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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-07-27

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 27/07/1999 (ANA)


  • Framework for dialogue the first task of Greek-Turkish talks
  • Freighter sinks after collision, one crewman dead
  • Ergobank's management recommends Latsis bid
  • Bank of Piraeus gets OK for share cap rise
  • Olympic Airways forges alliance with U.S. Air
  • Stocks end flat in volatile trade
  • Russia's Matvienko on Balkan reconstruction, Cyrpus issue
  • Gov't approves acquisition of seven new naval vessels
  • Kranidiotis-Miller meeting
  • Avramopoulos in Israel
  • `We're not Turks', Pomack Research Centre declares in Thrace
  • Congress tells Ankara to accept existing Aegean sea boundaries
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


Framework for dialogue the first task of Greek-Turkish talks

Dialogue got underway in Ankara yesterday between senior foreign ministry officials from Greece and Turkey in a bid to smooth over the two neighbouring countries' difficulties.

The dialogue, which was agreed to late last month between Greek and Turkish foreign ministers is being held at the Turkish foreign ministry and will focus on bilateral cooperation in the fields of commerce, environmental protection and tourism.

Yesterday morning's discussion, which was held in a friendly and positive atmosphere, according to diplomatic sources, focused on organising the dialogue on matters concerning trade cooperation between the two countries, while similar consultations took place in the afternoon on cooperation in the sectors of tourism and protection of the environment.

Ambassadors Anastasios Skopelitis and Constantinos Gerokostopoulos head the Greek delegation, while the Turkish delegation at the talks is headed by Ambassador Mihat Balkan.

Also taking part in the Greek delegation are ambassadors Alexandros Miliaresis and Constantinos Fotilas; Vassilios Patronas from the ministry's legal service and Constantine Dallas.

The Turkish delegation also comprises ambassadors Haiti Giuven, Yigit Albogan and Osman Durak.

Greece's ambassador in Ankara Ioannis Korantis and Turkey's ambassador to Athens Ali Tuigan are also attending the discussions.

The two delegations are due to meet today with Turkish FM Ismail Cem.

On Thursday and Friday the dialogue switches to Athens, where the Greek delegation will be headed by the same foreign ministry officials. The Turkish delegation in the Athens leg of the talks will be headed by ambassador Farouk Logoglu.

The Athens consultations will focus on cooperation between the two countries on combatting organised crime, illegal immigration, drugs and criminal activities that could be described as "terrorism", and cooperation in the cultural sector.

In Athens, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas later told reporters that the procedures that got under way yesterday were "difficult and stubborn".

"What is needed is persistence and patience. We must be flexible and calm. If these talks are successful, then it will be to the advantage of both sides," he said.

He added that the need for communication between the two countries was imperative and that the talks provided a chance to examine Turkish intentions.

"This time, it is we who have chosen to move and not third parties. Any negative development that may arise will be borne by Turkey," he said.

He reiterated the government's intention not to discuss issues which touch on the country's sovereign rights.

Foreign Minister George Papandreou in Corfu said that the initial indications in the course of Greek-Turkish dialogue are positive.

Mr. Papandreou said it is still the beginning and that there are still a few days of discussions to enable one to have an initial opinion on the process.

He recommended sobriety and patience and made the evaluation that the dialogue process will continue for quite a while, for months or even years.

Referring to reactions by opposition parties, Mr. Papandreou expressed surprise because, as he said, he is in contact with opposition parties.

Freighter sinks after collision, one crewman dead

One crew member was killed in a collision between two Greek freighters five files southwest of the Turkish island of Tenedos in the Aegean Sea, Greek merchant marine sources said today.

The two freighters -- 'PEL Ranger' and 'PEL Mariner', owned by Sarlis Maritime -- regularly ran the Piraeus-Black Sea route.

The sources said the 'PEL Mariner' sank after the collision late Monday night, and its second engineer, 51-year-old Anastasios Georgantzis, was found dead in a life raft three hours later by a nearby Greek passenger ferry, the 'Aghios Raphail'.

The PEL Mariner's oiler, Pakistani national Abdul Latif, was rescued by the Aghios Raphail from the same life raft.

The remaining 10 crew members of the sunken freighter -- five Greeks and five foreigners -- were all safe and accounted for and taken aboard the PEL Ranger.

The Aghios Raphail reached Myrina port on Limnos island this morning, while the PEL Ranger, with its 17 crew members and the 10 PEL Mariner crew members, was anchored off Tenedos due to heavy fog.

The ministry sources tentatively attributed the collision to poor visibility due to heavy fog.

Ergobank's management recommends Latsis bid

The management of Ergobank yesterday recommended to shareholders that they should accept an acquisition offer by Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings (CEH) over a bid by Bank of Piraeus.

"CEH's improved offer is, under current circumstances, more beneficial, and the board recommends it.

The final decision naturally belongs to shareholders," management said in a statement to shareholders, staff and customers.

Both bidders have until July 29 to submit fresh offers and until July 30 to withdraw existing offers. The outcome of the acquisition bid will emerge by August 4.

