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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-08-03

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Tuesday, 3 August 2010 Issue No: 3557


  • [01] FRONTEX office opens in Piraeus
  • [02] Refuelling of market in full swing following suspension of truckers' strike
  • [03] Alt. FM sends condolences for Russia wildfires
  • [04] Meeting on twin urban regeneration project ends in deadlock
  • [05] ND tourism sector head slams government 'lethargy'
  • [06] Finance ministry to investigate reports of state-sector corruption
  • [07] List of tax evading companies released
  • [08] PPC to freeze electricity rates
  • [09] Consumer group reports 5% increase in prices for basic goods
  • [10] Thessaloniki metro construction resumes
  • [11] Munich Airport preferred by German tourists visiting Greece
  • [12] Greek PMI recovered in July
  • [13] Greek banks' interest rates up in June
  • [14] Building permits for Sani hotel villas ruled illegal
  • [15] Up to 95 pct register pre-paid card phones
  • [16] New IKA governor takes over on Monday
  • [17] Greek stocks jumped 3.85 pct on Monday
  • [18] Greek bond market closing report
  • [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [20] Wildfires reported; Samos arsonists to appear before prosecutor
  • [21] Wildfire threatens residential areas on Samos
  • [22] Robbers hold up postman, make off with pension money
  • [23] Robbery at shipping company
  • [24] Motorcyclist poisons 500 pigeons in central Athens square
  • [25] WWII mine neutralised in Kavala
  • [26] Two arrested for reckless speedboat driving
  • [27] Foreign national arrested on antiquities smuggling charges
  • [28] Suicide by police jail detainee
  • [29] Agii Anargyri Proastiakos station opens Aug. 8
  • [30] Hot and sunny on Tuesday
  • [31] Athens Newspaper Headlines
  • [32] Syrian President expresses support to Cypriot reunification efforts Politics

  • [01] FRONTEX office opens in Piraeus

    Director of FRONTEX Ilka Laitinen said on Monday that the Greek borders "is a clear challenge faced today by the European Union."

    Speaking after the signing of an agreement for the opening in Piraeus of the first office of FRONTEX in Europe Laitinen said that an excellent work was being done in Greece regarding the handling of illegal immigration and the agency would everyting in its power to encourage EU member-states to take part in the operation and be more decisive in tackling immigration at the European frontiers.

    On his part, Greek Protection of the Citizen Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis, who signed the agreement on the part of Greece, said that with the esteblishment of the office the country upgrades considerably efforts being deployed against human trafficking rings and illegal immigration.

    The Piraeus-based FRONTEX office, which will function on a pilote programme for the next two years, will employ 13 persons and will supervise the EU's southeastern frontiers, that is Malta, Italy Greece and Cyprus.

    The decision to establish the FRONTEX's operational office in Piraeus was taken in Madrid last February.

    [02] Refuelling of market in full swing following suspension of truckers' strike

    Refuelling of the filling stations in the major urban centers throughout the country was in full swing Monday morning after the suspension of the freight and tanker truck owners' strike on Sunday night following a deal reached with the government.

    Refuelling of the urban centers is expected to be completed by noon, while supply of the periphery and the islands is due to be completed by Tuesday.

    Refuelling of some 80 percent of petrol stations in Athens and Thessaloniki was reported as of 10:30 a.m.

    [03] Alt. FM sends condolences for Russia wildfires

    Alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas on Monday sent a message of condolences to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov over the victims of the wildfires that have devastated Russia.

    Droutsas expressed grief over the human losses caused by the wildfires and his condolences to the families of the victims, while he also conveyed support for those who have suffered extensive damages in the blazes.

    [04] Meeting on twin urban regeneration project ends in deadlock

    A meeting on the twin urban regeneration project involving the old Alexandras Avenue Panathinaikos field and the currently run-down Votanikos district of central Athens ended in a deadlock on Monday.

    The meeting co-chaired by government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos and Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili ended without an agreement when participating Panathinaikos FC representatives cited untimely technical issues, considering that the necessary legislative initiative sponsored by the government should take precedence.

