, emphasis was now being placed by Europe on enhancing legal migration and combatting illegal migration.

    Europe, he said, was acquiring, in an institutional way, internal borders.

    "We were protagonists in the drafting and signature of the Pact on immigration and asylum, just as we were in the evolution and anhancement of the Frontex (the EU agency for security of the union's external borders), which is now conducting operations in the Eastern Mediterranean all-year-round," Pavlopoulos noted.

    The minister further noted the pressure being placed on Turkey for implementation of its readmission agreement with Greece, which he said Ankara has not effectively applied to date.

    However, after the signature of the European Pact, Turkey's obligation has become an obligation of European-wide dimensions, given that adherence to the pact is now an acquis communautaire, Pavlopoulos stressed, noting that the Turkish interior minister, during the informal meeting of EU interior ministers in Stockholm last Thursday, had committed to signature of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement by the end of 2009.

    This, he added, indicated that Turkey has now realised that its EU accession course depends on the role it will play in halting the migration and refugee waves towards Europe.

    "Greece desires a European course for Turkey. But it is Turkey that must take steps forward, and not Greece and the EU taking steps backwards," Pavlopoulos said.

    [09] Deputy Min. meets with Macedonia-Thrace journalists' union

    Deputy Interior Minister Costas Gioulekas, who holds the media and press sector portfolio, met on Monday with the Journalists' Union of Macedonia-Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTh) board members in Thessaloniki. The meeting focused on labor issues in the media sector in northern Greece.

    [10] German envoy visits Ecumenical Patriarchate

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA)

    German ambassador to Turkey Eckart Cuntz on Monday expressed his hope regarding the re-opening of the Halki Orthodox Seminary on the eponymous Marmara Sea island.

    "We all hope that the Halki Seminary will again operate," the German envoy told reporters after meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Fanar.

    "We discussed the principle of freedom of religious beliefs in Turkey and in our countries, and the present state of human rights," he added, reiterating the importance of "equal treatment of all religions regarding the education of clergy and other religious staff."

    Financial News

    [11] Greece-Italy natgas pipeline discussed

    MILAN (ANA-MPA)

    Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis represented Athens at an economic and finance forum here held within the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean initiative, where, among others, he detailed Greece's energy policy and priorities.

    Hatzidakis held a brief meeting on the sidelines of the forum with Italy's Minister of Economic Development Claudio Scajola and subsequently with executives of Italian energy giant Edison for talks on the Greek-Italian underwater gas pipeline "Poseidon", apparently with a view to examine whether the pipeline can be transport natgas from Italy to Greece, along with the current Greece-Italy direction.

    Also on the sidelines of the forum, the Greek minister met with Turkish Energy & Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz.

    According to reports, Hatzidakis reiterated Athens' standing positions regarding exploration in the Aegean, following reports that Ankara is eyeing seismic studies in a maritime area close to the remote Greek isle of Kastellorizo, in the extreme SE Aegean.

    The Greek foreign ministry has warned Turkish officials that Athens will not resign from any sovereign rights it retains in the region.

    [12] Djukanovic meets MIG chairman, CEO

    Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic on Monday met Marfin Investment Group (MIG) chairman Andreas Vgenopoulos and MIG CEO Dennis Malamatinas in Athens, for talks relating to various investments being carried out by MIG in Montenegro.

    Earlier, Djukanovic and his aides had visited the Hygeia Hospital in Athens, the Mitera maternity hospital, the facilities of the IT firm Singular Logic and the Vivartia dairy plant.

    [13] Fire-fighting equipment for NATURA areas

    Environment Minister George Souflias on Monday signed an order for a programme funding the purchase of fire protection equipment for use in the NATURA areas of Greece, with an overall budget of 24,540,000 euros.

    The programme is being funded in the framework of Community operational programmes for the environment and sustainable development under the National Strategic Reference Framework.

