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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-04-12

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] EU's Solana urges FYROM to accept UN proposal for resolving name issue, sources claim
  • [02] Swedish man acquitted of attempted murder charges in high-profile trial
  • [03] Greek FinMin expresses satisfaction over ECOFIN decision
  • [04] FYROM rejects Nimetz proposal; says it was not an official proposal for negotiations
  • [05] Greece, Russia, Bulgaria sign political pact for new oil pipeline
  • [06] Greek and Turkish foreign ministers meet in Ankara
  • [07] Breakthrough not imminent in Greece-FYROM talks on name issue but negotiations will continue, UN special envoy says

  • [01] EU's Solana urges FYROM to accept UN proposal for resolving name issue, sources claim

    SKOPJE (ANA - N. Fragopoulou) The European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) chief Javier Solana on Tuesday expressed hope that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will accept a United Nations proposal for resolving the outstanding dispute with Greece over the republic's use of the name 'Macedonia', sources said.

    Solana made the statements during an interview with a private Skopje-based TV channel that will be broadcast on Tuesday night, they claimed.

    "This matter must be resolved. The United Nations body responsible for this issue put together a proposal a few days ago, which has been sent to the two sides. As far as FYROM is concerned (I speak of this country and not of Greece), I hope it accepts the position of the UN Secretary-General," Solana is reported as saying.

    He was referring to a proposal sent by UN Special Mediator Matthew Nimetz to both sides last week, suggesting the name "Republika Makedonija-Skopje" for the small Balkan state, which shares a border with the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

    In Athens, meanwhile, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters on Tuesday that Skopje appeared not to accept the Nimetz proposal as the basis for negotiations, as Athens has said it will do.

    The spokesman said the Greek government will not at this time add anything further to the positions already expressed, since the other side had not yet adopted a public binding decision on the proposal and there had been no official reply from the United Nations.

    Asked whether Greece might use its veto to block FYROM's entry into the EU and NATO if it rejected the deal, Antonaros simply noted that finding a mutually acceptable solution will improve relations between the two sides, increase stablity in the region and have a favourable impact on the country's attempts to join international organisations like the EU and NATO.

    He also noted that Skopje's refusal would allow third countries to see which side was ready to negotiate.

    Greece objects to the use of the name 'Macedonia' by its northern neighbour on the grounds that it might encourage expansionist policies against Greece. Greeks are also incensed by the attempts of FYROM Slavs to "usurp" the famous Greek general Alexander the Great, whose ancient kingdom lay roughly within the borders of the present-day Greek province of Macedonia, from whom they claim descent.

    Greek gov't on leaked portions of Nimetz proposal

    Commenting on a section of the Nimetz letter that was leaked to the press, specifically to the Sunday issue of "To Vima", that suggested a blanket ban on international use of the name 'Macedonia' or 'Makedonija' by both sides, Antonaros said that this one of the points that Nimetz had felt should be included in his proposal.

    He also stressed, however, that the particular point was "ambiguous and open to different interpretations" and that the Nimetz proposal had not been presented on a "take it or leave it" basis but as a basis for talks.

    During negotiations there would be points that were not accepted by one or the other side, while the talks had not yet advanced to the point of initially or signing any agreement, he pointed out.

    He said the Greek side had shown that it was ready to proceed with negotiations and had asked the UN to accelerate the process.

    In response to other questions, Antonaros stressed that Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis had briefed President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, the prime minister and the government on the Nimetz proposal as he ought.

    [02] Swedish man acquitted of attempted murder charges in high-profile trial

    A 22-year-old Swedish man on Tuesday was unanimously acquitted by a first instance court on the island of Rhodes of attempted murder charges stemming from a July 2001 stabbing incident on the holiday island of Kos that left a local man severely injured.

    Calle Jonsson, 18 at the time of the incident, strenuously maintained throughout the weeklong trial that he had no involvement whatsoever in the incident, while he also criticised the manner in which the case against him was compiled. Several witnesses, including the victim, the defendant's parents and the police officers that first handled the case testified.

    Jonsson's trial attracted widespread media attention in Sweden.

    His initial arrest on an Interpol warrant came after blood on the victim's shirt was traced to him.

    The jury of court justices and jurors ignored a recommendation by the bench prosecutor that Jonsson be found guilty with mitigating circumstances.

    [03] Greek FinMin expresses satisfaction over ECOFIN decision

    Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday expressed his satisfaction over an ECOFIN decision to approve the country's updated Stability and Growth Programme.

    Speaking to reporters in Luxembourg, Alogoskoufis said the Greek government full agreed with conclusions of both the European Commission and the Council and stressed the government was fully conforming with Council recommendations and that no further steps in a procedure over the country's excessive fiscal deficit were needed.

