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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-05-13
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM Karamanlis, opposition party leaders address parliamentary debate on foreign policyPrime minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday outlined the targets and achievements of his New Democracy government's foreign policy in its 14 months in power, during an off-the-agenda debate on foreign policy in parliament.
Opening the debate, Karamanlis emphasised that Greece remained in the inner core of the European Union and that the country was upgrading its relations with the United States, pointing to his imminent second visit to the US and adding that "we are working for the common interest, with mutual respect".
The premier focused on his government's policy regarding Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, strengthening relations with Russia and the Black Sea countries, SE Europe and particularly relations with FYROM, Greek-Turkish relations, and the Cyprus issue.
On Euro-Med cooperation, the target was to advance the idea of establishing a free trade zone by 2010, and seeking a settlement of the Middle East issue, he said.
Regarding the strengthening of relations with Russia and the Black Sea countries, Karamanlis said that the results of this policy had already started to manifest themselves, with the signing of the political agreement by Greece, Russia and Bulgaria on April 12 for the Burgas-Alexandroupolis cross-border oil pipeline.
The premier also said that Greece had exercised the most dynamic presidency of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation, as was acknowledged by the BSEC member countries, during which it organised business forums, an inter-parliamentary conference, and six ministerial meetings.
On SE Europe, Karamanlis said that a new momentum was given to the Balkan Reconstruction Plan. He said that the first projects in Albania and the first major project in Bosnia had commenced, while Greek exports to the Balkans increased by 18 percent in 2004, and added that Greece was already the number one investor in Bulgaria, FYROM and Albania.
He said the creation of an "energy community" in SE Europe was being aspired to and, "after intensive efforts, we hope the agreement will be signed in Athens in the coming months".
At the same time, the project for the transfer of gas to Greece via Turkey was also being advanced, the premier said, adding his hope that he and his Turkish counterpart will inaugurate the construction of the project in Evros sometime in June.
Further, materialisation of a project for building a natural gas pipeline from Greece to Italy was also being advanced, Karamanlis said, stressing that the various projects would render Greece and important energy hub, thus creating new developmental prospects.
Particularly in regard to Greece's relations with FYROM, Karamanlis noted that Greece had from the outset made it clear that the proposal put forward by UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz's did not fully satisfy the Greek positions, but that the country was willing to take part in a final round of dialogue. He said that the result of Greece's stance was that "for the first time after many years, the attention of the international community is turned towards FYROM".
In his rejoinder, meanwhile, he denied that the government had kept the opposition parties "in the dark" over developments, stressing that the briefing of opposition parties had never been more frequent or complete.
Regarding Greek-Turkish relations, the premier said that a condition for their improvement was resolution of the Cyprus issue. He said Greece supported Turkey's EU prospect, but added that this depended on Ankara's attitude and the materialisation of the EU summit decisions of December 2004, which contained, inter alia, "an explicit reference to solving the problems of the Greek minority on Imvros and Tenedos, for the first time, a reference to the need for Turkey to normalise its relations with all the EU member states, and to help in resolving the Cyprus issue in harmony not only with the framework of the UN, but also with the principles of the EU".
On the Cyprus issue, he said that Greece was encouraging the resumption of negotiations between the two communities on the island republic, under the UN aegis, without arbitration, and without asphyxiating timetables that could lead to new impasses. He said the government considered a careful prepartion of both the process and the substance of the negotiations a necessity, so as to ensure the best prospects for the achievement of agreement between the two sides which, in turn, would be put to separate referenda in the two communities.
Summing up, Karamanlis referred to the 4th Community Support Framework and said this would require tough negotiations, followed by the major challenge of making optimal use of this "last great opportunity".
In response to issues raised by the smaller opposition parties, meanwhile, the premier stressed that every government should have channels of communications open with other governments, but especially the United States.
"One may agree or disagree with aspects of U.S. policy or its social model but one is obliged to recognise that the U.S. have a special role in international affairs," he said.
He said his talks in Washington would cover the Cyprus issue, Balkan affairs and bilateral issues, particularly economic matters and the country's efforts to attract new investment.
On relations with Turkey, the premier urged all sides to look at Greece's "overall strategy", which was to support Turkey's European prospects and thus "Europeanise" it. He said the ongoing exploratory talks between Athens and Ankara were correct in principle but were currently stalled since both sides insisted on fixed positions.
Speaking, in turn, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou expressed concern that "soon we will be speaking about an increase in tension" between Greece and Turkey "which we could have avoided".
Papandreou criticised the ND government on all issues, and warned that if the government continued to cultivate fear and insecurity, believing that the people would follow blindly and in fear, it would have to give account to himself and the entire Greek people.
