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

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 9 September 2009 Issue No: 3292


  • [01] Elections Committee allocates broadcast time, funding to parties
  • [02] PM meets Parliament president
  • [03] Karamanlis to address Egaleo youth on Wednesday
  • [04] Papandreou meets with BoG Gov.
  • [05] Papandreou addresses rally in Alexandroupoli
  • [06] KKE leader addresses event in Thessaloniki
  • [07] SYRIZA remains united, Tsipras stresses
  • [08] Tsipras addresses political event in Drama
  • [09] Turkish radar interferes with Latvian helicopter on Frontex patrol
  • [10] Job prospects flat in Q4
  • [11] Raytheon signs $55.7-mln-US contract with Intracom
  • [12] Piraeus Bank optimistic over 2009 results
  • [13] Hotel revenues slide, report
  • [14] Stocks end 0.59% higher
  • [15] ADEX closing report
  • [16] Greek bond market closing report
  • [17] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [18] Velimezi Collection on display at Hermitage Museum
  • [19] UNICEF "go to school" events in Athens
  • [20] Drug arrests in southern Greece
  • [21] Maganaris retrospective in Athens
  • [22] Man wanted for armed robberies arrested
  • [23] Greece beats Croatia in Eurobasket match
  • [24] Rainy on Wednesday
  • [25] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [26] Italian President Napolitano: Italy supports a single state settlement in Cyprus Politics

  • [01] Elections Committee allocates broadcast time, funding to parties

    The Cross-Party Elections Committee convened at the interior ministry for the first time in this pre-election period on Tuesday, chaired by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

    After the end of the meeting, the Committee announced that the broadcast time allocated to smaller political parties and party coalitions with elected representatives will be increased, in both private and state-run radio and television stations.

    Specifically, the two larger parties will each be allocated 37.5 percent of total free broadcast time (down from 40 percent in the previous general elections), while the smaller parties will share the remaining 25 percent (up from 20 percent in the previous elections). Also included in the smaller parties is that of the Ecologists-Greens, which succeeded in electing one MEP to the European Parliament in June.

    Tuesday's meeting also decided that there should be two televised debates between the political parties: one between the leaders of the two main parties and one with all the party leaders with elected representatives. The details of the process and the terms of these encounters are to be decided by the political parties themselves.

    Regarding the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which is going to the elections without a leader at its head, the committee decided that the party must itself decide who will represent SYRIZA during radio and television broadcasts.

    On the issue of party funding from the state budget, this was set at 4.5 million euros and at a lower rate than the previous general elections because of the preceding European Parliament elections in the same year.

    Pavlopoulos noted that 39 circulars relating to the elections had been signed in record time, showing that the procedures of the pre-election period had been largely made automatic. He also pointed out that hiring in the public sector and local authorities was forbidden until the election of the new government.

    The minister said there would be one more meeting of the Committee that would include a representative of the Ecologists-Greens party. This was not represented at Tuesday's meeting, since the first meeting of the Committee has to decide whether parties elected in the European Parliament elections will participate.

    [02] PM meets Parliament president

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday had a meeting with Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas, one day after the Parliament was dissolved for general elections. No statements were made after the meeting.

    [03] Karamanlis to address Egaleo youth on Wednesday

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be addressing young people at an indoor gym in the Athens district of Egaleo on Wednesday, ruling New Democracy spokesman George Koumoutsakos announced in a press briefing on Tuesday.

    The spokesman also referred to the possibility of a one-on-one televised debate between Karamanlis and the leader of the main opposition, PASOK President George Papandreou, saying that Evangelos Antonaros had undertaken to arrange a meeting between the two parties to discuss the details of such a televised encounter.

    According to Koumoutsakos, Karamanlis would participate in at least one televised debate between the party leaders and he criticised PASOK for setting terms and using them as an excuse to avoid the party leaders' debate.

    [04] Papandreou meets with BoG Gov.

    PASOK leader George Papandreou met on Tuesday with Bank of Greece (BoG) Gov. George Provopoulos, focusing on the "economic impasse with which the country is faced," a main opposition party spokesman stated.