Ergobank said its decision was based on a detailed study of the two banks' latest offers, and on a subsequent joint commitment it signed with CEH, a member of the Latsis Group, to adhere to the following points:

- The arrangement is a merger with EFG Eurobank, whose parent is CEH, over 2.0-2.5 years, with procedural steps to be mutually agreed by both parties and the terms endorsed by both banks' shareholders.

- For reasons of transparency, two international consultants will be employed to advise on shares in the banks that are not part of the merger exchange, and their trade on the Athens Stock Exchange. CEH will keep its share base stable in both banks unti l the merger.

- The rights of Ergobank's staff will remain unchanged, including the free allocation to personnel of stock from company profits. Improvements to terms of employment are allowed, following the consent of Ergobank's management.

- Ergobank's branch network will be increased, and its business orientation and development plan retained. The name of the new bank after the merger will incorporate both names.

Bank of Piraeus gets OK for share cap rise

Shareholders of Bank of Piraeus yesterday approved a management proposal for a share capital rise of 765 billion drachmas to fund a takeover bid for Ergobank.

Voting in favour of the share capital increase, the country's largest so far, at the extraordinary assembly were 71.6 percent of shareholders.

The 76,500,000 new shares for issue would be offered to Ergobank's shareholders along with cash in return for shares in the target bank, if Piraeus' bid were successful.

The new stock's price is 10,000 drachmas per share.

Bank of Piraeus is seeking a 50.1 percent stake in Ergobank along with EFG Eurbank through CEH, its parent.

Also yesterday, the Athens Stock Exchange said that Piraeus had to restrict its offer to 50.1 percent, down from a maximum of 67 percent, on technical grounds.

Olympic Airways forges alliance with U.S. Air

Olympic Airways and U.S. Air have formed an alliance that will widen the sphere of operations of both companies.

U.S. Air said in a statement yesterday that the deal allows it to expand its operations into the Middle East, eastern Mediterranean and Far East by picking up Olympic's customers from the regions in European airports, and flying them to the US.

In turn, Olympic Airways will gain access to U.S. Air's markets in North America, Canada and the Caribbean.

The arrangement, which also contains cooperation on pricing policy, is awaiting approval from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Stocks end flat in volatile trade

Equities finished flat in volatile trade yesterday as the market tried to consolidate around 4,500 points.

The general index ended 0.03 percent lower at 4,507.76 points from 4,509.29 points a day earlier.

Turnover was 199.676 billion drachmas from 186.866 billion drachmas in the previous session. Changing hands were 32,360,102 shares.

Again attracting investors were small and medium capitalisation stocks, especially on the parallel market.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-0.69 pct), Leasing (+4.43 pct), Insurance (-1.01 pct), Investment (+0.04 pct), Construction (+2.28 pct), Industrials (+0.93 pct), Miscellaneous (+2.40 pct) and Holding (+0.90 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 5.69 percent higher. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips dropped 0.30 percent to finish at 2,621.56 points.

Of 308 shares traded, advances outpaced declines at 232 to 66 with 10 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,630 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 21, 500, Bank of Piraeus at 9,270, Ergobank at 40,190, Titan Cement (common) at 30,500, Hellenic Petroleum at 3,000 and Intracom (common) at 21,470 drachmas.

Russia's Matvienko on Balkan reconstruction, Cyrpus issue

National defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and Russian deputy premier Valentina Matvienko yesterday confirmed an identity of views over the programme for Balkans reconstruction and on the Cyprus issue during talks in Athens.

She spoke prior to the beginning of a second ministerial conference between Greek and Russian officials regarding economic, industrial and scientific issues.

"Greece and Russia support the immediate implementation of a comprehensive programme for the reconstruction of the entire region, and express the hope that final decisions regarding stabilisation will be adopted in Sarajevo at the weekend," Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said.

The Russian Deputy PM, who is heading a delegation including five deputy ministers, also met with Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

Commenting on the prospects for the resumption of dialogue over the Cyprus issue in the autumn, Ms Matvienko reiterated her country's belief that this should take place on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions, which both sides should implement. She also called on the Turkish side to show greater flexibility and understanding, and described the objections raised late last year to the deployment of Russian-made S-300 missiles on Cyprus - later moved to Crete - as a worrying sign.

Ms Matvienko later led her delegation in high-level talks with Greek counterparts, headed by National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou.

Deputy National Economy Minister Rodoula Zisi said existing agreements provided an important basis for economic cooperation, while there were extensive private investment activities in both directions and a system of Greek credit facilities to Russian regions already in place.

"There is interest and prospects for bilateral cooperation in the sectors of tourism, construction, banks, and especially, in telecommunications, after the Black Sea optical fibre deal signed recently," she said.

She further stressed the need for developing a comprehensive web of road, air, rail and shipping transport networks to facilitate trade and further potential for cooperation in agriculture.

Ms Zisi said Russia could offer extensive know-how in the tapping of energy resources, while Greek firms could submit their experience in renewable energy sources.

Gov't approves acquisition of seven new naval vessels

The Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) yesterday approved two new armaments programmes for the Hellenic Navy.

