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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-04-01

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

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

Thursday, 1 April 2010 Issue No: 3458

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Papandreou visits OAED
  • [02] ND attacks PM's visit to OAED as communications ploy
  • [03] Govt, opposition parties clash over borrowing cost
  • [04] Debate on draft tax bill extended, final vote on April 15
  • [05] KKE leader addresses event on Nikos Beloyiannis
  • [06] Prefects request meeting with minister of interior
  • [07] Archbishop Ieronymos visited "Evangelismos" Hospital in Athens
  • [08] Greece on right track, EU spokesman
  • [09] New Europe economies rapidly improving, report
  • [10] Greek economic prospects bright, Alpha Bank report
  • [11] Intracom Holdings reports improved 2009 results
  • [12] Greek per capita GDP up 5.2 pct in 2008
  • [13] Retail sales volume index up 5.8 pct in Jan
  • [14] Creta Farm reports lower 2009 earnings
  • [15] Greek stocks end 1.34 pct down
  • [16] Greek bond market closing report
  • [17] ADEX closing report
  • [18] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [19] Bank robber botches heist, 2 arrests
  • [20] Small arms cache seized at Evros border
  • [21] Two arrested for attempted robbery
  • [22] Farmers block Egnatia highway at Langadas
  • [23] Tripolis-Pyrgos highway temporarily reopens for Easter
  • [24] Opening hours for archaeological sites until April 30
  • [25] Giant shark caught off Crete
  • [26] Cloudy on Thursday
  • [27] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [28] FM discusses latest Cyprus developments with the UNSG Politics

  • [01] PM Papandreou visits OAED

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, during a visit on Wednesday to the state's Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED), said that in a period of economic crisis it is of major importance to stand at the citizen's side, adding that his government is doing so by subsidising labour and the social security contributions, and also with new programmes to boost women's entrepreneurship especially in new sectors such as green growth, thus also supporting social cohesion.

    Labour and Social security Minister Andreas Loverdos, who accompanied Papandreou on his visit to the OAED branch in the working class district of Peristeri, said that the government is subsidising 120,000 job positions which will open up next week.

    [02] ND attacks PM's visit to OAED as communications ploy

    Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos on Wednesday said that a visit by Prime Minister George Papandreou to Greece's unemployment agency OAED was simply a communications ploy so that he could be seen caring about jobs on television, while the measures he announced for battling unemployment would bring no practical result.

    "After five and a half months of having done nothing to promote employment, to protect jobs and to fight unemployment, he is today and purely for television consumption implementing the new communications plan of visiting OAED," the spokesman told reporters.

    "If the government wants to carry out effective measures to promote employment and strike at unemployment there is the proposal by [ND Leader Antonis Samaras] to give developmental relief to small and middle-sized businesses and thus protect jobs and boost employment," he stressed.

    [03] Govt, opposition parties clash over borrowing cost

    Government and opposition political parties clashed in Parliament on Wednesday over a debate on a new tax draft bill, with opposition parties focusing their criticism on high borrowing rates.

    Greek Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou, addressing a parliamentary commission, said the country was borrowing at a lowest cost each time it was returning to international markets, and stressed this development was attributed to government measures aimed at cutting borrowing cost. Commenting on a seven-year syndicated bond issue, the Greek minister said the issue was designed for a specific group of interested investors. "The country continues to borrow money at a higher cost," Papakonstantinou said, adding he was confident that borrowing costs would fall gradually as the country fully implemented its stability program. The Greek minister stressed the government has completed its borrowing plan for April -which is the most difficult month.

    ND deputy Theodore Karaoglou, said the government's decision to re-open a 20-year bond issue was not the right one. "It is the first time the country could not borrow the money it wanted," Karaoglou said criticising the government of creating a very negative climate for the economy, both inside and outside the country.

    [04] Debate on draft tax bill extended, final vote on April 15

    Debate on the draft tax bill continued before the appropriate Parliamentary committee on Wednesday, with Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou agreeing to incorporate several changes proposed by MPs, as well as representatives of organisations, and promising to present the changes in their final form to the committee on the Thursday after Easter.

