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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-07-17

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

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

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 17/07/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Cyprus welcomes EU confirmation of accession negotiations
  • Commissioner warns: Cyprus cannot be hostage to Turkey
  • Rare icon exhibition in Greece
  • Greek-Argentine agreement on peaceful use of nuclear energy
  • Airspace violations by Turkish warplanes
  • New State Dept. nominee spot comments on Greek-Turkish relations
  • SAE letter to Clinton on Cyprus issue
  • Old US base to serve as filmmaking centre
  • New airport opens in Crete
  • Parliament President receives young French philhellenes
  • Greece prepares tight fiscal policy for 1998
  • EU approves state aid for Greek shipyards WEATHER

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE


NEWS IN DETAIL

Cyprus welcomes EU confirmation of accession negotiations

President Glafcos Clerides welcomed yesterday the European Commission reaffirmation that accession talks with Cyprus will start next year, while he expressed a firm belief that US presidential envoy on the issue Richard Holbrooke did not support the linking of accession talks with a solution to the Cyprus issue.

Speaking on his return to Cyprus, President Clerides said Mr. Holbrooke had twice reassured him that there was no link of the two, and he was very clear about it.

Commenting on his meeting with Mr. Holbrooke in New York, Mr. Clerides said they exchanged views on the proceedings in Troutbeck and agreed it is too early to reach any conclusions.

He also said he expressed his satisfaction to Mr. Holbrooke for the latter's initiative on Cyprus.

Mr. Clerides dismissed Turkish threats it will annex the occupied part of the island if the Republic joins the European Union (EU), calling on the press to give little notice to the issue, so "Turkey doesn't think we are afraid" of such threats.

Describing Cyprus' EU accession process as "a catalyst towards a solution to the Cyprus problem", Mr. Clerides said it would be preferable if a solution was reached before accession, stressing, however, this should not be a condition for accession.

Commissioner warns: Cyprus cannot be hostage to Turkey

In presenting the "Agenda 2000" for EU enlargement before the European Parliament yesterday, EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek pointed out that the Commission cannot hold Cyprus hostage due to lack of cooperation by the Turkish side on a settlement to the protracted Cyprus problem.

Replying to a question by a Turkish reporter afterwards, Mr. van den Broek also reiterated that the EU decision to open accession negotiations with Cyprus is not new, but was taken in March 1995. He underlined that the EU has often expressed its interest in a solution to the Cyprus question and is cooperating with the UN in this direction.

The report, named "Agenda 2000", notes that membership negotiations for an expanded EU will begin with Cyprus, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovenia next year.

In his reference to Cyprus during the report's presentation, the commissioner said "the Commission delivered a favourable opinion in 1993 on Cyprus' application for membership and has reaffirmed on several occasions that accession negotiations should start six months after the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Conference", which took place in Amsterdam in June.

"The division of the island, of course, raises problems in the context of enlargement but we hope that the prospect of accession will provide a catalyst to bring about a just and lasting settlement", he added.

The Dutch Commissioner expressed hope that the UN-led direct negotiations held on the Cyprus issue in Troutbeck last week between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, would open a process leading eventually to a settlement .

"A settlement of the Cyprus problem will permit a faster conclusion to accession negotiations, and these negotiations will be facilitated if sufficient progress is made towards a settlement to permit representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community to b e involved in the accession process," he added.

Mr. van den Broek also pointed out that there are "encouraging signs" for better relations between Greece and Turkey and said "we are looking to Turkey to contribute actively to a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus".

Responding to press questions regarding Turkey's European prospects, Commission president Jacques Santer said Turkey did not meet the criteria for full membership in the European Union.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said yesterday that Turkey would respond sharply if plans to bring Cyprus into the European Union weakened the position of Turkish Cypriots.

"Any step taken in connection with Cyprus which we or Turkish Cyprus do not accept will be more than met by our own steps", Mr. Ecevit told a meeting of his leftist party's MPs.

He warned on Tuesday that the Turkish-occupied north of the divided island would be integrated into Turkey if the EU went ahead with membership talks with the Cypriot government as planned next year.

In a later statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, Ankara appeared to be toning down its reaction. Mr. Cem said relations with the Union are too important to be exhausted by one decision alone.

"We must not exaggerate the significance of the European Commission's decision," Mr. Cem said, stressing that he hopes the decision will not be taken into consideration by the EU's Council of Ministers.

Rare icon exhibition in Greece

A major exhibition of Byzantine-era icons from the famed Monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai will be displayed in Greece this September, following a verbal agreement in Alexandria yesterday between visiting Greek Foreign Undersecretary Yannos Kranidiotis and Egyptian officials.

Mr. Kranidiotis, who yesterday began a six-day Mideast tour in Egypt, concluded his meetings with political leaders in Cairo and Alexandria.

The minister said the exhibition agreement would be signed on July 22, while the exhibition is scheduled to be inaugurated at the Byzantine Museum of Athens on September 19. The icons are part of "The Glory of Byzantium" exhibition, which ended recently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Mr. Kranidiotis had the opportunity to visit St. Catherine's yesterday for a guided tour through the monastery, which possesses rare manuscripts and icons dated from the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian.

Greek-Argentine agreement on peaceful use of nuclear energy

An agreement between Argentina and Greece on the peaceful use of nuclear energy will be signed at noon today at the initiative of the Greek Atomic Energy Committee.

A press conference by Argentine ambassador Francisco Jorge Bullrich will follow at the embassy in Athens.

Prof. Anastasios Katsanos will sign the agreement on behalf of the Greek government, while Mr. Bullrich will sign on behalf of Buenos Aires.

Argentina produces and supplies nuclear reactors, radioisotopes and nuclear fuel while attributing increased importance to research, the overall development and peaceful uses of nuclear energy as well as studies for recycling nuclear fuel.

