Athens, 18/05/1995 (ANA):
NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes yesterday called on Athens and Ankara to build a more positive climate and more confidence in their relations in order to permit strengthening of the Alliance's south-eastern flank. He also praised Athens' efforts to improve the situation in the region and said Greece could play a "very important and constructive role" here.
Stressing Nato's determination to strengthen its south-eastern flank, which he said "is becoming more and more important to your political and strategic significance," Mr. Claes told reporters after meeting with Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias: "There is no doubt that in the following years Greece, whether willing or not, will play a much more important strategic role in the region -- Balkans, Caucasus, the Middle East, and maybe even northern Africa."
"But in order to strengthen this south-eastern flank, we need to create another framework permitting a more positive atmosphere, more confidence, especially in NATO, between Greece and Turkey," Mr. Claes said. "We have no miracle solutions in our pocket," Mr. Claes said, but "we have several ideas -- on headquarters, and so on."
Mr. Claes, who arrived in Athens Tuesday afternoon, met shortly after his arrival with Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. After his meeting with Mr. Papoulias, he was received by President Kostis Stephanopoulos and also met with National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis.
Mr. Claes expressed the hope that with his talks here in Athens and afterwards in Ankara "a working method and some criteria" would be found "enabling us to make a new start in order to create conditions to have a constructive and fruitful debate not only during the meeting of foreign ministers at the end of this month in The Netherlands but also two weeks later in Brussels during the meeting of the 16 defence ministers." Mr. Claes said this was the main purpose of his Athens-Ankara tour.
He expressed the hope that by the end of this trip "we will have in our pocket some working methods, some framework, in order to improve relations not only between the two countries but especially in NATO as a whole, and we are confident this is possible."
"But I am also taking this opportunity to express our gratitude towards the Greek government, and especially the foreign minister, for all their efforts to improve the situation here in the region -- Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, ex-Yugoslavia."
NATO, he said, was "very preoccupied" with the situation in former Yugoslavia. Mr. Claes said that although NATO "is preparing withdrawal scenarios (from war-torn Bosnia) at the request of the UN," it was nonetheless "not in favour" of any pullout because, lacking a containment policy, "we fear an explosion, an enlargement of the crisis." He said NATO believed that the five-nation Contact Group on the Bosnian crisis "urgently needs new initiatives, and Greece can play a very important and constructive role" in this direction.
Mr. Claes said all this had been discussed with the Greek government and "we will maintain regular contacts in order to try to find a solution for this tragedy." He expressed hope that in the future it would be possible for NATO, "together with other international organisations" to "build up a European security architecture avoiding new tragedies such as that in ex-Yugoslavia."
Mr. Claes said NATO, just as Russia and other countries, would try to avoid isolation, and welcome Moscow's announcement that it was ready to sign two documents with the Alliance. "I have the feeling that the conviction is growing in NATO that we need some parallel between the enlargement policy on the one hand and dialogue and co-operation policy with Russia on the other." "I think that, in that matter too, Greece could play an important role," he added.
Asked whether he had discussed with the Greek government the question of limited military exercises in the Aegean, Mr. Claes replied: "We did not speak of exercises."
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Mr. Claes, Mr. Papoulias said they discussed the problems in the region "which are of concern not only to NATO but of general interest." He said the Alliance was concerned with, and itself involved in, safeguarding security in the region.
Other issues discussed, Mr. Papoulias said, were Greek-NATO relations and "our differences with Ankara in the context of the Alliance." Mr. Papoulias described the meeting as "exceptionally sincere" and said the talks would continue at the end of May during the NATO foreign ministers' meeting. "Both Mr. Claes and I hope that the existing difficulties may be overcome," Mr. Papoulias said.
Mr. Claes also said their talks had been "very frank and open", as were his talks with Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou Tuesday night.
Government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said that Mr. Claes had not asked Greece to cancel the naval exercises in the Aegean scheduled for the summer. Replying to a press question, Mr. Venizelos said that Mr. Claes "did not raise such an issue."
Athens, 18/05/1995 (ANA):
After his meeting with Mr. Claes, National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis expressed the view that by early June when NATO defence ministers meet, progress would have been made concerning the integration of the military structure of the Alliance's south-eastern flank. "However, if there is no progress," Mr. Arsenis said, "then Greece will raise a serious political issue (at the June meeting) vis-a-vis the credibility of the Alliance, since it is unable to implement its own decision." Mr. Claes' talks with Mr. Arsenis concerned the military structure of the south-eastern flank of the Alliance.
Mr. Claes described the talks as "fruitful" and stressed Nato's interest in Greece's geopolitical position due to the role the country can play in the region. He said however that the Alliance was experiencing certain difficulties in its efforts to strengthen the southern flank, such as the poor relations between Greece and Turkey. Mr. Claes expressed the hope that there would be some constructive results and progress at the meeting of NATO defence ministers on June 7-8.
Mr. Arsenis described his talks with Mr. Claes as "very useful and constructive", adding that the NATO chief had stressed the importance of the role Greece can play as a stabilising factor in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. He said the talks had focused on the bilateral defence co-operation agreements which Greece had concluded with a number of Balkan and East Mediterranean states, describing the accords as "initiatives which can be part of broader defence co-operation between NATO and non-members within the framework of Partnership for Peace."