    Souflias said the aim was to improve protection against fire for NATURA regions, improving the time within which the fire brigade intervened and put out forest fires and reducing the social and economic repercussions of disasters.

    [14] Protesting peach farmers offered 22 cents per kilo

    Minister of Agriculture Sotiris Hatzigakis on Monday presented a package of measures for protesting peach producers, calling on them to end their mobilizations.

    Following a meeting at the agricuture ministry with representatives of peach farmers and canning industries in northern Greece, Hatzigakis announced a minimum guaranteed price of 22 cents per kilo.

    Canning industries will provide 18 cents a kilo, while the re-maining four will come from the subsidy of labour cost by the Employment and Vocational Training Fund (LAEK).

    Hatzigakis also instructed the Agricultural Insurance Organiza-tion (ELGA) to immediately evaluate damages caused by adverse weather conditions and offer full compensation.

    [15] PASOK tables draft law on consumer debts

    Main opposition PASOK on Monday announced that a draft law will be tabled in Parliament on the same day providing for the settlement of the debts of heavily indebted consumers.

    According to the proposal, consumers with a confirmed and permanent weakness to pay off their debts will be given the opportunity through clearly defined procedures to proceed with settlements allowing them to balance part of their debts with realistic terms based on their income. The sum paid will be defined by the courts after taking under consideration debtors' income and living standards.

    [16] Industrial activity down in May

    Economic activity slowed further in Greece, according to figures released by the National Statistical Service on Monday, with the new orders' index in the industrial sector (measuring both the domestic and foreign markets) falling by 37.7 pct in May, compared with the corresponding month last year, after an increase of 7.1 pct in May 2008.

    The average index in the 12-month period from June 2008 to May 2009 was down 16.5 pct compared with the same period in 2008, after a decline of 2.0 pct in the 12-month period last year.

    The turnover index in the industrial sectors plunged 30.7 pct in May 2009, compared with May 2008, after an increase of 12.8 pct in May last year, with the average 12-month period index (June 2008-May 2009) falling by 9.8 pct.

    [17] Hellenic Bank Association in court action against unions

    The Hellenic Bank Association on Monday attempted to reassure employees in the sector that a decision to seek court action against bank employees' unions was not aimed against the workforce but specific unions it claims are trying to establish a regulatory framework for resolving labour differences via arbitration, thereby pulling away from past statements and actions.

    The Association said that in the period from 1976 to 2007 a total of 23 collective bargaining agreements had been signed between banks and OTOE, bank workers' union, while stressing that during this period no one claimed that Hellenic Bank Association was the sector's representative at the bargaining table.

    In fact, the Association said it was never invited to any round of negotiations as a representative of banks.

    OTOE has failed to sign a collective labour agreement with banks operating in Greece in 2008 and has referred to Greek courts in order to seek arbitration for its demands.

    [18] Hellenic Exchanges enters T2S project

    Hellenic Exchanges, the operator of Athens Stock Exchange, Athens Derivatives Exchange and Alternative Market, is one of the 27 European Depositories that have signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Eurosystem -the European Central Bank and the 16 national central banks in the Eurozone. The memorandum of cooperation is a commitment by all clearing houses to participate in a Target2-Securities (T2S) project.

    T2S is currently in a phase of finalizing standads, bringing together users' demands, system drafting and preparing for meeting the demands of the Eurosystem.

    The system is expected to begin developing in 2010 and to begin operating by June 2013. Spyros Kapralos, chief executive of Hellenic Exchanges, and George Provopoulos, Bank of Greece governor, represented Greece during the signing ceremony.

    "T2S is expected to become a significant step to unifying the European securities market. Hellenic Exchanges has already begun efforts -though its participation in Link Up Markets, to offering investors new services in competitive prices".