    Papandreou underlined the need for a "new architecture" in the banking system to ensure appropriate business financing and economic growth. He also stressed that "cliental spending" in the public sector will have to be curbed and suggested redistribution of public spending while simultaneously implementing radical reforms in taxation.

    The spokesman outlined the core of the announcements the PASOK leader will make in Thessaloniki stating that a PASOK government will proceed with the adoption of measures to protect consumers from the consequences of the terms included in loan contracts, the reconstruction of the economy and the implementation of new type regulations on the economy.

    He also stated that a uniform property tax (ETAK) will be replaced by a "gradual" taxation of large properties, while as regards the settlement of the illegally enclosed spaces in buildings, he commented that the issue will be "re-examined" after the elections.

    [05] Papandreou addresses rally in Alexandroupoli

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou addressed a party rally in the northern city of Alexandroupoli on Tuesday evening, stressing that "the time has come to leave decline behind and to place the country on a course of national recovery".

    Papandreou said that PASOK "is determined to clash with every conception and establishment that keeps the country behind," adding that "we do not owe to anyone and we are only accountable to the people."

    The PASOK leader further said that in the elections "two parties and two candidate prime ministers alone are not clashing, but two diametrically opposite political conceptions" and underlined that "we are optimistic because we know what we have and we know how to utilise it."

    Papandreou also focused on "green development" and pointed out that "Greece can become an international leader in providing traditional and alternative tourist services."

    He said that the New Democracy party government was "never interested in utilising the country's major advantages but only in sharing wealth with a few and our guys."

    Papandreou stressed that what "is necessary first of all for an exit from the morass of decline is a new leadership that will provide a new governance".

    He also said that the PASOK government guarantees a dynamic foreign policy that will once again provide prestige and strength on an international level, public free and qualitative education for all, a new and fair redistribution of wealth and a new social state that will function in the citizens' interests.

    [06] KKE leader addresses event in Thessaloniki

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, speaking during an event held on the premises of the "Pavlos Melas" military camp in Thessaloniki on Tuesday, said that the New Democracy and PASOK parties "do not have differences between them".

    "The two mainstream parties must lose the elections and the criterion for their positive outcome is the strengthening of KKE," she said, adding that "if these two elements are not combined then the day after the elections will be very difficult".

    Papariga also said that talk of cracking down on tax evasion "is disorientating and KKE does not wish to create false impressions among the people, because the state's coffers may be filled, but the money will be provided again for the powerful."

    [07] SYRIZA remains united, Tsipras stresses

    The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) alliance and its component members remain united and their supporters remained rallied about them, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader Alexis Tsipras stressed on Tuesday.

    "Those who see a possibility that SYRIZA will be left out of political things in the country will be proved wrong," Tsipras stated after a visit to the Geotechnical Chamber of Thessaloniki.

    Tsipras underlined that the more obviously the media and other political groups displayed their anxiousness to see the renewalist and radical Left removed from the political map, the more strongly they would rally SYRIZA supporters and all progressive citizens to SYRIZA's support:

    "It is now apparent that the plans for majority governments and grand coalitions in order to promote anti-working-class policies depend on eradicating SYRIZA and that it should not be present in the political things of the country," he noted.

    Tsipras's statement comes after a weekend when SYRIZA flirted dangerously close with complete disintegration, prompted by disagreements over who should lead the political alliance in the elections. This was averted at the 11th hour when SYN finally backed down from a demand that Tsipras lead both SYN and SYRIZA and replace Alekos Alavanos as head of SYRIZA's Parliamentary group.

    In a last-ditch effort at compromise, the warring sides agreed to go to election without any leader at the head of the ticket, stipulating that each candidate would enter Parliament based on the number of votes they received individually. Shortly afterward, Alavanos announced that he will not be a candidate in the elections.

    [08] Tsipras addresses political event in Drama

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alexis Tsipras addressed a political event in Drama, northern Greece, on Tuesday, stressing his conviction that "the Left exists and shall exist because it is deeply rooted in social struggles."