    The meeting was attended Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, Panathinaikos FC President Nikos Konstantopoulos, Panathinaikos Sports Club - Amateur Division chairman Michalis Kitsios and real estate developer Babis Vovos.

    A statement issued by the government vice-president's office underlined that the government has made every possible effort to bring about a compromise between the parties involved, calling on them to display a spirit of cooperation thus clearing the way for the legislative initiative that would allow the promotion of the twin urban regeneration project.

    [05] ND tourism sector head slams government 'lethargy'

    Main opposition New Democracy sector head for tourism Olga Kefaloyianni on Monday was sharply critical of the government's failure to set up a crisis management centre for the tourism sector, which could react to emergency situations that generated negative publicity for Greece like the truck owners' strike last week.

    "Greek tourism is going through one of its most difficult years. The government continues to leave the needs and demands of tourism agencies off its agenda. At the same time, the culture and tourism ministry is showing unprecedented inaction," she stressed.

    She said the government had displayed a "lack of reflexes, complete unreadiness and inconceivable lethargy".

    Financial News

    [06] Finance ministry to investigate reports of state-sector corruption

    The finance ministry on Monday announced dozens of audits in agencies of the broader public sector and formal inquiries into the activities of tax and customs officials, following up complaints by members of the public referring to numerous types of violations and offences.

    Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou ordered 10 audits of Technological Educational Institutes, hospitals, municipal authorities and enterprises - including that of Thessaloniki - that will be carried out in collaboration with the appropriate bodies, such as the Court of Audit or the Public Administration General Inspector.

    Orders have also been given for 25 formal inquiries into officials in the state financial services, both at the ministry's central services and in regional tax offices, customs posts and real estate services.

    These will investigate complaints of corruption that include taking bribes and illegal enrichment, irregular inspections of businesses, various types of negligence and omissions, reports of a circuit for illegal VAT returns in northern Greece, failure to collect import dues, leaks of personal information, issue of fake documents and others.

    For those accused of taking bribes and illegal enrichment, the ministry will also check their means and asset statements, among them state employees implicated in the Siemens scandal.

    In an announcement, the ministry stressed that it was determined to continue steadfastly investigating both anonymous and named complaints reported to its 1517 phone line in order to restore transparency and credibility within its own services.

    [07] List of tax evading companies released

    The finance ministry's financial crimes corps (SDOE) on Monday released a list of 70 companies found to be seriously in violation of taxation legislation, folliwng audits conducted by the SDOE in stepped up efforts to clamp down on tax evasion.

    Penalties for tax evasion provided under the new taxation legislation will be imposed on those companies in September, according to SDOE, which include increased fines and even shutdown of the enterprises.

    SDOE secretary general Yiannis Kapeleris told ANA-MPA that in the two-month period of June and July, SDOE conducted 800 audits on enterprises in the islands of the Aegean and ascertained 15,000 violations of tax law, the majority of which were failure to issue receipts.

    [08] PPC to freeze electricity rates

    Public Power Corporation will freeze its electricity rates from August 1st, after a decision by Environment, Energy and Climate Change Deputy Minister Yiannis Maniatis to suspend the introduction of a "fuel clause" on electricity bills.

    The "fuel clause", initially introduced early this year, is rolling-over to electricity rates any fluctuations in international fuel prices, used by PPC to produce electricity energy. The evaluation of the clause is set on a quarterly basis. A ministry announcement said the suspension of the measure was necessary for social reasons of protecting consumers against increased living costs.

    [09] Consumer group reports 5% increase in prices for basic goods

    The monthly "basket of goods" bought by the average Greek household has increased 105 euros or roughly 5 percent over the last year, the Greek consumer group ELKEKA reported on Monday.

    Citing figures released by Greece's statistical authority, ELKEKA said the cost of these basic goods had increased from 2,010 euros a month in 2009 to 2,115 euros a month in 2010.

    ELKEKA President Vassilis Lygas told the ANA-MPA that the sharp rise in prices was mainly due to the increase in VAT and the Special Consumption Tax, causing additional hardship to households already facing cuts in their pay and pensions.

    The highest increases were in alcoholic drinks and tobacco products, which climbed 19 percent in the year, followed by transport costs that rose 18 percent due to the higher cost of fuels, increased road tolls and more expensive repair and maintenance costs for vehicles.