    [19] Greek stocks end 2.01 pct higher

    Greek stocks jumped 2.01 pct in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, pushing the composite index of the market to 2,275.34 points. Turnover was a moderate 186.4 million euros, of which 12.1 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved upwards, with the Banks (4.19 pct), Chemicals (3.38 pct) and Insurance (2.65 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Telecommunications (2.34 pct) and Utilities (0.11 pct) suffered losses.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 2.59 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.82 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index jumped 2.40 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 174 to 46 with another 33 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +2.65%

    Industrials: +2.37%

    Commercial: +0.37%

    Construction: +2.23%

    Media: +1.82%

    Oil & Gas: +2.33%

    Personal & Household: +1.38%

    Raw Materials: +2.50%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.89%

    Technology: +2.22%

    Telecoms: -2.34%

    Banks: +4.19%

    Food & Beverages: +0.66%

    Health: +2.49%

    Utilities: -0.11%

    Chemicals: +3.38%

    Financial Services: +1.25%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and Alapis .

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

    Alpha Bank: 8.90

    ATEbank: 1.60

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 15.50

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.83

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.26

    National Bank of Greece: 19.93

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 8.42

    Intralot: 4.25

    OPAP: 16.94

    OTE: 10.45

    Bank of Piraeus: 7.77

    Titan Cement Company: 19.37

    [20] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market jumped to 1.026 billion euros on Monday, of which 617 million were buy orders and the remaining 409 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 690 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds shrank to 142 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 4.86 pct and the German Bund 3.45 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates eased further. The 12-month Euribor rata was 1.38 pct, the six-month rate 1.19 pct, the three-month rate 0.94 pct and the one-month rate 0.57 pct.

    [21] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.0 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover rising slightly to 67.79 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,274 contracts worth 48.014 million euros, with 25,981 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,441 contracts worth 19.776 million euros, with investment interest focusing OTE's contracts (2,423), followed by Eurobank (564), OPAP (1,003), Piraeus Bank (889), National Bank (1,994), Alpha Bank (629), Marfin Popular Bank (1,231), Cyprus Bank (1,003) and Hellenic Postbank (850).

    [22] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.433

    Pound sterling 0.866

    Danish kroner 7.505

    Swedish kroner 11.090

    Japanese yen 135.52

    Swiss franc 1.532

    Norwegian kroner 9.080

    Canadian dollar 1.582

    Australian dollar 1.765

    General News

    [23] Zakynthos wildfire still blazing

    A wildfire on the Ionian island of Zakynthos was still ablaze on Monday, with three new fronts that broke out around dawn hampering the fire brigade's efforts to put it out.

    The fire had broken out on Sunday afternoon in the Orthonies area of the island, with separate blazes breaking out in Kiliomenos, Agia Thekla and Exochora.

    No inhabited areas are threatened by the flames, which are so far confined to the island's forests.

    Two water-bombing aircraft, four vehicles and 20 firemen from Achaia prefecture have been sent to reinforce the efforts of the local fire-fighting forces.

    [24] Suspect held in taxi robberies

    An 18-year-old Albanian national, arrested after he tried to outrun a police foot patrol, has reportedly confessed to a series of robberies against taxi drivers over the recent period, primarily in northeast greater Athens.

    The man also named another four Albanian nationals, aged between 18 and 20, as culprits in the attacks. The 18-year-old was led before a prosecutor while his alleged accomplices are wanted.

    [25] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The Turkish stance in the Aegean and early elections speculation were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Monday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Turkish exploration for petroleum in the Aegean - Ankara escalating its provocations".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Provocations that reek of...petrol - Foreign Ministry: Self-confidence and calm, International Law is our weapon".

    AVRIANI: 'Papoulias (President of the Republic) threatening to resign, fed up with the games being played by the main opposition PASOK leadership".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Government trying to avoid, at all sacrifice, early elections even in March" when the Presidential vote is due in parliament. In the event that parliament fails to elect a President, which requires a reinforced majority under the Constitution, then the House will have to be dissolved and early general elections called in order for the new parliament to elect a President.

    ESTIA: "High-risk politics sought in order to reverse the present scene".