    Tsipras added that "in these elections, the vote for the Left is a shield of social solidarity. It is a denial for the communication plans of two-party rule. A vote for the Left means hands off society."

    Referring to the measures announced by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at the 74th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), Tsipras said that "he is calling for the vote of the people to continue the same, for another four years."

    [09] Turkish radar interferes with Latvian helicopter on Frontex patrol

    A Turkish military radar on Tuesday reportedly issued a warning to a Latvian A-109 helicopter patrolling in the eastern Aegean -- part of the EU's Frontex programme to combat illegal immigration -- to leave the area.

    According to a Hellenic Air Force announcement, the incident occurred as the Frontex helicopter was patrolling in Greek air space near the small isle of Farmakonissi, which lies on a favorite route used by migrant smugglers ferrying mostly Third World migrants into Greece and the EU from the opposite Turkish coastline.

    The incident marks the latest provocation in the eastern Aegean by the Turkish military against EU craft participating in the Frontex programme.

    Financial News

    [10] Job prospects flat in Q4

    The employment outlook in Greece for the fourth quarter of 2009 is flat, a survey by the firm Manpower stated on Tuesday, with the percentage of employers intending to hire new staff during the last quarter equal to the percentage of those expecting to cut their workforce.

    Manpower, in its quarterly survey on employment prospects in the country, said the hiring rate was +16 pct in the public and social services sectors.

    The survey, based on a sample of 769 employers, showed that 76 pct of employers do not expect changes in the number of employed people, with the remaining 24 pct are split between those expecting new hirings and those expecting lay-offs. The percentage of employers saying they were uncertain over changes in their workforce was zero, for the first since the survey has been published in Greece.

    Manpower said hiring prospects were favourable in the public sector and social services, followed by a cautiously optimistic climate in financial services, insurance, real estate and construction sectors.

    The farm sector recorded the lowest rate for hiring prospects in the fourth quarter.

    Employers in the Attica prefecture (the greater Athens area) and northern Greece regions were most pessimistic over employment prospects.

    [11] Raytheon signs $55.7-mln-US contract with Intracom

    Raytheon signed a US$55.7-million contract with Intracom Defense Electronics for the manufacturing of launch hypo-systems for Patriot anti-aircraft missiles to be delivered to the United Arab Emirates. The contract will be completed in a period of three-and-a-half years.

    Joseph "Skip" Garrett, Raytheon IDS vice-chairman, and Intracom chief executive George Troullinos, commenting on the deal, said Raytheon expressed its satisfaction for the continuation of cooperation.

    [12] Piraeus Bank optimistic over 2009 results

    Piraeus Bank on Tuesday expressed optimism over its performance this year and over the prospects of taking advantage of future opportunities in the market.

    Christodoulos Antoniadis, the bank's deputy chief executive, speaking to reporters in Thessaloniki, said the securitisation of high-quality assets of Greek banks have significantly boosted their liquidity, while he predicted that Piraeus Bank's credit expansion this year would grow by 7-8 pct.

    "Banks never stopped giving loans, it was just a re-pricing of some relations," Antoniadis said.

    He noted that the Greek bank has opted to freeze its branch network expansion programme for 2009, but it was expected to resume again in 2010.

    Antoniadis said Piraeus Bank has approved so-called "green" bank products worth more than 600 million euros in the last five year, and that it was expecting to approve another 1.2 billion euros in the next two years.

    [13] Hotel revenues slide, report

    Greek hotels' revenues are expected to fall by 16-18 pct this year, the Institute for Tourism Research and Forecasts (ITEP) announced on Tuesday.

    The institute attributed this decline to four main reasons: decreased arrivals, shorter overnight stays, reduced spending and lower hotel prices.

    ITEP noted that the expected percentage of decline in hotel revenues was very high and crucial for the viability of hotel enterprises.

    Tourist arrivals in the country's largest airports fell 9.0 pct in August, after a 6.0-pct decline in July, with arrivals in the January-August period falling 8.5 pct, compared with the corresponding period in 2008. ITEP noted that the country's tourist season will be completed at the end of September, with forecasts for the month expected to be worse when compared with the July-August period.

