Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou led the chorus of criticism yesterday over the increasingly abrasive statements made by a Turkish minister visiting the northern region of Thrace.
Turkish Minister of State Yildirim Aktuna's behaviour is "un-acceptable" and a "misuse of the right we gave him to visit our country with a group of journalists," Mr. Papandreou said last night at a reception for the armed forces.
Mr. Aktuna, who is accompanied on his visit by one Turkish MP and 25 journalists, has made inflammatory statements since his arrival Monday, prompting government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos to reiterate comments he made Tuesday that Mr. Aktuna's general behaviour was "premeditated provocation".
Mr. Venizelos said although Mr. Aktuna's visit was not an official one, it produces political results. "Mr. Aktuna's words and deeds cast doubt on Turkish statements about an effort for an improvement in relations between Athens and Ankara," Mr . Venizelos said.
The spokesman said Mr. Aktuna's statements vindicated the Greek position that Turkey did not respect international conventions. In statements Tuesday, Mr. Aktuna said that he was in Greece to visit "fellow countrymen" and that the Greek Moslem minority was a "Turkish minority".
During his visit to the village of Koptero in Xanthi yesterday, Mr. Aktuna said he would launch a public campaign to re-institute the practice of appointing muftis after they have been elected, if he were not allowed to visit the self-styled mufti of Xanthi, Mehmet Emin Aga, currently in Larissa jail on charges of impersonating a religious leader. In speeches to groups of Moslems, Mr. Aktuna urged them to call themselves Turks, and said that telephone callers from Ankara and Istanbul had told him characteristically that "the hearts of 60 million Turks were beating for the Turks of Western Thrace".
The rights of the Moslems in Greece and the Greek Orthodox Christians in Istanbul are set out in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. Under the treaty, the minority in Western Thrace (northern Greece) is referred to as "Moslem".
Mr. Venizelos said it would have been a mistake if the Greek government had prohibited Mr. Aktuna's visit since it would have had to explain itself internationally. Mr. Aktuna repeated an attack against Macedonia- Thrace Minister Constantine Triarides for refusing to meet him. "The refusal of dialogue creates trouble," he said.
Mr. Triarides said earlier that Mr. Aktuna had, with his statements at the border before entering Greece, "in effect ruled out the possibility for any meeting or contact which we could have had". Speaking to reporters in Thessaloniki, Mr. Triarides said that "the positions and activity of the Turkish minister on a private visit surpass both our efforts and our desire for improved relations as well as the statements of the Turkish government concerning dialogue and co-operation".
Replying to questions about calls by Greek politicians for Mr. Aktuna to be declared persona non grata, Mr. Triarides said that "in a country which enjoys freedom of speech and democracy, we respect the positions and statements of all politicians". He added however that there was "a limit to everything" and expressed the hope that the Turkish minister would remain within this limit during his visit.
Mr. Aktuna was met by a rowdy demonstration of Cypriots, Kurds, Armenians and Black Sea Greeks as he attempted to visit the Turkish consul in Thessaloniki to attend a reception in his honour later yesterday. The demonstrators showered the Turkish minister's entourage with coins and stones during their arrival. A policeman was injured in the melee and a window of the bus carrying the entourage was shattered. The demonstrators were protesting the genocide of Black Sea Greeks in 1916-1919, the genocide of Armenians in 1915, the ongoing war against the Kurdish people and the invasion and occupation of Cyprus.
In Athens, 15 deputies from ruling PASOK, New Democracy and Political Spring parties said Mr. Aktuna's stance was "unacceptable and insulting", in a letter to Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis and called on the government to "characterise Mr. Aktuna persona non grata and to ask him to leave Greece".
The letter also said that the government should "bring protests before the Turkish government concerning the provocative and insolent stance of its minister and also inform the European Parliament". In the letter, the deputies claim that Europe ought to isolate Turkey and "to take measures which will oblige Turkey to respect international law and human rights." All opposition parties were unanimous in their criticism of Mr. Aktuna's conduct.
Main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Vassilis Manginas said Mr. Aktuna's statements and general behaviour prove "he does not respect Greek hospitality" and of visiting Greece in order to provoke and mislead Turkish public opinion away from the major problems faced there.
Political Spring party leader Antonis Samaras said that "the Greek people were offended" at Mr. Aktuna's conduct. "The government is already facing the negative repercussions of its wrong moves on the issue of the Turkish minister's visit," he said.
In an announcement, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said that "Mr. Aktuna's statements do not serve the bettering of bilateral relations and reveal the provocative tactics of the Turkish government backed by the US".
The Coalition of the Left and Progress party said that "the form and character of Mr. Aktuna's visit constitutes the choice of provoking tension between Greece and Turkey."
President Kostis Stephanopoulos had talks yesterday with his Cyprus counterpart, Glafcos Clerides, who arrived here accompanied by the members of the National Council, the island's top advisory body on the handling of the Cyprus problem. Mr. Clerides and the National Council are due to meet with Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou today to discuss ways of attaining a settlement of the problem. This visit is the first time since the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of 37 per cent of the island's territory that the Cypriot president and National Council have travelled to Athens for joint consultations.