    The government has decided not to push the bill through as urgent - which would have meant holding a vote in the committee on the same day so that the draft bill would go before the Parliament plenum the week after Easter.

    The committee stage is now set to continue on April 8 and debate on the draft bill by the full Parliament will begin on April 13 and be completed in five sessions, with a final vote on April 15.

    [05] KKE leader addresses event on Nikos Beloyiannis

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Akeka Papariga, speaking during the unveiling of the monument erected for Nikos Beloyiannis and his companions at the Goudi Forest on Wednesday, stressed that "we are continuing the struggle indefatigable and undaunted."

    The monument reads "honour and glory" over the face of Beloyiannis with the carnation and the names of the other members of KKE who "were executed by the bourgeoisie class with the Plastiras government on 30/3/52."

    Papariga said that "we are here today, 58 years after the execution to demonstrate that we do not forget the debt to do all that we can "for better days to dawn in our country as well."

    [06] Prefects request meeting with minister of interior

    The Greek National Union of Prefectural Local Authorities (ENAE) board requested on Wednesday an urgent meeting with Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis and demanded they receive the local administration restructure draft law before it is presented in parliament.

    ENAE also decided to hold a meeting of prefects in mid April followed by an extraordinary conference on the "Kallikratis" local administration reform plan to discuss draft law details concerning finances and the portfolio of the heads of the peripheries.

    The prefects have also addressed a letter to Prime Minister George Papandreou requesting a meeting to discuss the details of the endeavor.

    [07] Archbishop Ieronymos visited "Evangelismos" Hospital in Athens

    Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece on Wednesday visited "Evangelismos" Hospital in Athens accompanied by Church of Greece NGO "Solidarity" officials on the occasion of Orthodox Easter this Sunday.

    He was received by Health and Social Solidarity Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou and hospital board members and was briefed on the daily efforts made by the doctors and hospital staff to ensure high standard medical care for thousands of people treated in the facility.

    Financial News

    [08] Greece on right track, EU spokesman

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)

    Eurozone member states need to correct imbalances created by the financial crisis, particularly in countries with high public debt, fiscal deficit and a shortfall in competitiveness, the European Commission emphasised on Wednesday.

    In its quarterly report regarding the Eurozone's economic condition, the EU's executive said Greece belonged to a special category since it combined high and chronic fiscal imbalances and extended losses in competitiveness.

    The Commission noted that the recent experience with Ireland and Greece proved that decisive action in the public sector's pay cost facilitated the economy's adjustment to competitiveness.

    The Commission stressed that government measures taken in Greece were warmly welcomed by the Eurogroup and ECOFIN. These measures, the Commission said, were expected to contribute in strengthening fiscal stabilisation, while a recent joint announcement by the EU's leaders over the Greek economy was expected to pave the way for less tension in markets.

    Greece was on the right track and has made the necessary domestic efforts to achieve its ambitious targets of cutting the fiscal deficit this year, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner's spokesman said on Wednesday.

    Amadeo Altafaj, speaking to reporters said the EU Summit's decision to offer a support mechanism to Greece should lead to greater predictability in markets. He stressed that the next assessment of the Greek economy will be held in May, with emphasis given mainly to medium- and long-term level and in particular structural reforms.

    Altafaj noted that Greek efforts enjoyed the support of the EU, the Eurozone, the European Central Bank and of the International Monetary Fund, while he insisted that conditions covering state bond issues could not change overnight.

    [09] New Europe economies rapidly improving, report

    Economic conditions in New Europe were improving more rapidly than anticipated, with all indexes showing that the worst of the economic recession was in the past and that most economies in the region were expected to present positive growth rates this year, a report by Eurobank said on Wednesday.

    Eurobank, in a monthly report on emerging economies and markets of New Europe, said that main stock market indexes and state bond markets in the region, after a brief decline early in the year, resumed their strong rally from early February reflecting improved investment climate and increased optimism over the prospects of international economy. As a result, international credit rating agencies raised their ratings over the region.

