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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-01-15

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, 15/01/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Burns says upgrading, modernising Greek-US relations his priority
  • Greece,India agree to support each other's UN bids
  • Athens reacts to latest Turkish provocations over Aegean
  • More Turkish violations of Greek airspace
  • Protest to Istanbul Prefecture over Greek sexton's murder
  • Premier optimistic over Greek economy's future
  • Second annual solidarity meeting of Greek, Turkish journalists
  • US Secretary of Commerce to visit Athens
  • AMTECH scheduled for end of the month
  • Bank of Greece reports capital inflows after intervention
  • Drachma not overvalued, report says
  • Commercial Bank of Greece on the Internet
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Burns says upgrading, modernising Greek-US relations his priority

US ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns made his first public address yesterday since assuming his post in December, saying he will work toward modernising and upgrading relations between Greece and the United States, casting problems of the past to oblivion.

Addressing an event organised by the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce at the Athens Concert Hall, he also referred to what he called an outright distortion by many Greek media outlets of his recent statements regarding Greek national airspace.

"A number of newspapers and later television and radio commentators alleged that I had proposed some kind of Aegean compromise that would reward sovereignty of the Kaloyeri islets to Greece in exchange for a reduction of the air space that Greece has long claimed. In fact, I neither said that nor would I ever imagine it. The two issues are not and should not be linked. The story had no basis in fact. But the result was a debate that could only sow suspicion, create distrust and detract from discussion of the real issues. We have serious issues to debate. Let's not waste our time and efforts on imaginary ones," he emphasised.

Mr. Burns termed a "challenge for our countries is to create an enduring peace between Greece and Turkey and to help achieve a united Cyprus", adding that "we Americans want to see a peaceful, stable eastern Mediterranean where the potential for conflict is eliminated and the people of the region can live in permanent peace."

He went on to say that "clearly, Cyprus and Greek-Turkish differences are among the most difficult and complex diplomatic problems anywhere in the world", while offering assurances that US President Bill Clinton, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and special presidential mediator Richard Holbrooke "will do what they can to help."

"We do understand the history and emotion that lie behind these issues. And we stand prepared to offer our good offices should the countries involved so desire," he said.

"But neither we (the US) nor any other country wants, can or should impose solutions. In the final analysis, the peoples of this region must themselves settle their differences, and they must do so peacefully," he said, adding that "peace will not be possible, however, without a decision by all sides to take ambitious steps, even risks, to resolve the current impasse."

Mr. Burns praised business associations between the two countries (Greece and Turkey) which he said showed courage in developing bilateral relations "providing that inspiration" for governments to follow "the long walk toward peace."

Mr. Burns said five challenges must be met "if Greece and the US are to achieve an effective and modern agenda needed to solidify and enhance our relationship."

"Unfortunately, we permitted our relationship to deteriorate for too long", he said and proposed for their improvement that the two governments "should commit to a much more active exchange of visits and meetings between our cabinet- level officials" - since 1993 only two US cabinet secretaries have visited Athens.

"Greeks and Americans need to clear the air of the suspicion and distrust that have sometimes crept into our relationship. I believe our two governments have effectively resolved that problem during the past few years but it is still prevalent among a few in the Greek press where conspiracy theories and sometimes even outright distortion can be found," he said.

Mr. Burns said "the second challenge to Greece and the US is to recognise that the business of this Chamber of Commerce - trade, investment and economic cooperation - will be in the future the vital core of our relations."

He said that "it is disappointing that our two-way direct trade amounts to only US$1.5 billion annually, which places Greece at the bottom of America's trade with members of the European Union."

"I believe we should challenge ourselves to double US-Greece trade during the next five years and to attract substantially greater American investment to Greece," he added.

"The third challenge for our countries is to create an enduring peace between Greece and Turkey and to help achieve a united Cyprus," he said.

"The fourth challenge is to reaffirm and reconstruct our commitment to each other's security," he added and announced the arrival in Greece next week of Gen. Dennis Reimer, the US Army Chief of Staff and a member of the joint chiefs of staff to further this cooperation.

Mr. Burns further said that Greece and the US must work together to combat terrorism and in this context said "that is why it is so encouraging to note the arrest yesterday by Greek authorities of suspected terrorists."

"The fifth and final challenge for Greece and the United States - the most fundamental and important of all - is to transform our entire relationship from the old to the new, from an antique agenda to a modern and mature one based on mutual respect and enlightened self-interest," he said.

"No matter how deep Cyprus and Greek-Turkish differences have become, our efforts to resolve them should not deflect us from also broadening our agenda to include enhanced cooperation in the Balkans and the Black Sea littoral and the Middle East, where Greece enjoys many natural advantages. They should not prevent us from finding a way to combine American and Greek expertise in Bosnia to help others make peace. Most important, they should not prevent us from overcoming the stereotypes we have about each other to find a new, higher plane to work together in the future," he added.

Greece,India agree to support each other's UN bids

Greece and India yesterday expressed mutual support for each other's bids for membership on the UN Security Council.