    Housing costs rose by 8 percent due to higher heating fuel costs and climbing rents, while there was 5 percent increase in services and a one percent reduction in foods and non-alcoholic beverages.

    [10] Thessaloniki metro construction resumes

    Construction work for the Thessaloniki metro resumed on Monday after a 9-month-long interruption.

    The tunnel-boring machine (TBM), at the AUTH university construction site, is currently in operation roughly 30 meters below the earth's surface and excavation works have an average pace of 10 meters a day.

    The Thessaloniki metro will cover a distance of 9.6 km, from the western to the eastern part of the city, and feature 13 stations.

    [11] Munich Airport preferred by German tourists visiting Greece

    Most German tourists choosing Greece as their vacation destination use Munich Airport, the German Federal Statistical Office announced.

    Based on the available data, a total of 532,154 people travelled to Greece from Munich Airport in 2008 (corresponding to 23 pct of the German tourists visiting Greece), 508,462 in 2009 (22.47 pct) and 149,680 in the first five months of 2010.

    Frankfurt Airport occupies second place with 478,631 passengers travelling to Greece in 2008, 439,055 in 2009 and 128,838 in the first five months of 2010.

    Dusseldorf is third with 310,601 tourists using its airport to travel to Greece in 2008, 298,670 in 2009 and 76,527 in the first five months of 2010.

    [12] Greek PMI recovered in July

    Greece's seasonally-adjusted Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) recovered to 45.3 points in July, from 42.2 in June to its highest level in six months, offering signs that the rate of decline had slowed down in the manufacturing sector. The decline in production and new orders slowed rapidly, while the volume of pending works and inventories fell moderately.

    Greek manufacturers reported a decline in new orders' volume in July, remaining on a downward trend for the 21st month. Adverse economic conditions and a lack of demand were the main factors behind shrinking new orders.

    The July figures showed that job positions fell with the most rapid rate since March 2009, while inventories fell further and supplies -along with raw material and manufactured products inventories- fell significantly, while enterprises reported an increasing inflow cost reflecting higher fuel and raw material prices.

    Low demand and strong competition prevented Greek manufacturers from raising price products in July.

    The PMI measures business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing sector, while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.

    [13] Greek banks' interest rates up in June

    Greek banks raised their saving and lending interest rates in June, reflecting limited liquidity in the domestic banking system, the Bank of Greece said on Monday. The central bank, in a report, said interest rates for 12-month deposits rose to 3.61 pct in July, from 3.42 pct in June, and was significantly higher compared with 2.98 pct in December 2009.

    Lending interest rates, in consumer credit including credit cards, rose by 0.45 pct to 14.37 pct from 13.92 pct in the previous month. Business loans also rose by 0.17 pct to 6.46 pct, while the average interest rate on business loans was set at 5.90 pct.

    The interest rate for saving deposits by households, with a duration for up to two years, rose to 3.05 pct from 2.91 pct, while the mortgage rate with a duration of more than 5 years eased slightly to 3.66 pct from 3.82 pct.

    [14] Building permits for Sani hotel villas ruled illegal

    The Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, on Monday ruled that building permits issued to the Sani Hotel group to construct luxury residential villas in the Stavronikita forest in Cassandra, Halkidiki were illegal. The case was brought to the court by the members of the EcoGreen party in Thessaloniki.

    The villas were built on a 223.3-hectare forested site by the sea and sold by the Sani group to individual buyers.

    After the ruling was issued, EcoGreen's MEP Mihalis Tremopoulos said the decision to demolish the illegal buildings in the Stavronikita forest after the court's ruling was "political and lies in the hands of the government".

    [15] Up to 95 pct register pre-paid card phones

    Up to 95 percent of pre-paid mobile phone card users have registered their phones under their names, according to figures released by three mobile phone service providers on Monday.

    The deadline for registering phones expired on July 30.

    Up to 80 percent of users completed the registration process in the last two weeks before the deadline expired, even though it had begun in November 2009.