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said KYSEA had approved cooperation between the Kiel, Germany and Skaramangas shipyards on the construction of three submarines, at a cost of 350 billion drachmas.

Also approved was cooperation between the Elefsina and Ficantieri, Italy, shipyards for the construction of a naval oil tanker, budgeted at 39 billion drachmas.

Talks are also winding up over a programme to construct three missile patrol boats by the Elefsina Shipyards, budgeted at 120 billion drachmas.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos added that talks were also under way at reducing the price and upgrading the weapons systems available for four US Navy "KIDD- class" destroyers that Washington has reportedly offered to sell to Athens.

Kranidiotis-Miller meeting

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis yesterday met with outgoing US special envoy for the Cyprus problem Thomas Miller.

According to the foreign ministry, the two discussed the Cyprus issue, Greek-Turkish relations and conditions in the Balkans.

Mr. Miller is departing from his post, since he has deen appointed US ambassador to Bosnia.

Avramopoulos in Israel

Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos today begins a three-day visit to Israel at the invitation of Jerusalem Mayor Ehmoud Olmert.

During his stay Mr. Avramopoulos will also meet with the country's president, vice-president and foreign minister, while he is scheduled to visit Tel Aviv and the Palestinian self-rule territories.

`We're not Turks', Pomack Research Centre declares in Thrace

Widespread reactions continued in Thrace yesterday following last week's call by the region's three Moslem MPs and 13 non-govern-mental organisations over recognition of a so-called "Turkish" and "Macedonian" minorities in Greece.

In an announcement in Komotini, the Pomack Research Centre (PRC) sternly condemned the move.

"The Pomack Research Centre condemns with indignation the provocative demand by the deputies Galip Galip, Birol Akifoglu and Mustafa Mustafa that all the Moslems in Thrace be recognised as Turks," the announcement stated.

"The PRC, being an agency representing thousands of Moslem Pomacks in Thrace, declares to the Greek and international public opinion that we Pomacks are not and do not feel Turks. The Moslem communities in Thrace are living in a democratic country and are enjoying all the freedoms which are consolidated both by international accords and domestic law.

"However, it is necessary for the Hellenic state to disengage the Pomack issue from Greek-Turkish relations and recognise for the Pomack-speaking citizens in Thrace the same cultural and language rights which are enjoyed by the Turkish-speaking Moslems, " it added.

The announcement adds: "We condemn their (the Moslem deputies) provocative and hypocritical references to the Pomacks and we call on them to struggle for the Moslems' real problems and primarily for the minority's internal democratisation."

The statement also calls on the three MPs to stop their "destabi-lising tactic" and "struggle for the preservation of peace and democracy in this sensisitve region", adding that whatever form of aggravation would harm above all the interests of the Moslems themselves.

In a related development, several other Moslem officials, including three muftis, sent an open letter to the president of the republic and political leaders to mark the restoration of democracy in Greece 25 years ago.

Among others, the letter reads: "We would like to take this opportunity to underline that the minority in Greece enjoys all the rights and freedoms envisaged in the spirit and letter of international conventions that Greece has signed. The country has respected its signature, showing sensitivity and worthiness."

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos also rejected the claims over the weekend, telling reporters that "such minorities do not exist, however much anyone wants to create them."

"Under the (1923) Treaty of Lausanne, there is only a Moslem minority in our country, which lives under the best conditions," he added.

Finally, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos pointed out that an ethnic Greek minority in Istanbul, Turkey, has practically disappeared from the more than 250,000 members it had before World War II.

Congress tells Ankara to accept existing Aegean sea boundaries

The US House of Representatives yesterday unanimously passed an amendment calling on Turkey to accept existing sea boundaries in the Aegean.

Specifically, amendment 19 to H.R. 2415 expresses the "Sense of Congress...that the sea boundaries established in the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and the 1932 Convention between Italy and Turkey, including the Protocol annexed to such Convention, are the borders between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean..."

A further point adds: "...any party, including Turkey, objecting to these established boundaries should seek redress in the International Court of Justice at The Hague."

The purpose of the amendment is to express the US House of Representatives' view that the boundaries between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean have been established once and for all, and that islands and islets on the Greek side, including the islets of Imia, are Greek sovereign territory.


Scattered cloud is forecast in many parts of the country on Monday with unsettled weather in western central and northern Greece, turning to showers or storms towards evening. Winds will be westerly, moderate to strong. Sunny weather in Athens, with scattered clound later in the day. Temperatures between 23C and 35C. Changeable weather in Thessaloniki, including rain or storms in the evening. Temperatures ranging from 21C to 31C.


Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          301.965
Pound sterling       479.533
Japanese yen (100)   260.866
French franc          49.169
German mark          164.906
Italian lira (100)    16.658
Irish Punt           409.527
Belgian franc          7.995
Finnish mark          54.246
Dutch guilder        146.358
Danish kr.            43.331
Austrian sch.         23.439
Spanish peseta         1.938
Swedish kr.           36.639
Norwegian kr.         38.761
Swiss franc          200.835
Port. Escudo           1.609
Can. dollar          199.531
Aus. dollar          195.870
Cyprus pound         558.893
Euro                 322.529
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