Speaking to Greek and Indian reporters after completing his official contacts in the Indian capital yesterday, President Kostis Stephanopoulos said Athens supported New Delhi's bid to become a permanent member of the Security Council, and announced that the Indian leadership had assured him of support for Athens' pursuit for a non-permanent member seat on the Security Council.

Setting out Greek views on international affairs during an address at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute earlier, Mr. Stephanopoulos criticised the inability of the UN to impose its principles, but also the powerful of the earth, "whose interests prevail over the pursuits of international law ".

He cited the continuing Turkish occupation of Cyprus as a glaring example of such inability.

He also noted that the EU has, in certain cases, such as that of the former Yugoslavia, adopted hasty and mistaken decisions which are largely due to different interests between member-states, hampering the formulation of common goals and policies.

Mr. Stephanopoulos stressed that NATO expansion eastwards must not give the impression of a parallel shifting of the boundaries of US influence, or cause concern and suspicion on the part of Russia, whose objections must be given due consideration.

Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Stephanopoulos stressed that Greece is under threat of war by Turkey if it exercises its right under the Law of the Sea to extend its territorial waters from six to 12 nautical miles.

He rejected a Turkish proposal for direct, unconditional dialogue with Athens, saying that such an option "has no chance of success" as the neighbouring country "proposes dialogue on differences it manufactures itself".

The Greek president said he hoped that reason and prudence would prevail in Turkey, and that differences would be referred to the International Court at The Hague.

"Besides, I stressed to my Indian interlocutors (in relation to India's external problems, namely, the Kashmir issue) that efforts for the creation of faits accomplis, the threat or use of military force and terrorist acts are to be fully condemned."

After visiting the National Museum of India, the Greek president met at the Taj Mahal Hotel with Indian business leaders, to whom he set out the potential for expanding the two countries' economic relations, stressing Greece's course of convergence with other European economies.

He also noted the role Greece is playing in the deregulated markets of the countries of the Balkans and eastern Europe, as well as the opportunities arising in the framework of the organisation of the Olympic Games of 2004 in Athens.

He also announced that a Greek-Indian agreement for the mutual promotion and protection of investments was in the stage of preparation.

Athens reacts to latest Turkish provocations over Aegean

Turkey seems to forget that it has itself been observing and respecting the present legal status quo in the Aegean for decades, which also includes airspace of 10 nautical miles, foreign ministry spokesman Costas Bikas said yesterday, while commenting on relevant statements by the spokesman of Turkey's foreign ministry.

Netjati Utkan said in his statement that "Greece wants to realise its expansionist designs in the Aegean and distort international treaties determining the status quo in the Aegean".

During his regular weekly briefing, the Turkish official also referred to statements by the National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos with regard to Greece's national airspace and rocky islets in the Aegean, casting doubt on the sovereignty of several Greek islands.

"There are no islands, islets and rocky islets that belong to Greece other than those which were given to that country by the Lausanne and Paris treaties", he said.

Mr. Bikas responded that the Turkish foreign ministry needed to study the Lausanne Treaty more carefully.

More Turkish violations of Greek airspace

The Turkish air force infringed on Athens FIR regulations yesterday on two instances. Greek radar picked up two Turkish aircraft south of Rhodes and one southeast of Limnos.

Defence ministry sources said a total of 12 Turkish aircraft entered Athens FIR without submitting flight plans and were intercepted by Greek air force planes.

Later yesterday it was announced that Hellenic Air Force fighters had taken off to intercept a second group of 20 Turkish warplanes that infringed the Athens' FIR and violated Greek airspace between Hios and Lesvos and Lesvos and Limnos. Between 11 :30 a.m. and 2 p.m., six Turkish F-16s, six F-4s and two RF-4s (aerial photography) entered the Athens FIR without warning and carried out 16 violations of Greece's national airspace between Limnos and Hios and between Rhodes and Kos. All were intercepted by 10 Greek Mirage 2000s and F-16s,while in two cases the interceptions developed into engagements.

Protest to Istanbul Prefecture over Greek sexton's murder

Greece yesterday lodged a written protest with the Istanbul prefectural authorities over recent attacks against Greek institutions and Orthodox churches as well as Turkish officials' refusal to see the Greek consul general, foreign ministry sources said.

The demarche was sent by the Greek Consul General to the Istanbul Prefecture after Consul General Fotis Xidas was "unable to come into contact with the Prefect of Istanbul" last night, the sources said. In the demarche the Greek authorities stressed their "concern over the repeated incidents against foundations of the Greeks of Turkey and the refusal of the Turkish authorities to receive the Consul General or the Consul of Greece".

In the latest incident, an ethnic Greek sexton at the Aghios Therapon Church in Istanbul was found dead on Tuesday in a church well after an unexplained fire at the church. He was found with a cracked skull after the fire was extinguished.

Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday expressed the government's condemnation over the fire as well as other such incidents in Turkey against Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate staff and property, whose causes have continuously remained une xplained. He also accused Turkish authorities of inefficiency.

The Orthodox churches in Istanbul, and particularly churches in areas without a large Greek community, have been the target of systematic attacks by a gang that steals icons and other ecclesiastical objects, the sources said.