In his rejoinder, replying to both Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, Papandreou claimed that the government, by removing the element of time pressure on Turkey, had essentially given extreme elements within that country the go-ahead to carry out violations in and above the Aegean in order to establish rights that Turkey did not now possess.
He also insisted that judicial use of the December 17 deadline at Helsinki would have allowed Greece to resolve issues with Turkey concerning the Aegean continental shelf, which had now been indefinitely postponed.
In an address replying chiefly to PASOK's leader, Molyviatis rejected arguments that Turkish provocativeness was due to the government's bad handling, stressing that Turkey's aggressive stance was and remained the same as in the past.
He said that Greece supported Turkey's European prospects, provided it complied with international rules and obligations as outlined in the documents of EU association.
According to the minister, meanwhile, the government's handling had significantly improved on the Helsinki Treaty, after five years of inaction by PASOK governments.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga once more reiterated her party's blanket opposition to the foreign policy line of the two main parties, saying that this was fully aligned with the wishes of the United States, the EU and NATO.
She said that the premier's trip to Washington would result in new concessions to America and called on the government to resist independence for Kosovo and to support the 1999 United Nations resolution that borders in the region should not be changed.
On relations with Turkey, she stressed that "good neighbourliness could not be secured by conceding sovereign rights".
Coalition of the Radical Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos accused the government of carrying out "secret diplomacy" on Greek-Turkish issues and of failing to inform the political parties of the latest developments in major foreign policy issues.
He also noted that neither of the two main parties had expressed any position on world affairs, such as the situation in Iraq or Britain's attempts to raise the issue of Iranian nuclear installations at the United Nations, even though Greece was a member of the UN Security Council.
 Greek GDP up 3.6 percent in 1st quarter, yr/yrThe Greek economy grew by 3.6 percent in the first quarter of 2005, compared with the same period last year, while investments fell by 1.0 percent over the same period, the National Statistics Service said on Friday.
NSS, in its regular report, said Gross Domestic Product rose 3.6 percent in the January-March period and noted that GDP was up 4.3 percent in the first quarter of 2004.
Investments fell by 1.0 percent over the same period slowing demand in the economy by 0.2 percent in the country.
Exports rose by 6.9 percent in the January-March period, compared with the same period last year, adding 1.1 percent to final demand, while imports rose by 1.6 percent over the same period.
Spending on final consumption increased by 3.8 percent in the first three months of the year, adding 2.4 percent to final demand in the economy.
 Greece honoured country in Moscow tourism fairGreek Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos made an official visit to Moscow to inaugurate MITF, the international tourism fair, in the Russian capital.
Greece is the honoured country in this year's fair. During his stay in Moscow, Avramopoulos met with the Mayor of the Russian capital, Yury Luzkov, government vice-president Alexander Zukov, other government officials, tour operators and businessmen from the Russian tourism industry.
Greece and Russia agreed to promote procedures to sign a bilateral tourism agreement. The Greek minister has proposed a special agreement on visa issuance and expects the views of the Russian side.
Moscow's mayor, Yury Luzkov, speaking to reporters, congratulated Avramopoulos for Greece's dynamic presence in MITF. "We honour Greece, a friendly, neighbouring country, very familiar to us Russians. Greece has several places of interest to Russian tourists".
Luzkov expressed the hope to overcome existing visa problems with the aim to forger closer relations between the two countries and added: "We want more Greek tourists to Moscow. When we speak of Greece, we speak of common religion, common traditions, culture and origin."
The Greek minister, speaking to reporters, reiterated that Greece participated in all big events organised in Russia. "We are in close contact with tourism policy makers. We are very interested for this part of global tourism market and our talks here confirmed our interest".
"Greece is opening up to the world. I am very optimistic for the future," Avramopoulos said.
 Tatoulis meets British activist Stockdale who supports the return of the Parthenon MarblesDeputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis on Friday met with British medical doctor and activisit Chris Stockdale who is among supporters for the return to the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
The British philhellene visited Athens with the sole purpose of stating anew the need for the Parthenon Marbles to be reunited.
On his initiative and expenses, he cycled for about 20 days from London to Athens and finally arrived on Monday after having passed through many European countries.
The deputy culture minister congratulated Stockdale and in a relevant statetement stressed that such initiatives and people "who actively show their interest for the restoration of a monument of world heritage, such as is the Parthenon, are needed."
After their meeting, the British doctor, who on Friday morning toured the Acropolis and was briefed on the maintenance work, stated:The purpose of my visit was really symbolic. I passionately believe that the Parthenon Marbles must be returned. Four years ago I swam from Dilos to Paros to make the world aware, to think of the situation. Later on, the idea came to me to cycle from London, and in fact from outside the British Museum, to Athens, for a symbolic journey. The importance is that a Briton is very much interested in making this effort due to his love of the Pathenon Marbles and partuicularly of the Greek people."
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