    All pre-paid card phones that were not registered by July 30 had their calls blocked and can now no longer be used by their owners, either to make or receive calls or messages. They do not necessarily lose their number, however, since they have been given a second chance until January 30 next year to register their phones and re-activate their number and account.

    In order to register one's phone, it is necessary to have both the SIM card and either a police ID or a passport. For those aged under 18, registration must be carried out by an adult.

    The registration of pre-paid cards to a specific individual users was passed by law in order to restrict the use of untraceable mobiles in order to carry out and organise crimes.

    [16] New IKA governor takes over on Monday

    The new governor of the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) Rovertos Spyropoulos took over the reins of the organisation on Monday, during a handover ceremony attended by Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos.

    Taking over from his predecessor Theodoros Abatzopoulos, the new IKA governor repeated pledges made in Parliament on the day his appointment was approved to continue a crackdown on contribution evasion.

    [17] Greek stocks jumped 3.85 pct on Monday

    Buying spree for bank shares pushed the Athens Stock Exchange sharply higher on Monday. The composite index of the market jumped 3.85 pct to end at 1,746.72 points, with turnover an improved 133.074 million euros. Eurobank (13.56 pct), Alpha Bank (8.06 pct), National Bank (6.34 pct), Piraeus Bank (6.11 pct) and Cyprus Bank (5.34 pct) were top gainers among banks.

    The Big Cap index jumped 4.85 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.55 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 3.68 pct. Banks (7.22 pct), Raw Materials (7.06 pct) and Technology (5.27 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Insurance (1.45 pct), Personal Products (0.69 pct) and Food (0.24 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 176 to 28 with another 22 issues unchanged. Euroholdings (16.67 pct), Vivere (15.56 pct) and Halcor (13.19 pct) were top gainers, while Elfico (19.70 pct), Elmec Sport (10 pct) and Xylemporia (9.09 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -1.45%

    Industrials: +3.63%

    Commercial: +2.13%

    Construction: +3.25%

    Media: +2.97%

    Oil & Gas: +2.86%

    Personal & Household: -0.69%

    Raw Materials: +7.06%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.31%

    Technology: +5.27%

    Telecoms: +1.12%

    Banks: +7.22%

    Food & Beverages: -0.24%

    Health: +2.52%

    Utilities: +2.16%

    Chemicals: +2.94%

    Financial Services: +4.26%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 6.30

    ATEbank: 1.24

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.50

    HBC Coca Cola: 18.02

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.23

    National Bank of Greece: 11.90

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.70

    OPAP: 11.50

    OTE: 6.30

    Bank of Piraeus: 5.38

    Titan: 17.00

    [18] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market was a low 32 million euros on Monday. The 10-year benchmark bond (May 18, 2011) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 9.0 million euros, followed by the 33-year bond with 7.0 million euros. The yield spread between the Greek and German 10-year bonds was 749 basis points with the Greek bond yielding 10.19 pct and the German Bund 2.70 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were slightly higher. The 12-month rate was 1.41 pct, the six-month rate 1.14 pct, the three-month 0.89 pct and the one-month rate 0.64 pct.

    [19] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.317

    Pound sterling 0.832

    Danish kroner 7.510

    Swedish kroner 9.431

    Japanese yen 114.18

    Swiss franc 1.376

    Norwegian kroner 7.922

    Canadian dollar 1.347

    Australian dollar 1.446

    General News

    [20] Wildfires reported; Samos arsonists to appear before prosecutor

    Three wildfires broke out on Monday: one in Porto Germenos, some 60 km west of Athens, one in a forest region in Kakoperato on the eastern Aegean island of Samos and one in the region of Arkalochori on Crete, south Aegean.

    On Samos, the fire that broke out in the early afternoon continued to rage in two fronts fanned by strong winds. The island's entire firefighting force was in the area assisted by two firefighting aircraft and a helicopter. Another four aircraft and four helicopters were expected to arrive shortly to participate in the efforts to contain the blaze.

    Another fire that broke out in the region of Agiades had been placed under control.

    A wildfire in a forest land in Porto Germenos was also under control, as was a fire on the island of Crete that was not threatening populated areas or forest.

    Meanwhile, the three stockbreeders arrested last Friday and charged with deliberately setting the wildfire in the region of Kokkari on Samos on July 28, will appear before a prosecutor in 48 hours.