Questioned later on the issue, Mr. Reppas declined to attribute responsibility to the Turkish political leadership, saying it would be premature to say that it was even indirectly involved.

Nevertheless, he observed that the climate of fanaticism being cultivated by the behaviour of Turkey's political leaders perhaps facilitated circles that were trying to create tension in relations between the two countries.

Mr. Reppas noted, however, that a strong demarche had been lodged with Turkey's ambassador in Athens, who was summoned to the foreign ministry yesterday.

Premier optimistic over Greek economy's future

Prime Minister Costas Simitis appeared optimistic over the future of the Greek economy during the cutting of the traditional New Year's pie "pitta" at the Foreign Press Correspondents' headquarters late yesterday afternoon.

"We can look forward to the future with confidence. We will achieve our targets and Greece will play the role which we have planned and will join the European Union on an equal footing," he said.

"Upheavals in the international economy, the problems which we all face in our day-to-day life and tension in Greek-Turkish relations must not create the impression for us that we are not moving ahead. We are proceeding steadfastly on the course we have set out despite whatever difficulties we encounter," he added.

Referring to the economy in particular, Mr. Simitis said "the performances of our economy are better from year to year. Our competitiveness and productivity are improving and at the same time a programme of projects is underway in the country which it h as never before witnessed and will have many positive repercussions on employment."

Second annual solidarity meeting of Greek, Turkish journalists

The second annual solidarity meeting of Greek and Turkish journalistswill be held in Izmir, Turkey between Feb. 6-8 on the issue "The Media and Nationalism", according to an announcement yesterday by the group Journalists in the Aegean and Thrace for Peace.

The first meeting was held last year on the island of Hios, on the first anniversary of a crisis over the Imia islets which brought the two nations to the brink of armed conflict.

It was decided to repeat the conferences every year, either on a Greek island of the Aegean or a town on the Asia Minor coast in order to examine issues related to the role of the press, particularly the Turkish daily "Hurriyet", in fueling the Imia crisis.

Questions to be examined at this year's meeting include the press and minority groups in Greece and Turkey, anti-nationalist movements in both countries, Greek-Turkish tension and the role of "third parties", as well as the role of front-page headlines in creating tension between Turkey and Greece.

US Secretary of Commerce to visit Athens

US Secretary of Commerce Richard Daley is to visit Athens next Saturday for talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and ministers on the need to boost trade between the two countries, currently standing at US$1.5 billion.

Mr. Daley, the first secretary of the Clinton administration to visit Athens, said in a press conference here yesterday that he will also promote the participation of US firms in tenders announced by the Greek government for state procurements.

He also named the sectors of telecommunications and environmental protection as areas of investment potential.

Mr. Daley will leave for Turkey on Sunday.

AMTECH scheduled for end of the month

The Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce is again organising the annual "AMTECH" trade fair at a downtown Athens hotel from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1. Some of the largest telecoms and computer firms are scheduled to take part at the exhibition.

Bank of Greece reports capital inflows after intervention

The Bank of Greece, the country's central bank, intervened once again in the domestic interbank market yesterday by draining liquidity at rates around 20 percent resulting in further capital inflows totalling 260 million Ecus.

The central bank offered 14-day repos at 20 percent draining more than 300 billion drachmas off the interbank market.

Despite the intervention the money market remained nervous.

Overnight interest rates fell as low as 11 percent during the day to finally settle at higher levels.

The drachma was firmer against the Ecu and the DMark but fell by 0.27 percent against the US dollar.

Drachma not overvalued, report says

The Greek drachma is not overvalued and any expectation of a devaluation of the currency is not justified, a National Bank of Greece report released yesterday said.

The report, conducted by university economics professors Gikas Chardouvelis and Dimitris Mallariaropoulos, argues that the valuation of the drachma is nearing levels of long-term balance with 21 foreign currencies which are Greece's main trade partners.

The survey also sees a significant gap among the current and expected rate of inflation in the country.

Despite the fact that inflation has fallen steadily in recent years, current inflation rates have proven higher than expected, it says. This development is strengthening anti-inflationary prospects in Greece.

Commercial Bank of Greece on the Internet

The Commercial Bank of Greece,a state-controlled bank and one of the biggest in the country, has opened its own website on the Internet to inform clients and consumers on the bank's services and banking products. The bank's address is www.combank.gr.

WEATHER

Partly cloudy weather is forecast throughout Greece today with showers in the west of the country. Local fog in the morning. Winds will be southerly, light to moderate. Temperatures in Athens will range between 6-17C, while in Thessaloniki from 2-11C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 285.537 Pound sterling 464.871 Cyprus pd 533.299 French franc 46.713 Swiss franc 192.384 German mark 156.409 Italian lira (100) 15.896 Yen (100) 218.151 Canadian dlr. 199.769 Australian dlr. 185.901 Irish Punt 392.653 Belgian franc 7.581 Finnish mark 51.657 Dutch guilder 138.825 Danish kr. 41.073 Swedish kr. 35.563 Norwegian kr. 37.857 Austrian sch. 22.235 Spanish peseta 1.846 Port. Escudo 1.529

(L.G.)


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