    ITEP said the disappointing performance reflected chronic structural problems within the Greek economy and the tourism sector, and of course, the ongoing international economic crisis.

    [14] Stocks end 0.59% higher

    Greek stocks continued rising at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, with the composite index of the market ending at 2,511.81 points, up 0.59 pct. Turnover was a moderate 196.7 million euros, of which 4.3 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved higher, with the Insurance (4.76 pct), Food/Beverage (4.54 pct) and Travel (3.33 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Media (11.16 pct), Technology (2.95 pct) and Raw Materials (1.35 pct) suffered losses.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 0.42 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.43 pct down and the FTSE 80 index rose 0.45 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 114 to 106 with another 47 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +4.76%

    Industrials: +0.16%

    Commercial: +0.58%

    Construction: -0.04%

    Media: -11.16%

    Oil & Gas: -0.76%

    Personal & Household: +0.75%

    Raw Materials: -0.09%

    Travel & Leisure: +3.33%

    Technology: -2.95%

    Telecoms: -0.09%

    Banks: -0.39%

    Food & Beverages: +4.54%

    Health: +3.18%

    Utilities: +0.74%

    Chemicals: +0.93%

    Financial Services: +1.68%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 11.89

    ATEbank: 1.57

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 15.56

    HBC Coca Cola: 16.40

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.25

    National Bank of Greece: 22.62

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 10.00

    Intralot: 4.70

    OPAP: 17.86

    OTE: 11.40

    Bank of Piraeus: 10.89

    Titan: 21.28

    [15] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a small discount (0.23 pct) in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising slightly to 71.334 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,021 contracts worth 53.311 million euros, with 24,864 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 26,683 contracts worth 18.023 million euros, with investment interest focusing on GEK's contracts (6,937), followed by MIG (1,561), OTE (2,731), OPAP (1,600), National Bank (1,296), Intracom (1,326), Marfin Popular Bank (1,266), Intralot (1,599) and ATEbank (2,438).

    [16] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.797 billion euros on Tuesday, of which 682 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.115 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 19, 2019) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 2.260 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was 1.43 basis points, with the Greek bond yielding 4.68 pct and the German Bund 3.25 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.27 pct, the six-month rate 1.05 pct, the three-month rate 0.78 pct and the one-month rate 0.46 pct.

    [17] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.458

    Pound sterling 0.880

    Danish kroner 7.503

    Swedish kroner 10.268

    Japanese yen 134.64

    Swiss franc 1.528

    Norwegian kroner 8.637

    Canadian dollar 1.560

    Australian dollar 1.690

    General News

    [18] Velimezi Collection on display at Hermitage Museum

    The post-Byzantine-era icons of the Velimezi Collection, acquired in 2008 by the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, will be on display in St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum, beginning Sept. 11, an exhibition held under the auspices of Greek President Karolos Papoulias.

    The traveling exhibition was launched in 1997 and has already been displayed in 19 state capitals.

    The Velimezi Collection comprises a total of 91 rare post-Byzantine icons, dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries, representative of various workshops in different parts of the Greek-speaking world.

    [19] UNICEF "go to school" events in Athens

    UNICEF-Greece launched its 2009 children's education campaign on Tuesday on the occasion of International Literacy Day, celebrated on Sept. 8, with an event that was held in Athens' Syntagma Square, inviting people to support its efforts to ensure that as many children as possible will be able to receive an education.

    A photography exhibition on the education of children will run until Thursday at Syntagma Metro Station, while a three-day bazaar with UNICEF school supplies will also get underway.

    An estimated 101 million children worldwide do not go to school, 53 million of which are girls. Moreover, roughly 781 million adults are illiterate, 64 pct of which are women.

    [20] Drug arrests in southern Greece

    A 49-year-old was arrested in a village in the prefecture of Messinia, southern Greece, accused of cultivating 49 cannabis plants in a wooded region nearby. A search of his house revealed 66.2 grams of dried cannabis leaves, a syringe with a heroin solution and a precision scale.