Speaking to reporters shortly after arriving in Athens, Mr. Clerides expressed certainty that his meeting with Mr. Papandreou would bring positive results. "The aim is to find a solution which safeguards Cypriot Hellenism in the land of its forefathers," Mr. Clerides said, adding that there was increased US interest in finding a solution, as reflected by contacts between the US and Turkish governments. He clarified however that there had been no discussion on specific points "which would allow one to say that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that the way is open for a solution of the Cyprus problem".
At yesterday's half-hour meeting, Mr . Stephanopoulos and Mr. Clerides reviewed the Cyprus problem and, according to sources, the Greek president accepted an invitation to visit the island republic. Mr. Stephanopoulos later had separate talks with the members of the National Council, made up of the leaders of the republic's parliamentary parties, on their views concerning the course for the solution of the Cypriot problem.
In statements at Larnaca international airport before departing for the Greek capital, President Clerides expressed the hope that the National Council and the Greek government would take unanimous decisions on the future handling of the Cyprus problem. "I believe that we shall have a constructive meeting... the National Council had already taken some decisions which will help for an in-depth discussion," he said. He said apart from the Council's meeting with the Greek premier, the party leaders would have the opportunity to meet separately with Greek party leaders.
The historic Athens meeting follows fresh efforts by the United Nations and the United States to resume the stalled Cyprus peace process. UN and US officials have started consultations with the two Cyprus parties in a bid to reach a breakthrough in the present stalemate. The new efforts follow the re-election of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to the post of the self-styled president of his breakaway state in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus.
Meanwhile, in an announcement, the Political Spring party said that today's meeting between Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and the National Council should be the precursor to a pan-hellenic conference to be held on the issue, which would be "a dynamic response" that Hellenism can defend its national rights. The announcement also said that today's meeting was being held at a time when Turkey, with its provocations and intransigence, was showing "its true face" to the international community.
The indoor swimming pool "Kypros" (Cyprus), donated by the Republic of Cyprus, was inaugurated at the Military Academy in Vari yesterday in the presence of Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis. Also present were the members of the Cyprus National Council, Cyprus Defence Minister Costas Eliades, Alternate Foreign Minister George Mangakis and National Defence Under-secretaries Nikos Kouris and Manolis Beteniotis, all the Greek armed forces military leaders, the Cyprus National Guard Commander and other officials.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony, Mr. Arsenis said the building of the ultra-modern sports centre was a contribution by the Cypriot government and sealed unity among the two peoples. Mr. Arsenis said that what was necessary for peace to be consolidated was the defensive armouring of Hellenism and this precondition was met by the announcement by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou on the implementation of the unified defence zone between Greece and Cyprus.
On his part, President Clerides said he agreed with the roles of the two countries Mr. Arsenis referred to, adding that the project indicated the unbreakable bonds existing between Greece and Cyprus.
Two earth tremors, registering 4.4 and 4.7 on the Richter scale, were recorded in the Halkidiki region near Thessaloniki last nigh Seismologists at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki said the epicentre of the two tremors was 65 kms east of Thessaloniki, in the region of Arnea, Halkidiki.
The tremors, recorded at 5:16 pm and 6:40 pm local time, were centred 20 kms east of a previous tremor registering 4.8 on April 4 this year. Seismologists say the activity is centred on the Serbomacedonian plate which triggered a devastating earthquake in 1932.
In a statement on the occasion of World Press Day yesterday, connected with the celebration of tolerance, Press Minister and government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos stressed the importance of the press for democracy itself.
"This day is symbolic. It obliges all to think about the importance of the freedom of the press, the free dissemination of information, opinions, news, and democracy itself. I am sure that all free and thinking citizens, all functionaries of the mass media, are fully conscious of the importance of the press as an institution and as a political and individual right. On the other hand, in a period when tolerance, and, therefore, political liberalism and the rule of law, are being tried, the adherence to these concepts is an elementary obligation of every citizen," he said.
Speaking at a function later, the minister said that a democratic and well ruled state has to establish the rules safeguarding full transparency, particularly in the financial functions of the press.
Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis warned against unbridled freedom and abuse of power on the part of those in control of the press and media. He added that the weaker a parliament, the easier it was to blackmail a government by those who wanted to boost their influence and profits.
At a press conference yesterday, five academics and journalists announced the founding of the 'Citizens' Union for Intervention', a non-partisan political association aiming at the systematic intervention, through justice, for the protection of institutions and citizens' rights from arbitrary power.
The founding members -- Loukas Tsoukalis, Nikos Mouzelis, Stamatis Mantzavinos, Richardos Someritis and Ino Afentouli -- said that although the aim of Intervention was inherently political, the intention was not to develop it into a party, in order to safeguard its character.
They explained that their move had been prompted by the crisis in political life, the inability of the state to modernise itself, the problematic functioning of parties and their inadequacy in tackling new problems effectively.