    ETHNOS: "Six months waiting line for medical examinations - Blackout in the ESY (National Health System) - The waiting lists are getting longer".

    TA NEA: "I'm a professor, I work as a waiter - Greece second in Europe in university graduates employed in jobs unrelated to their profession".

    VRADYNI: "50 percent subsidy for home renovation, for houses built before 1980".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [26] Cypriot Foreign Minister says Turkey behaving like a bully

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcos Kyprianou said on Monday that as long as Turkey is behaving like the classroom bully, Cyprus will not be able to give its consent to opening the chapter on energy in Turkey's EU accession negotiations.

    Replying to questions after a meeting in Nicosia with Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Miguel Angel Moratinos, Kyprianou said ''we do not have a philosophical problem in opening the chapter but the chapter on energy cannot open as long as Turkey is trying to prevent the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state, from exploiting its own energy sources, based on international law.''

    Kyprianou said it was up to Turkey to behave like a 21st century state which aspires to join the EU, in which case Cyprus would not have a reason to raise any objections.

    ''However, as long as Turkey is behaving as the classroom, the neighbourhood bully, Cyprus can certainly not give its consent,'' he added.

    Regarding the Turkish government's move to implement a decree for explorations in the sea areas within the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Greece, Kyprianou said the Cypriot government was looking into the matter and that ''Cyprus, as other countries in the region, has determined its exclusive economic zone based on international law, the law of the sea specifically.''

    ''We will investigate Turkey's intentions and will make all necessary representations,'' he noted, adding that ''it is Turkey's obligation to normalise relations with countries in the region and peacefully solve any differences, and of course this includes Cyprus.''

    Commenting on remarks by Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Davudoglu regarding a solution of the Cyprus problem by the end of the year, Kyprianou said Turkey itself was responsible for the lack of progress in negotiations to reach a Cyprus settlement.

    He noted that if Turkey was in a hurry for a solution it should maintain a constructive stance towards the talks and encourage or allow the Turkish Cypriot side to be positive.

    Kyprianou said ''it is ironic that Turkey, which caused the Cyprus problem, to appear as if in a hurry for a solution,'' adding that it is the Greek Cypriot side that is still suffering from the 1974 invasion and wants a just and viable solution the soonest possible.

    Commenting on remarks by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza that if the process for a solution collapses it will be difficult to revive it, Kyprianou said ''in politics no one should speak about last opportunities because this is not at all constructive.''

    Kyprianou said that time was one of the factors that should be taken into consideration in the sense that there is a problem with Turkish settlers and the arrogation of Greek Cypriot property.

    He added that it was after initiatives by the Greek Cypriot side that the talks began and that ''it would be better to address such advice to the Turkish side because everyone knows that the delay is due to positions presented at the negotiating table by the other side and which are not in line with the aim of a solution.''

    Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunite the island.

    Moratinos: Spain ready to help efforts for Cyprus solution

    Spain, being a friendly country with both sides, will try to help as much as it can efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has stressed, after a meeting here with his Cypriot counterpart Marcos Kyprianou.

    During the meeting, main issue of discussion was the Cyprus problem. Moratinos, who was also received by President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias, said that the Cypriot political leadership is extremely committed to see progress at the negotiations.

    "I had the opportunity to meet President Christofias. I found the Cypriot authorities extremely committed to advance as quickly as possible in order to get this issue solved", Moratinos pointed out.

    What the international community and the friends of Cyprus and Turkey can do, he added, is to promote an environment for sincere, substantial negotiation, adding "that is what they are doing".

    "We hope there will be progress in the near future. They can count on Spain, we are a friendly country with both sides and we will try to help as much as we can. I found Christofias and Kyprianou extremely committed to advance", Moratinos stressed.

    The Cypriot Foreign Minister welcomed his "colleague and friend the Foreign Minister of Spain" and said that their meeting was friendly and constructive.