    In monetary policy, limited inflationary pressures and a subdued domestic demand were expected to allow central banks in the region to maintain current expansionary support policies for longer than anticipated, Eurobank's analysts said in the report. This view finds additional support to lower expectations over a decision to raise interest rates in the Eurozone this year.

    The report said it expected interest rates cuts in Romania and Hungary in 2010 and higher interest rates in Turkey and in Poland, but not before the fourth quarter the year.

    A public debt crisis in the Eurozone has raised fears over side-effects in regional economies. Fears were focusing in Bulgaria, the only EU state which shares its borders with Greece. The report said that such fears were exaggerated since bilateral trade between Greece and Bulgaria did not exceed 7.2 pct of total trade volume in Bulgaria last year, while Greece was considered a long-term investor in the region.

    The credibility and liquidity of Greek banks remained strong with all main financial indexes at a much better conditions compared with their main rivals in the region, Eurobank's analysts said.

    [10] Greek economic prospects bright, Alpha Bank report

    Greek spreads were recently burdened by economic analyses in international press, with extremely negative conclusions over the trend of the country's public debt and the growth prospects of the Greek economy during the period of a rapid fiscal adjustment (2010-2014), Alpha Bank analysts said in the bank's weekly bulletin.

    The bank's analysts said these forecasts were in great distance from real facts of the Greek economy as the Greek economy was expecting a recovery of both investments and exports of goods and services this year and more strongly in 2011, while the country was expected to receive a total of 16 billion euros from the European Union to co-fund infrastructure projects and mobilize investments through public sector/private sector joint ventures.

    Greek average inflation was expected to reach 3.5 pct this year, while nominal GDP was projected to rise by 1.0 pct (real GDP to fall by 2.5 pct). Alpha Bank's analysts said government measures could bring the fiscal deficit below 7.5 pct of GDP this year and below 5.0 pct in 2011, contributing in a decline of spreads and containing borrowing costs. The fiscal deficit was projected to fall to 1.8 pct of GDP by 2014, with a primary surplus of 3.3 pct. Greece's nominal GDP could reach 278 billion euros by 2014, with interest payments around 5.2 pct of GDP during the same year. Also, the country's public debt could fall to 116 pct of GDP and to embark on a steady downward trend, the analysts said.

    [11] Intracom Holdings reports improved 2009 results

    Éntracom Holdings on Wednesday reported improved 2009 results, with net losses reaching 2.6 million euros, sharply down from a massive loss of 83.4 million euros in 2008. Pre-tax losses totaled 5.3 million euros last year, from a loss of 80.7 million euros in 2008, while sales rose to 547.4 million euros, from 509 million euros over the same periods, respectively.

    EBITDA soared to 77.2 million euros in 2009, after losses of 14.3 million euros in 2008, while pre-tax and interest earnings totaled 14.1 million euros, from 53.7 million euros in 2008. The company said results were affected by the indirect sale of a 33.16-pct equity stake in HOL.

    Parent sales fell to 3.4 million euros, with the company reporting losses of 12.4 millin euros and a lower EBITDA of 9.1 million euros.

    [12] Greek per capita GDP up 5.2 pct in 2008

    Greece's per capita Gross Domestic Product totaled 21,281 euros in 2008, up 5.2 pct compared wih the previous year, slower than a 7.2 pct growth rate recorded in 2007, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said the Attica region recorded the highest per capita GDP, followed by southern Aegean and Central Greece. On the other hand, eastern Macedonia-Thrace and northern Aegean recorded the lowest per capita GDP rates.

    Attica accounted for 49.3 pct of GDP production in 2008, followed by central Macedonia (13.8 pct), while northern Aegean and Ionian islands (1.3 pct and 1.6 pct, respectively) recorded the lowest shares.