"People with different experiences and different ideological origins will try to influence parties and the State towards democratic modernisation, the creation of a modern dynamic economy, the formulation of a Balkan policy and the reform of the educational system," said Professor Tsoukalis.
The activities of Intervention will also include the proposition of solutions through the creation of working groups, seminars and conferences, and campaigns against misinformation through press conferences and the publication of a magazine.
Dutch European Affairs Minister Mr. Patizn will pay a visit to Athens May 10-11 for talks with Alternate Foreign Minister George Mangakis on issues concerning the intergovernmental conference in 1996 on revising the Maastricht Treaty.
Talks Mr. Patizn will hold with Greek officials will focus on current European policy issues and the future of common foreign policy.
Conservative opposition leader Miltiades Evert met with National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis yesterday to discuss Greece's relations with NATO, Turkey, developments in the Cyprus dispute and latest developments in the Balkans.
New Democracy party sources said the meeting took place in light of Mr. Evert's visit to Washington next week. During his visit, the conservative leader is scheduled for talks with US Vice-President Al Gore.
Meanwhile, party sources say Mr. Evert has taken a keen interest in latest developments in Croatia. They said the conservative leader has sent a letter to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Croatian head of state Franjo Tudjman, calling on them both to find the best possible way for a peaceful solution to the crisis and the restoration of peace and order, after the recent developments in the region and fears of the conflict expanding.
The government yesterday expressed its strong objections to the US over a State Department report accusing Greece of dragging its feet on terrorism. The objections were put forward by Press and Media Minister Evangelos Venizelos during a meeting with the US Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission Thomas Miller.
Also discussed during the meeting was the issue of copyright and other bilateral issues . Mr. Venizelos said Tuesday that the report contained erroneous information and even more erroneous appraisals.
Private deposits dropped considerably during the January-March period this year, decreasing by 509 billion drachmas compared to a decrease of 284 billion drachmas over the same period in 1994. Investment in repos decreased 180 billion drachmas while over the same period last year they had increased 83 billion drachmas.
According to information provided by the Bank of Greece, at the end of March the total amount of savings bank deposits was 8.5 trillion drachmas and time deposits 2.9 trillion drachmas. Repos totalled 137.7 billion drachmas and treasury bills and bonds 5.8 trillion drachmas. Money supply in a wider sense, including liquid assets, deposits, bank bonds and repos, decreased 939 billion drachmas over the above period compared to a decrease of 438 billion drachmas in the same period last year.
On an annual basis, the monetary expansion increased five per cent while the target for 1995 is seven per cent to nine per cent. The liquidity indicator, including monetary circulation and state securities, increased 12.3 per cent between March 1994 and March 1995, but despite the acceleration it remains within the confines set for the year, namely between 11 per cent and 13 per cent.
Referring to private investment in state securities, the bank announced that the net investment in state securities of up to a year's duration amounted to 433 billion drachmas during the first quarter of the year, compared to 175 billion drachmas over t he same period in 1994.
Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) president Jason Stratos yesterday threw cold water on a trade union proposal for a reduced working week.
"Our country has one of the lowest productivities among competitor countries, and a reduction in working hours will result in an increase in the cost of labour, will reduce productivity, and cannot be a right measure," he said. He added that the government's policy has already yielded positive results, and if followed consistently, will create the conditions for faster growth, a reduction in unemployment, and a steady improvement in real incomes.
A SEB statement issued yesterday said a five-hour reduction in the working week was estimated to push up unit labour costs by 14 per cent. A similar estimate was made by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, saying the increase in labour costs would be in the order of 12.5 per cent.
The Greek fleet decreased by 166,899 dwt in April, according to figures released yesterday by the Merchant Marine Ministry. Thirteen ships with a total of 348,708 dwt joined the Greek Shipping Registry while ten vessels totalling 515,607 dwt withdrew.
Hellenic Industrial Development Bank (ETBA) Governor George Kasmas announced yesterday that only one tender, that of the Perattikos group which owns the Elefsis Shipyards, was submitted in international tendering for the sale of the Skaramangas Shipyards. The deadline for tendering was 2 pm yesterday. The amount listed in the Perattikos tender is expected to be announced today.
Acting on the law on denationalising the shipyards, ETBA's board is obliged to deliver a report evaluating the tender in 30 days as of yesterday to Alternate Industry Minister Christos Rokofyllos and Finance Under-Secretary Nikos Kyriazidis who will be responsible for finalised decisions.
Trade unionists at the shipyards, who have organised rolling protests at the sale, termed the result a "fiasco", adding that with only one bid tendering should be declared fruitless. Mr. Kasmas said no legal or formal problem existed but pointed out that "it is difficult for one to claim that this was tendering."
In sale negotiations, the value of the shipyards was assessed at between five and 12 billion drachmas, an amount workers considered a "scandalous under-estimate". Workers said the Elefsis Shipyards, belonging to the Perattikos group in past years, have accumulated debts of 18 billion drachmas.