    "Main issue of discussion was the Cyprus problem and developments around it. We also talked about EU-Turkey relations and issues concerning the Spanish EU presidency, January-June 2010", Kyprianou said.

    Both Ministers described bilateral relations as excellent, on bilateral level as well as on EU level.

    "Our bilateral relations are very good. We have an excellent relation", Moratinos said, and referred to the expected visit of President Christofias to Spain, the establishment of the Cervantes Institute in Cyprus and the wish to air link the two countries with direct flights.

    They also discussed issues of mutual concern, like the Union for the Mediterranean, Western Balkans, Kosovo and the Middle East.

    "We referred to regional issues, like the situation in the Western Balkans, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Kosovo issue, on which we have the same position with Spain and the Middle East problem which concerns not only the EU but also our countries as Mediterranean countries", Kyprianou said.

    The Spanish foreign minister referred to regional issues, saying that Cyprus and Spain have identical positions regarding Kosovo, being two countries which respect international law.

    Regarding the Union for the Mediterranean, Moratinos thanked Cyprus for helping Spain secure the seat of the Secretariat of the Union in

    Barcelona.

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations under UN auspices since September 2008 with a view to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974.

    [27] President Christofias says two sides are poles apart on form of state in Cyprus

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias said on Monday that the positions of the two sides in Cyprus regarding the new state to emerge from a solution of the Cyprus problem were poles apart, noting that the Greek Cypriot side did not accept the Turkish position for a new partnership state.

    Speaking after a memorial service for those killed during the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island, President Christofias said it was imperative ''to keep the memory alive and at the same time to intensify our efforts in order to terminate the fait accompli of the invasion and occupation, which unfortunately, over time, multiply and worsen.''

    President Christofias said the aim was ''to reach a solution the soonest possible, which will produce a functional state, restore the human rights and freedoms of the whole of the people of Cyprus, without foreigners having intervention rights in our home affairs.''

    Commenting on remarks by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat regarding the formation of a new partnership state, President Christofias said ''this is the position of the Turkish side, which we know and of course do not accept.''

    ''We have presented our positions, which dismiss these positions of Mr. Talat and Ankara,'' he said, noting that ''we have ascertained that on these issues our views are poles apart.''

    [28] National Guard to be reinforced while Turkish troops remain, says Minister

    NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The National Guard will continue to upgrade and modernise itself as long as the Turkish occupation army remains on the island, Defence Minister Costas Papacostas stressed here Monday.

    Speaking at the official memorial service for those killed during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, he said that as long as Cyprus is faced with the Turkish military presence and threat, it will not waver from its goal to constantly reinforce its armed forces, improve its effectiveness and consolidate the fighting spirit of its officers.

    "We all aim at the demilitarisation of our country so that we can all - Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites and Latines - enjoy the benefits of lasting peace and security on our island,'' he pointed out.

    Papacostas noted that ''we work with determination and faith in our just cause, always consistent with the principles of a Cyprus settlement, but also with flexibility and sincere intention and political will to find a common language with our Turkish Cypriot compatriots.''

    He added that President Christofias is struggling hard to end Turkey's occupation, free and reunite the country.

    He said that after 1974 the only feasible goal is a settlement providing for a bizonal, bicommunal federation, as stipulated by UN resolutions.

    A settlement, he added, which is supported by the international community and the EU, of which Cyprus is a member since 2004.

    ''A settlement must provide for the termination of Turkey's occupation, must abolish any foreign dependencies and influx of illegal settlers and it must also secure the reunification of the state, the institutions and the economy, restore human rights and the fundamental freedoms of our people as a whole,'' he added.

    Papacostas underlined that even though the positions of the Turkish Cypriot leadership and Ankara's intransigence are disappointing there is no other option than to continue the struggle with determination and prudence.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Today marks 35 years since Turkish troops invaded, on the pretext of restoring constitutional order and protecting the Turkish Cypriots, following a military coup which toppled the democratically elected President, the late Archbishop Makarios.

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