    Gross Added Value rose 5.5 pct in 2008, with Attica, eastern Macedonia-Thrace and central Macedonia recording the biggest percentage increase, while central Greece and western Macedonia the lowest increase. The primary sector's participation in the country's Gross Added Value fell 3.7 pct in 2008, from 3.8 pct in 2007.

    [13] Retail sales volume index up 5.8 pct in Jan

    Greece's retail sales volume index rose 5.8 pct in January, compared with the same month last year, after a decline of 10.9 pct recorded in January 2009, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.

    The statistics service, in a report, attributed the 5.8 pct rise in the retail sales volume index to a 4.8 pct rise in food stores, a 5.7 pct increase in food/beverage/tobacco, an 11.2 pct rise in clothing/footwear, a 3.0 pct increase in furniture/home appliances and a 3.4 pct rise in bookstore sales. Department stores recorded an 8.7 pct decline in January.

    The retail sales index (in current prices) was up 8.1 pct in January compared with the same month in 2009.

    [14] Creta Farm reports lower 2009 earnings

    Creta Farm on Wednesday reported a 2.0-pct increase in its consolidated turnover to 111.2 million euros in 2009, up from 108.7 million euros in the previous year and said consolidated gross earnings totaled 45.9 million euros, slightly down from 46 million euros in 2008.

    Parent gross earnings totaled 44.2 million euros. EBITDA fell 7.0 pct to 13.8 million euros (consolidated), while parent EBITDA was unchanged at 14.3 million euros. Pre-tax, and interest earnings fell 12 pct to 6.3 million.

    [15] Greek stocks end 1.34 pct down

    Greek stocks ended significantly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, hit by a further widening of Greek spreads, a decision by Moody's to cut ratings for five Greek banks and negative results announced by listed enterprises for 2009. The composite index of the market fell 1.34 pct to end at 2,067.49 points, with turnover a low 133.422 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 1.65 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 0.35 pct and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.22 pct. The Utilities (4.10 pct) and Raw Materials (2.66 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while the Insurance (10.89 pct) and Health (1.55 pct) sectors scored gains. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 95 to 72 with another 58 issues unchanged.

    ATE Insurance (19.35 pct), Compucon (12.5 pct), Altec (12.5 pct) and Druckfarben (9.62 pct) were top gainers, while Attica Publications (19.48 pct), Elbisco (9.3 pct), Athina (8.86 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farms (8.33 pct) were top losers.

    [16] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened sharply to 346 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 334 bps the previous day, with turnover at 1.917 billion euros of which 778 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.139 billion euros sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (June 19, 2020) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 441 million euros. The Greek bond yielded 6.53 pct and the German Bund 3.08 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 0.99 pct, the three-month rate 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.

    [17] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.85 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 59.628 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,915 contracts worth 50.486 million euros, with 24,371 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,960 contracts worth 9.142 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,971), followed by Eurobank (963), MIG (514), PPC (466), Piraeus Bank (363), GEK (497), Alpha Bank (904), Ellaktor (383) and ATEbank (451).

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +10.89%

    Industrials: -0.93%

    Commercial: -0.51%

    Construction: -0.90%

    Media: -2.17%

    Oil & Gas: +0.11%

    Personal & Household: +1.48%

    Raw Materials: -2.66%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.55%

    Technology: -1.69%

    Telecoms: -0.65%

    Banks: -2.19%

    Food & Beverages: -1.40%

    Health: +1.55%

    Utilities: -4.10%

    Chemicals: +0.09%

    Financial Services: -0.17%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and Coca Cola.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index

    closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 7.01

    ATEbank: 1.53

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.00

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.96

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.48

    National Bank of Greece: 14.90

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.80

    Intralot: 3.35

    OPAP: 16.80

    OTE: 9.19

    Bank of Piraeus: 6.47

    Titan: 19.60

    [18] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

    Reference buying rates per euro released

    by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.358

    Pound sterling 0.896

    Danish kroner 7.504

    Swedish kroner 9.791

    Japanese yen 126.94

    Swiss franc 1.439

    Norwegian kroner 8.077

    Canadian dollar 1.379

    Australian dollar 1.485

    General News

    [19] Bank robber botches heist, 2 arrests

    A local man and an Albanian national were arrested by police following a botched bank robbery in the northern Athens district of Nea Erythrea on Wednesday.