Airspace violations by Turkish warplanes

A group of 10 Turkish F-16 and F-4 warplanes yesterday infringed Athens FIR regulations and violated Greek airspace over the Aegean between the islands of Limnos and Lesvos, sources said.

In each case, the Turkish warplanes were identified and intercepted by Greek fighters.

New State Dept. nominee spot comments on Greek-Turkish relations

New US Assistant Secretary of State-designate for European and Canadian Affairs, Mark Grossman, assessed on Tuesday that solution to the Cyprus issue and settlement of Greek-Turkey problems in the Aegean constitute two considerable challenges for US foreign policy in the post-Cold War era.

Mr. Grossman made those comments during his confirmation hearing in front of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said the Madrid communique was a very good start and a further improvement in Greek-Turkish relations must be built on it, adding that Turkey needs better relations with Greece.

Mr. Grossman, who completed his term as ambassador to Ankara several weeks ago, will replace John Kornblum in the position.

Richard Holbrooke held the same post before Mr. Kornblum's term.

SAE letter to Clinton on Cyprus issue

The World Council of Overseas Hellenism (SAE) yesterday sent a letter to US President Bill Clinton on the anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion on Cyprus, calling for the restoration of unity on the island republic.

In the letter, the SAE members also contratulated Mr. Clinton for his initiative at bringing Prime Minister Costas Simitis in contact with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel during the NATO summit in Madrid last week.

"As American citizens we demand the restoration of democracy and the return of refugees to their homes," the letter read.

"We demand the end of the partition of Cyprus and the destruction of Christian Churches in its northern section, and the punishment in international courts of all those who perpetrated crimes from 1974 to the present," the SAE members added.

SAE also sent a letter to Mr. Simitis asserting the undivided support of Greek-Americans on national issues.

Old US base to serve as filmmaking centre

The area of the former US naval base at Nea Makri, eastern Attica, will be transformed into a studio city in order to house all the country's filmmaking activities under one roof, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday.

Mr. Venizelos said the decision had been taken with the approval of Nea Makri's mayor and following a suggestion by noted Greek director Theodoros Angelopoulos.

New airport opens in Crete

Transport and Communications Minister Haris Kastanidis yesterday inaugurated the new installations of the "Nikos Kazantzakis" airport at Heraklion, Crete.

The inauguration is within the framework of an ongoing programme to modernise and develop all the airports of the country at a total cost of 30 billion drachmas.

The works under the programme include the landscaping of surrounding areas, the extension of runways and the construction of new parking areas. Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Mr. Kastanidis reaffirmed the government's commitment regarding the construction of a further runway at Heraklion airport, the study for which has been delayed due to a fault which appeared in the subsoil.

He said the final study would be given to him a month from yesterday, containing solutions to the problem which arose.

Following the recent improvements, the airport area reserved for passenger use now covers 23,000 square metres.

Some 3.5 million passengers use Heraklion airport annually.

Parliament President receives young French philhellenes

Forty-five high school students from France who excelled in ancient Greek studies were received by Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis yesterday.

The students are the winners of a competition organised by the French cultural organisation Athena and the French ministry of education.

Mr. Kaklamanis briefed them on the workings of the "Youth Parliament", an institution by which Greek high school students have a chance to hold their own session in Parliament.

They will remain in Greece for two weeks and visit several archaeological sites, including the islands of Patmos and Samos.

Greece prepares tight fiscal policy for 1998

The government will implement an austere fiscal policy in 1998 in order to prepare the country for participation in Economic and Monetary Union, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Papantoniou said that 1998 will be a tough year for the Greek economy as participation in the single European currency would depend on achieving targets set in the government's programme to converge with other EU countries.

He said the government's efforts would aim at reducing inflation to below 3.0 percent from the current 5.5 percent and adjusting fiscal policy to strict provisions contained in the convergence programme.

"1998's budget will be crucial," Mr. Papantoniou said.

He predicted that the budget deficit would shrink to 4.2 percent of GDP this year and that economic growth would accelerate to 3.5 percent.

Inflation would be contained within official targets by the end of the year, he added.

EU approves state aid for Greek shipyards

The European Union's executive Commission approved a debt write-off of 54.525 billion drachmas for Hellenic Shipyards at Skaramanga.

The decision followed clearance given by the EU's Council of Ministers on 2 June 1997 when it approved legislation allowing aid to certain shipyards undergoing restructuring in Spain, Germany and Greece.

The aid corresponds to debts related to civil work carried out by the yard on 31 December 1991 and debts accrued from interest due and penalties until 31 January 1996, the date the yard was partially privatised. The Commission also approved investment a id of 7.8 billion drachmas for the Skaramanga yard. On September 18, 1995, 49% of shares were sold to the yard's workers.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast for most of the country initially today, turning cloudy locally in the afternoon in central and northern Greece, with possibility of scattered rainfall in eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Athens will be sunny, turning cloudy in the afternoon with temperatures ranging from 23-32 C. Thessaloniki will be partly cloudy throughout the day, with temperatures ranging from 20-27 C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates - buying

US dlr. 279.248 Pound sterling 468.680 Cyprus pd. 530.740 French franc 46.102 Swiss franc 189.021 German mark 155.734 Italian lira (100) 16.006 Yen (100) 241.145 Canadian dlr. 203.142 Australian dlr. 205.245 Irish Punt 420.013 Belgian franc 7.544 Finnish mark 52.675 Dutch guilder 138.320 Danish kr. 40.855 Swedish kr. 35.726 Norwegian kr. 37.329 Austrian sch. 22.135 Spanish peseta 1.848 Port. Escudo 1.543

(L.G.)


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