    The Greek minister noted that fiscal adjustment was significant and was the result of three factors: savings of up to 1.0 percent GDP from excluding Olympic Games' spending from the budget, a significant slowdown in the public sector's primary spending -excluding investments- leading to additional savings of up to 0.5 percent of GDP and additional measures aimed to boost revenues leading to savings of up to 1.0 percent of GDP this year.

    Alogoskoufis reiterated the Greek government's pledge to continue efforts aimed to reduce fiscal deficit in 2006 and stressed Greek authorities were in full cooperation with Eurostat to address any outstanding problems.

    Commenting on further steps towards reducing fiscal deficits, Alogoskoufis said efforts would focus on implementing structural measures in primary spending and strengthening mechanisms to combat tax evasion and smuggling. The Greek minister said ECOFIN's decision completed a round of talk over the Greek economy and noted that the next station in evaluation the country's fiscal condition was in autumn with the presentation of a draft budget plan for 2006. He expressed the hope that the draft budget plan would be positively evaluated by the Council.

    Alogoskoufis repeated Greek positions over negotiations to draft an EU budget for 2007-2013 and said the discussion reaffirmed the EU member-states' common goal to complete negotiations by June. He acknowledged, however, it was a tough negotiation as member states diverged significantly in their positions.

    The Greek minister said resolving the pension issue in the country was a very delicate issue that needed the biggest possible consensus and the cooperation of main opposition parties in parliament.

    [04] FYROM rejects Nimetz proposal; says it was not an official proposal for negotiations

    SKOPJE (ANA - N. Fragopoulos) The government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Tuesday said it rejected a proposal put forward by United Nations Special Mediator Matthew Nimetz for resolving an outstanding dispute with Greece over its use of the name 'Macedonia'.

    "The composite name 'Republika Makedonije-Skopje' is not acceptable for us," FYROM Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva said, while claiming that this had not been submitted by the UN as an official proposal for negotiations.

    According to Mitreva, Nimetz had proposed the name as "one of the ideas that had been suggested before along with others," to Skopje's representative Nikola Dimitrov during a meeting early on Tuesday morning. This had been presented to Greek public opinion as an official proposal put on the negotiating table but this was not the case, she claimed.

    "No official proposal was put on the negotiating table by Mr. Nimetz," Mitreva stressed, saying that the meeting had examined some ideas in the framework of an open discussion, during which the mediator had sought to hear the comments of both sides, whether positive or negative.

    The FYROM minister also sought to play down the significance of the Nimetz proposal, noting that such exchanges of views and ideas were part of the process taking place under UN auspices for the past 12 years.

    "There is no need to create an atmosphere of some sort of ultimatum or emergency situation," she added.

    During the meeting with Nimetz, Skopje had reiterated its position for use of the constitutional name 'Republic of Macedonia' at the UN and in all international communication, Mitreva said.

    The solution proposed by Nimetz could serve as the basis for carrying out constructive talks for finding a solution for bilateral communication between Macedonia and Greece, she added.

    News of the Nimetz proposal was made public in Greece the previous week and had been received by the Greek government as an acceptable "basis for negotiations", though requiring amendments and clarifications.

    Greece objects to the use of the name 'Macedonia' by its northern neighbour on the grounds that it might encourage expansionist policies against Greece. Greeks are also incensed by the attempts of FYROM Slavs to "usurp" the famous Macedonian general Alexander the Great, whose ancient kingdom lay roughly within the borders of the present-day Greek province of Macedonia, from whom they claim descent.

    [05] Greece, Russia, Bulgaria sign political pact for new oil pipeline

    SOFIA (ANA/B Borisov) - Greece, Russia and Bulgaria signed a political agreement in the Bulgarian capital on Tuesday for construction of a cross-border oil pipeline, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Tuesday.

    "This is a historic moment for ties between Russia, Bulgaria and Greece. " Sioufas told a news conference in Sofia.

    The 285-kilometre pipeline to carry Russian oil from Burgas in Bulgaria to Alexandroupoli in northern Greece has an estimated investment cost of 750-800 million US dollars with an annual capacity of 35 million tonnes of oil. It will supplement a sea route through the Bosphorus for transportation of the product in the region.

    "The Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline will forge a new outlet for Russian oil and for oil from the Caspian Sea to Europe and America," said Sioufas after signing the pact with his Bulgarian and Russian counterparts at a ceremony attended by the neighbouring country's premier.

    Greek firms so far due to take part in the project are Athens-quoted Hellenic Petroleum, the Latsis oil, shipping and banking group; and the Kopelouzos energy group. Major Russian firms have shown interest in the project, including Lukoil.

    Sioufas recently praised work by ministers of the three countries for their work in ending the deadlock; and efforts made by Greece's previous government.