    The first suspect, sporting a suit and tie, entered an Alpha Bank branch holding a package and threatening the bank manager that it contained a bomb. He subsequently emptied cashiers' trays and demanded that the bank safe be opened. A time delay on the safe and activation of a silent alarm allowed law enforcement officers to surround the building.

    Police at the scene first arrested the Albanian man, who was allegedly acting as a "lookout" outside the bank. The second suspect surrendered shortly thereafter.

    An investigation is underway to determine if the duo is involved in other robberies.

    [20] Small arms cache seized at Evros border

    Customs officers at the Kipi border post in Evros prefecture, NE Greece on the border with Turkey, confiscated a weapons cache that was meticulously hidden in a small truck driven by an Albanian national.

    The three shotguns along with 500 shells and one stun gun were allegedly purchased in Istanbul and were destined for the underground weapons market in Albania, authorities said.

    [21] Two arrested for attempted robbery

    Two ethnic Greeks from Kazakhstan were being held by police for questioning on Wednesday, following their arrest for attempting to rob a branch of Emporiki Bank in Alimos.

    The culprits hit the bank branch on Vouliagmenis Avenue, trying to break the plate-glass windows with a sledgehammer. The reinforced glass did not break, however, and they abandoned their efforts and tried to get away, using a taxi that later proved to belong to one of the pair.

    They were intercepted by a police patrol car and a DIAS motorbike patrol at the junction of Vouliagmenis Avenue and Alimou, where they were arrested.

    In the taxi, police found and confiscated the sledgehammer, an Uzi automatic weapon and a gun, while they are now interrogating the two suspects to determine whether they might also be involved in other armed robberies or attacks.

    Meanwhile, the 56-year-old Greek man arrested a few hours earlier for attempting to rob a branch of Alpha Bank in the north Athens suburb of Nea Erythraia will be led before a public prosecutor on Thursday. An Albanian man also arrested outside the bank at the time was released, after police found that he was not connected with the robbery.

    The man, a labourer, said he had been driven to commit the robbery by heavy debts.

    Police are continuing to investigate the possibility that he may have been behind a similar robbery in Keratsini a few days earlier, where the robber had again used the threat that he was wired with explosives in order to grab 4,800 euros.

    [22] Farmers block Egnatia highway at Langadas

    Protesting farmers from Langadas on Wednesday blocked the Egnatia road at the Profitis-Langadas interchange and the old Thessaloniki -Kavala national road at the Gerakarous interchange.The farmers have not yet clarified their intentions regarding the duration of the blockade.

    Police are diverting traffic to other routes.

    [23] Tripolis-Pyrgos highway temporarily reopens for Easter

    The Tripolis- Pyrgos (Central and Western Peloponnese) stretch of the national highway, which has been closed to traffic since Monday morning due to a landslide, will reopen on Thursday noon in order to facilitate the Easter holidaymakers.

    It was announced on Wednesday that one lane will reopen on Thursday to facilitate travelers, and will reclose after Easter for completion of the restoration works.

    Police have placed signs on the roads to inform the drivers.

    [24] Opening hours for archaeological sites until April 30

    Off-season opening hours for archaeological sites, museums and state monuments (in effect from Nov. 1, 2009 until March 31, 2010) will be expanded a month until April 30, the ministry of culture and tourism announced on Wednesday.

    During the upcoming Easter holidays opening hours will be:

    Good Friday, Apr. 2: 12.00-17.00

    Bright Saturday, Apr. 3: 08.30-15.00

    Easter Sunday, Apr. 4: Closed

    Monday after Easter, Apr. 5: 08.30-15.00

    May 1: Closed

    [25] Giant shark caught off Crete

    A 4.5-meter-long shark species weighing in at slightly more than 300 kilos was caught by a trawler in a sea region off Hania, Crete, some 30 nautical miles from the coastline. This type of shark, with a distinctive long tail, is rarely caught by local fishermen.