    In a separate incident, a 34-year-old was arrested in the southern city of Kalamata on drug trafficking and robbery charges following a police chase. A search in his car revealed a heroin solution, narcotic pills and a number of documents that belonged to the owners of cars he had stolen between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5.

    The suspect was recently released from jail and had a police record being involved in several cases of drug trafficking, robberies and thefts.

    [21] Maganaris retrospective in Athens

    A retrospective exhibition of Alexandrian artist Yiannis Maganaris organised by the National Bank of Greece (NBG) Educational Institute will open its doors at the Eynardos Building (20 Aghiou Konstantinou Street) on September 24.

    Accompanying the exhibition is a book with reproductions of the artists' paintings published with the support of the Onassis Foundation and Sifnos municipality, to be presented on September 21 in the lecture hall of the NBG's Karatzas Mansion.

    Yiannis Maganaris was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1918 and studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts, graduating in 1942. He worked as a scenery designer and painter for the National Theatre and the National Opera.

    The exhibition will run until November 1.

    [22] Man wanted for armed robberies arrested

    Police on Tuesday announced the arrest of a 29-year-old Albanian national wanted in connection with five armed robberies carried out in the past four months in the Thessaloniki area, with a total loot of 34,300 euros.

    The suspect was caught during a routine traffic check in Prasinada, Imathia prefecture, when police pulled over a car being driven by another 32-year-old Albanian who lacked a driving licence.

    During questioning, police discovered that the suspect arrested and another 33-year-old Albanian national that is now being sought had carried out five armed robberies at various financial institutions, super markets, and a shop.

    These included a bloody bank robbery at Vassilisis Olgas Street where a three-year-old girl was lightly injured when she was run over by the pair as they attempted to escape on a motorbike, and two passers-by were shot when they attempted to stop them escaping.


    [23] Greece beats Croatia in Eurobasket match


    Greece's national basketball team beat Croatia 76-68 in a Eurobasket Group A match played on Tuesday evening, achieving its second consecutive victory in the championship.

    The 10-minute intervals had the following results: 20-15, 52-31, 65-47, 76-68.

    Greece's next match is with Israel at 20:15 (Greek time) on Wednesday.

    Weather Forecast

    [24] Rainy on Wednesday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 10C and 30C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 17C to 27C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 17C to 24C.

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

    Ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition PASOK's plans on the economy and parties' preparations for the general elections on October 4, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stated on elections: We can win this battle".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Karamanlis reverses the adverse climate".

    AVGHI: "Onward with SYRIZA".

    CHORA: "End to relaxation - Polls indicate PASOK leading by 5.4 percent".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "PASOK in the lead, indicate three new polls".

    ESTIA: "Third tenure is a difficult mission for Karamanlis".

    ETHNOS: "Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos' decision not to run in the elections makes PASOK happier and shocks ND".

    KATHIMERINI: "Pre-electoral period with lots of surprises ".

    LOGOS: "Karamanlis challenges PASOK".

    NIKI: "PASOK one step before governance".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist Party of Greece secretary general Aleka Papariga's press conference on elections".

    TA NEA: "Panic prevails in ND after polls' results and Alavanos' decision".

    TO VIMA: "PASOK's response to prime minister's policy on the economy".

    VRADYNI: "Reversal in political scenery - Prime Minister's address at Thessaloniki International Fair narrows the gap with PASOK".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [26] Italian President Napolitano: Italy supports a single state settlement in Cyprus


    Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has expressed his country's position in favour of a settlement in Cyprus that will provide for a single state.

    Napolitano who was speaking to the press after talks he had here Tuesday with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, currently on an official visit to Italy, said that the solution of the Cyprus question must consolidate the unity of the Republic of Cyprus.

    Referring to Turkey's European course, he noted that his country is in favour of Turkey's accession to the EU at the end of the negotiations, which are far from being at their final stage.

    On his part, President Christofias said that he birefed Napolitano on the ongoing direct negotiations between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities in Cyprus aiming to reach a settlement of the Cyprus question ''on the progress we have achieved with Mr. Talat (the Turkish Cypriot leader) and on the difficulties we have been facing at the negotiations''.