    [21] Wildfire threatens residential areas on Samos

    A wildfire broke out on the island of Samos, in the Marathokampo and Karlovassos regions, on Monday threate-ning residential areas.

    Hotels in the area were evacuated in a preventive move.

    Six water-dropping planes, one Superpuma helicopter and 75 firefighters were dispatched to the eastern Aegean island to join firefighting forces there.

    [22] Robbers hold up postman, make off with pension money

    Two armed men robbed a Hellenic Post (ELTA) employee in a village near Domokos in Fthiotida Prefecture, central Greece, on Monday and got away with roughly 30,000 euros in pension money destined for local farmers.

    The robbery took place in a coffee shop in the village of Karies and was eye-witnessed by roughly 20 pensioners who had gathered there to receive their pensions in cash.

    The robbers, wearing motorcycle helmets, snatched away the ELTA employee's bag containing the money and fled riding a motorcycle.

    A police manhunt is underway for their arrest.

    [23] Robbery at shipping company

    A gunman robbed the offices of Minoan Lines shippng company in Piraeus on Monday morning, and escaped with an unknown amount of money, police said.

    The robber stormed the shipping company's headquarters at 9:00 a.m. and fired a shot, without injuring anyone, and took off with the money.

    Police were investigating the incident.

    [24] Motorcyclist poisons 500 pigeons in central Athens square

    An unidentified motorcyclist poisoned some 500 pigeons in Kotzia square in downtown Athens on Sunday afternoon.

    Acccording to an eyewitness, a motorcyclist, wearing a crash helmet, parked his motorcycle on the sidewalk at the square, which was nearly empty of pedestrians due to the heat, fed seed to the pigeons that was apparantly poisoned, and left.

    About a half hour after his departure, the square was scattered with dead pigeons.

    According to Athens deputy mayor Andreas Papadakis, approximately 500 dead pigeons were collected from the square.

    [25] WWII mine neutralised in Kavala

    A WWII mine found by a swimmer off the beach of Orfanou municipality, west of Kavala, has been neutralised by Navy bomb disposal experts, it was made known on Monday.

    According to the Kavala coastguard, the mine was found by a local resident on July 23, and was neutralised on Saturday morning.

    The round mine was found in a horizontal position at a depth of 1.5 meters and at a distance of 30 meters from the shore.

    The mine was partly rusted and covered with seaweed.

    The beach and nearby homes were evacuated by authorities for precautionary reasons.

    [26] Two arrested for reckless speedboat driving

    Coast guard officers in the prefecture of Hania on Crete on Monday reported the arrest of two men aged 30 and 35 for reckless driving of a speedboat that endangered the lives of swimmers on a popular beach.

    As a result of over-ambitious manoeuvres carried out at excessive speed, both men in the 'Merlin' speedboat fell out into the sea when they were just 150 metres from Drapania beach. The driver vessel continued its course driverless and unchecked, passing headlong among swimmers to ram into the beach. Fortunately, no one was injured and there was no fuel spill into the sea.

    Both men on the boat were arrested and tested for blood alcohol levels at a local health centre to see if they were drunk or had consumed other substances at the time and then released by order of a Misdemeanours Court prosecutor after being charged.

    [27] Foreign national arrested on antiquities smuggling charges

    A foreign national was arrested over the weekend on antiquities smuggling charges at the Epidaurus archaeological site.

    The man was arrested red-handed as he was searching the site with a metal detector and pickaxe, and police found a piece of a clay pot on him, while a clay knife was found in his car.

    The Argolis police directorate was investigating his possible participation in other criminal actions.

    The detainee was taken before a public prosecutor, while the preliminary investigation is still underway.

    [28] Suicide by police jail detainee

    A 32-year-old Polish detainee took his own life in the Kypseli police station jail, police reported on Monday.

    The man had been arrested on June 30 and a court had ordered that he be detained on a charge of attempted theft.

    While awaiting his transfer to a remand prison on Monday morning, he found a piece of broken glass and self-inflicted a deadly wound in his own neck before police officers in the adjoining office were able to intervene.