    Weather Forecast

    [26] Cloudy on Thursday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 23C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 22C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 9C to 20C.

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

    Prime Minister George Papandreou' orders to his ministers to accelerate the reforms, the battle against tax evasion and the increase in crime, as well as the investigation into Sunday's terror attack resulting in the death of a 15-year-old boy last Sunday in the Athens district of Patissia, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Papandreou disappointed by his ministers - They are incapable of dealing with the everyday problems".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Insert: 15,511 job opportunities".

    AVGHI: "IMF and markets show their teeth - Lenders unwilling to buy the Greek bonds".

    AVRIANI: "New double blow from IMF and speculators - Spreads skyrocketed to 338 points".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Policemen unprotected in patrols - They buy their helmets by themselves while others do not have guns".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Athens an unfortified city".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Papandreou makes sprints to stop the spreads' rise - He gave orders to ministers to immediately proceed with the reforms before the next EU Summit".

    ESTIA: "Government sticks to words - Restructure from the beginning".

    ETHNOS: "Proof of standard of living for pensioners, too - Changes aiming to close the tax evasion holes".

    IMERISSIA: "Double package for growth - Companies and jobs will be subsidized".

    KATHIMERINI: "Proof of standard of living for the pensioners also - Suffocating provision for enterprises".

    LOGOS: "Closed professions will 'open' in May - Papandreou: The Stability and Growth plan must be followed to the letter".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "IMF will respond, but on its own conditions".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The struggle to protect the unemployed is a matter of life for the working class".

    TA NEA: "Major tax defaulters' bank deposits will be opened'.

    TO VIMA: "Government declares war on tax evasion".

    VRADYNI: "Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras states: Enough with crime".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [28] FM discusses latest Cyprus developments with the UNSG

    UNITED NATIONS (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou has described his meeting on Tuesday with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as friendly and constructive.

    In statements after the meeting, Kyprianou said that he had the chance to present the positions and concerns of the Cypriot government, its expectations of the procedure that is underway for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    Kyprianou also said he told the SG that the key to a solution of the Cyprus issue lies with Ankara.

    In his statements, Kyprianou said his meeting with the SG was "very constructive and friendly" which gave him the opportunity to "inform the Secretary-General of the positions, the views, the concerns and the hopes of our side in this new effort to solve the Cyprus problem".

    Concerning the joint statement read by UN Secretary-General Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alexander Downer at the end of the talks on Tuesday between President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, the foreign minister said "it is very important that this is treated as what it is, being a joint statement, not an interim agreement and not anything more than what it actually is because this is the philosophy of the negotiations, that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

    To a question what does Tuesday's joint statement mean for him, Kyprianou said it is a factual statement. "A fact. It presents where we stand today, what has been done until now. It does not have a legal significant but it is a listing of facts and of course it stays on the basic principles in the general description and each side as the statement says can proceed with more detailed analysis to the respective communities of what has been discussed or agreed".

    He also said that although there has been convergence of views in the three chapters that are referred in the statement, "at the same time there is still disagreement in the chapters themselves but also in the other subjects. So I would say that it's encouraging message that there's been progress and that we have moved forward but at the same time sends the message that there is still a long way to go and a lot of work to be done until we can reach a comprehensive settlement. So we still have a long way to go".

    The foreign minister said he and Ban discussed the difficulties "that we will be facing in the next phase of the negotiations entering some very difficult subjects and I referred particularly to the very important role of Turkey in this process".

    He further said he had the opportunity to refer specifically to the issue of Famagusta and the fenced area of Varosha. Beginning of the High-level Agreement of Kyprianou and Denktash of '79 and Security-Council Resolutions that followed after that, even reports of the Secretary-General until very recently, state that this can and should be treated as a separate issue in relation to the rest of the Cyprus problem, Minister Kyprianou said.