    The minister also noted that the three countries' prime ministers had urged speed in moving the project forward; and that the Greek development and foreign ministries would set up a working group to handle coordination.

    Other regional energy projects on the drawing board are a link between Greek, Turkish and Italian natural gas networks; a natural gas pipeline for the western Balkans; and a combined energy market for southeastern Europe and the Black Sea.

    Earlier in the day, the Bulgarian premier, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, received a personal message from his Greek counterpart via Sioufas praising his personal contribution to moving the project along.

    In Athens, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis welcomed signature of the pipeline pact.

    "This is a historic agreement that has ended a 13-year deadlock. The basis has been set for construction of a project of great significance for the economy and for the energy sector, not only for the countries involved, but for the entire region," Karamanlis said in a statement.

    "In addition, the project further strengthens the ties linking the peoples of the three countries, creating the conditions for further cooperation among them on a political, economic, commercial and cultural level," the premier added.

    The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) said the political agreement had acted to open the way for the project.

    "To follow are a commercial agreement between the three countries, forming a company for the pipeline, forging contracts for the quantity of oil, and the start of construction. This is a long and arduous road for the governments involved and for private initiative," a PASOK spokeswoman, Anna Diamantopoulou, said in a statement.

    [06] Greek and Turkish foreign ministers meet in Ankara

    ANKARA (ANA - M. Savva) Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis met his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul in Ankara, shortly after his arrival in Turkey for a working visit on Tuesday.

    After completing his one-on-one meeting with Gul, Molyviatis was received by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

    He then attended a meeting between delegations of the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries, which was followed by a joint press conference by the two ministers, and in the evening he attended a dinner given by Gul in honour of the Greek mission.

    On Wednesday, Molyviatis will meet the chairman of the Turkish Parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission Mehmet Dulger and the General Secretary of the National Security Board Yigit Alpogan.

    In the afternoon, the Greek minister will meet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Before his return to Athens that evening, the Greek minister will first make a stop in Istanbul where he is scheduled to visit Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

    The Greek and Turkish foreign ministry delegations holding talks here on Tuesday headed by Molyviatis and Gul respectively, agreed to the establishment of a direct telephone line for communication between the national air force operations centre in Larissa, Greece, and the air force control centre in Eski Sehir, Turkey.

    In a joint statement to the press, Molyviatis and Gul stressed the importance of the decision in the direction of avoiding undesirable events in the Aegean.

    Molyviatis said the agreement was reached in the framework of the common will of both sides for further improving the climate in bilateral relations, for the building of confidence and decreasing tensions.

    "We are convinced that this move will contribute constructively to the general effort to improve our relations," Molyviatis said.

    Gul said cooperation between the relevant authorities of the two countries to implement the decisions will follow.

    "The improvement in our relations must also be reflected in certain military activities in the Aegean, activities which are having a negative effect in the climate between our countries," Molyviatis added, while Gul confirmed that "these measures will also be supported by our military authorities."

    As regards the three new confidence-building measures agreed during Tuesday's meeting, apart from the 11 already in effect, the Turkish foreign minister announced that they concern cooperation between emergency units in the case of natural disasters on the part of the military and at the same time the holding of joint exercises on this issue, the participation of military staff in a specific number for training and for learning the language in the two countries' military academies, as well as the carrying out of sports competitions between the military academies of the two countries.

    On the question of Turkey's European prospects, Molyviatis said "our vision is to turn our neighbourhood into a region such as the rest of Europe is. Namely, a region of peace, democracy, prosperity and stability with absolute respect for human rights, religious freedom and the protection of minorities."

    The two ministers also exchanged views on the issue of Cyprus, while Molyviatis said that all sides converge on the aim of the island's reunification.

    Molyviatis invited his Turkish counterpart to visit Athens so that, as he said, they can take another step together for further improving relations between the two countries.

    [07] Breakthrough not imminent in Greece-FYROM talks on name issue but negotiations will continue, UN special envoy says

    NEW YORK (ANA/P.Panayiotou) - Greece and FYROM have "strongly encouraged" UN Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz "to intensify his efforts based on the positions they have recently given him," Nimetz wrote in a statement addressed to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday.

    "Therefore, he has urged both Athens and Skopje to work with him through their established process, with a minimum of public statements, to determine how their differences can be bridged. Discussions in future weeks will take place through discussions between Mr. Nimetz and each of the parties separately, as well as in more formal meetings involving both parties," according to the statement.

    Nimetz had proposed the composite name "Republika Makedonije-Skopje", as a way to resolve an outstanding dispute between Greece and FYROM over the latter's use of the name "Macedonia."

    Skopje, however, rejected the proposal, saying it was "not acceptable."

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