    Christofias said that he and Napolitano stressed that the aim of the negotiations must be to reach a mutually accepted settlement that will terminate the division and the occupation and will reunited the territory, the people, the institutions and the economy, in the framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality as determined by the UN relevant resolutions, providing for a single united state with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality.

    The Cyprus President said he assured Napolitano that ''we are determined to continue the negotiations, always with good will and consistency to the principles for a Cyprus settlement, aiming to reach the much desired solution.''

    As regards Turkey's EU accession course, Christofias noted that he expressed Cyprus' support to Turkey's EU accession process, stressing at the same time Turkey's duty to fulfill its conventional obligations towards the EU and adopt a constructive position in efforts to solve the Cyprus question.

    ''We underlined how important it is for us that our European partners and especially those who have close relations with Turkey to send the clear message that now is the time (for Turkey) to fulfill its obligations and show really good will for the settlement of the Cyprus question,'' he underlined.

    Furthermore, Christofias stressed that ''it cannot be expected from Cyprus to remain inactive as regards Ankara's intransigent position so far and its denial to recognise the Republic of Cyprus, a full EU member and open its ports and airports (to Cyprus) as provided by the Ankara protocol.''

    Napolitano described his meeting with Christorias as friendly, while referring to the bilateral relations between Italy and Cyprus he noted that even though they are excellent both parties are interested in further enhancing them.

    He also stressed Italy's interest in ''a joint effort to solve the Cyprus question which is a long-standing problem".

    He recalled that even though the problem remains unsolved, the EU decided to accept Cyprus to become its member as an independent and united state.

    Napolitano said that there is no other Government in Cyprus that is internationally recognized or recognized by the EU. He also referred to the engagement ''to reach a settlement that will consolidate and bring the unity of the Republic of Cyprus.''

    He noted that ''we are aware of the difficulties in the negotiations between the two sides, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot''.

    He also expressed Italy's appreciation to Cyprus President's contribution and dedication to the cause of social justice, peace and to Christofias' belief that ''we must favour a just settlement that will overcome the division which has well-known historic roots and constitutes an unbearable burden for Cyprus' future.''

    Napolitano said that the settlement of the Cyprus question will have its own impact on Turkey's accession negotiations with the EU and noted that his country is in favour of Turkey's accession to the EU at the end of the negotiations, which are far from being at their final stage.

    He said that the Cyprus issue is one of the difficulties that must be addressed in the framework of Turkey's EU negotiations, stressing that the settlement of the Cyprus problem must provide for a single state and not for the co-existence of two separate states.

    He noted that Cyprus' President supports this position and Italy will speak in the framework at the EU and in the framework of its good friendship and cooperation with Turkey.

    In his statements, Christofias praised Napolitano's struggles in favour of democracy and Italy's social and cultural development, noting that the people of Italy and Cyprus are Mediterranean people and share the same historic fate for centuries and that the two countries have long standing ties.

    Christofias said that Italy and Cyprus are today both members of the EU and their bilateral relations are at an excellent level. However, he noted that the two countries can enhance even further their friendly relations and extended an invitation to Napolitano to pay an official visit to Cyprus.

    He noted that he and Napolitano also discussed about EU issues and share the same vision for an autonomous Europe that will play a decisive role in international relations and will promote peace.

    Additionally, Christofias said that they also discussed important international issues as the financial crisis and they referred briefly to the Middle East problem.

    As regards the Cyprus question he said that Napolitano showed a fervent interest in developments regarding the problem of Cyprus as well as Turkey' EU accession course, especially in view of the evaluation of this course by the European Council in December.

    He noted that the positions outlined by Napolitano in his statements were identical with those of the government of Cyprus and thanked Napolitano for his understanding and the support he expressed for Cyprus and as regards Cyprus' positions with regard to Turkey's accession course.

    Later on Napolitano hosted lunch in Christofia's honour.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Turkey, a country aspiring to become an EU member, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the EU since May 2004.

    President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with a view to reach a comprehensive settlement of the problem of Cyprus.

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