    "And we also had a resolution of the European Parliament in this respect. The issue of Varosha is an issue that falls directly under the responsibility of the Turkish Government and not the Turkish Cypriots and in that sense we asked the Secretary-General to help with the effort of convincing the Turkish Government to allow UN experts to enter the fenced area, to begin the study on the structural engineering and architectural situation with a view one day to be able to open the city, reconstructing it and allowing its inhabitants to return".

    However, he said that in the first phase, given that Varosha has been a ghost town for the last 36 years, the first step would be to allow the UN experts to enter the area. "I think it is a humanitarian issue, it is not a political issue, it is not something that can be dealt with at the table of the negotiations between the two sides on the island. That is the responsibility of the Turkish Government so we asked the Secretary-General to encourage the Turkish Government to be positive in this respect", Kyprianou noted.

    The Cypriot FM said "it is very important someone who is an interlocutor, someone who is very constructive and supports this target of the bizonal, bicommunal federation but at the same time it is important to have an active constructive role on the part of the Turkish Government. Especially on the subjects that will follow in the next phase being the issues of security, of territorial adjustments and so forth."

    Regarding the Turkish government's role, Kyprianou said "so far is acting more as an observer. But we believe that even though the Turkish government is not sitting at the negotiating table, is a party to this conflict and therefore we would like to see the Turkish government sending more positive messages and taking more positive and firm positions on the various issues. Not just to send a positive signal to the Greek Cypriot community but also to reinforce what is being done by the Turkish Cypriot leadership. We had the statements by the Prime Minister recently. These are encouraging signals but of course, at the end of the day what counts is what is said at the negotiations and not in interviews. So we expect to see these signals being transformed to negotiating positions when the negotiations resume".

    To a question what he thinks will happen if Talat is not elected in the so called elections in the Turkish occupied north for the new leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community, Kyprianou remarked that "there is no question that this would complicate matters and things would be difficult" noting that both candidates have a different approach. "So we expect to have complications and then the role of Turkey will become even more important in that case. So even though the Turkish Cypriots will decide for themselves at the same time we can see complications if there's a change of the interlocutor in case that they do not follow what has been done so far and try to change the basis of the solution", he added.

    Referring to the position expressed by the other candidate in the so called elections in the occupied areas of Cyprus, Dervis Eroglu, that he is committed to the negotiating process, Kyprianou replied it is positive that he stated that he will not abandon the negotiation and he will continue the negotiations. At the same time, he noted, "what is worrying is that we haven't seen any commitment made regarding the basis of these negotiations which was decided already in March 2008. So this raises some concerns", he noted.

    Kyprianou said that there is commitment by both sides and the Turkish Government that the negotiations continue. He also said he did not think the Secretary-General is preparing anything given that the nature of this procedure, which is between the two communities is facilitated by the United Nations. "So the United Nations will continue supporting this process and we'd like to think that the results of this electoral process in April will not change this procedure and we will be able to resume from where the two leaders have left of today (Tuesday). But if things change we will have then to revisit the whole issue", he remarked.

    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 have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, aiming to reunite the island.

    UN committed to Cyprus process, Ban reaffirms

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday the UN is committed to supporting the process that would lead to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

    The UNSG's position was conveyed by a UN spokesperson, referring to the meeting Ban had earlier in the day with Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou.

    He said, "The Secretary-General thanked the Foreign Minister for his personal participation in the International Donors Conference 'Towards a new future for Haiti'" that was scheduled for Wednesday.

    On the Cyprus problem, the spokesperson said Ban noted positively the joint statement issued by the two leaders on 30 March 2010, which underscores that important progress in the chapters of governance and power-sharing, European Union and economic matters had been achieved.

    He was also encouraged by the start of the construction work on Yesilirimak/Limnitis road on Monday.

    He also reaffirmed the UN's commitment to supporting the Cypriot-led talks, which should lead to comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

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