    The 32-year-old died of his injury before an ambulance arrived to give first aid.

    [29] Agii Anargyri Proastiakos station opens Aug. 8

    The railway station of Agii Anargyri in the greater Athens region, that will be part of the Proastiakos suburban railway network, will open to commuters on Sunday, Aug. 8.

    The announcement was made on Monday by TRAINOSE S.A., the company operating the national rail network.

    Weather forecast

    [30] Hot and sunny on Tuesday

    Hot and sunny weather is forecast on Tuesday, with the possibility of some clouds and showers from the afternoon. Winds variable, from 3-6 Beaufort. Temperatures ranging from 18C to 38C. Sunny in Athens, with temperatures from 23C to 37C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 23C to 36C.

    [31] Athens Newspaper Headlines

    The freight and tanker truck owners' suspension of their strike and gradual normalisation of the market and the EU-IMF troika's report on the Greek economy to be submitted to the finance minister on Monday mainly dominated the front pages of Athens' dailies on Monday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Layoffs of thousands of employees in the DEKO (public utilities and organisations)...900 branches to be merged, other positions to be abolished".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Much damage for nothing - The dialogue between government and trade unionists begins again...from where it stopped".

    AVRIANI: "Ministers fear the political cost of mass layoffs in the DEKO demanded by the troika".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Mass layoffs in public sector, DEKO, being brought by the inspection and the bitter instructions of the Memorandum".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Exclusive: They're (government) covertly reducing the basic pension of 360 euros - Explosive provision in the 'fine print' of the social security law".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "10 commandments for new fronts - What the troika demands in the next two months".

    ESTIA: "Disinflation the IMF's target, through deregulation of markets and professions".

    ETHNOS: "Just 50 university Departments require more than 18,000 grade points".

    IMERISSIA: "Fronts opening up now with seven professions - Strict instructions of troika for opening of the markets".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Additional revenues of 4.5 billion euros from new taxes in 2011".

    TA NEA: "What will change for the closed-shop professions - In two months".

    VRADYNI: "Euro-Rambos at the General State Accounts Office - After Brussels' approval (of the troika report)".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [32] Syrian President expresses support to Cypriot reunification efforts


    Syrian President Bashar al Assad has expressed his country's support to the efforts aiming at reunifying Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974.

    Al Assad received on Sunday Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Markos Kyprianou who is visiting Damascus.

    An official press release notes that during the meeting Kyprianou briefed the Syrian President on the latest developments regarding the Cyprus problem, giving special emphasis on the three-point proposal submitted by the President of Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias aiming at speeding up the ongoing UN-led direct negotiations for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem, which began in September 2008.

    Kyprianou also briefed Assad on Cyprus' and Greece's joint proposal for an increase of the aid provided to the Gaza Strip via Cyprus.

    On his part, the Syrian president expressed his country's support to the Cypriot reunification process.

    According to the press release, the meeting reaffirmed the very good relations between Syria and Cyprus and examined ways for their further development.

    Following the meeting with Assad, Kyprianou met with his Syrian counterpart Walid Al Muallem in a meeting that reviewed bilateral relations, as well as relations between the EU and Syria.

    The two ministers also exchanged views on the Middle East peace process, other regional and international issues and decided to strengthen the dialogue and cooperation between the two countries.

    Kyprianou briefed his Syrian counterpart on the developments regarding the UN-led negotiations on Cyprus, as well as Nicosia's positions concerning the content of the last resolution on Cyprus approved by the Organisation of Islamic Conference.

    The Cypriot president had announced in July three proposals on the Cyprus issue. The first suggests the linking of the discussion of three of the chapters of the Cyprus problem, those dealing with property, territory and immigration, for easing the resolution of the thorny chapter of properties and for expediting the dialogue.

    The second proposal urges Turkey to apply UN Security Council resolution 550, which calls for the transfer of the fenced off area of Varosha, in Famagusta, to the administration of the United Nations. Part of this proposal is the opening of the port of Famagusta under EU auspices to benefit the Turkish Cypriots.

    The third proposal is to convene an international conference when within range of an agreement on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem.

    Cyprus, an EU member-state since May 2004, has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.

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