Also discussed at the meeting was the issue of the NATO land and air headquarters at Larissa. Mr. Arsenis said the fact that NATO had not fulfilled its unanimous decision of 1992 on the issue of the headquarters was due to Turkey's stance, and reiterated the dispute was between Ankara and NATO.
Ankara has expressed its disagreement with the stationing and operation of the two new NATO military commands and has blocked the alliance's entire military budget, freezing all NATO military projects just as it is in the process of finalising plans for a possible pull-out of UN peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. Mr. Arsenis said that he believed that Mr. Claes now understood Greece's positions better, which coincided with Nato's political position. "I believe that the efforts of the NATO secretary general will move in the right direction," he added.
During his talks with Mr. Claes, Mr. Arsenis said, the issue of confidence-building measures in the Aegean was not raised, "nor was the issue of Willy Claes mediating (between Greece and Turkey)". Mr. Arsenis also stressed that no pressure had been exerted on Greece "given that NATO does not have a specific proposal concerning which pressure might be exerted on Athens to accept.
Mr. Claes also held a meeting with former Parliament President and main opposition New Democracy deputy Athanasios Tsaldaris, focusing on the issue of the headquarters in Greece. Following the meeting, Mr. Tsaldaris said New Democracy's position on the issue was "crystal clear." "We ask the complete and immediate enforcement of Nato's unanimous decision taken in December 1992," he said.
Athens, 18/05/1995 (ANA):
Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias and his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Velayati yesterday expressed the hope that the efforts of the two countries for peace in Bosnia would bring the desired result. Mr. Papoulias had talks with the Iranian foreign minister during a brief stopover in Athens by Mr. Velayati who is en route to Morocco to take part in a meeting of the Islamic Conference Contact Group. The group is made up of Iran, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The two ministers and their Bosnian counterpart Irfan Ljubijankic have held two recent tripartite meetings in Athens and Tehran, aimed at finding ways to bring peace to the war-torn former Yugoslav republic.
"Greece and Iran are working closely in order to provide whatever they can for the attainment of a just and lasting peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina," Mr. Papoulias told reporters after his talks yesterday. "It was the right moment for the foreign ministers of Greece and Iran to meet and examine the progress in efforts being made after the last tripartite meeting in Tehran," he added.
After the Tehran meeting on April 30, Mr. Papoulias flew to Belgrade to brief Serb President Slobodan Milosevic. "In Belgrade, our efforts were well received," Mr. Papoulias said, expressing the hope that there will be "a good result for Bosnia-Herzegovina at this crucial moment." Mr. Papoulias said the tripartite effort was not "competing" with the "major effort" being made by the United Nations Contact Group but was rather "complementary and supportive."
During the Tehran meeting, Mr. Velayati said, it was decided to continue efforts for the establishment of peace and stability in the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia. The Iranian foreign minister said that he and Mr. Papoulias had exchanged views yesterday on the results of their contacts since the tripartite meetings in Athens and Tehran. Mr. Velayati briefed Mr. Papoulias on his contacts with counterparts in the Islamic Contact Group since the meetings. "The issue of peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina is of common interest to Greece and Iran," Mr. Velayati said, expressing hope that the two countries can take "positive steps" on the issue.
Athens, 18/05/1995 (ANA):
NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes, speaking during a visit to Athens yesterday, said that NATO was "very preoccupied" with the situation in former Yugoslavia. Mr. Claes told reporters that although NATO "is preparing withdrawal scenarios (from war-torn Bosnia) at the request of the UN," it was nonetheless "not in favour" of any pullout because, lacking a containment policy, "we fear an explosion, an enlargement of the crisis."
He said NATO believed that the five-nation Contact Group on the Bosnian crisis "urgently needs new initiatives, and Greece can play a very important and constructive role" in this direction. Mr. Claes said all this had been discussed with the Greek government and "we will maintain regular contacts in order to try to find a solution for this tragedy."
Athens, 18/05/1995 (ANA):
Police on the island of Crete yesterday arrested an Italian wanted in connection with a number of deadly attacks by a neo-Nazi group in Italy between 1977 and 1984. Reports said Marco Furlan, 35, was working at a car rental firm at the city's airport when arrested. The arrest was the result of co-operation between the Italian and local police. The same reports said that an Italian court had sentenced Furlan to 27 years imprisonment for murder. Furlan is currently being held at Iraklion police headquarters. Procedures are currently under way for his extradition to Italy.
Together with an accomplice, Furlan was convicted by an Italian court of killing ten people in a series of arson attacks on discotheques and cinemas. The attacks were claimed at the time by a neo-Nazi group calling itself "Ludwig". Iraklion police were informed by Interpol several days ago that Furlan was on the island, according to the dispatch.
The arrest was carried out by the Iraklion Security Police and Italian officers who arrived on Crete Tuesday morning. At the time of his arrest, Furlan had in his possession 980,000 drachmas, 14 million Italian lira, 178,921 dollars and 1,500 German marks and false identity papers. Furlan came to Greece three and a half years ago and had been staying in Iraklion under an assumed name for the last seven months, according to the head of the Iraklion security police. Initially, he had given private Italian lessons to children before starting work at the car hire company about a month ago.
Athens, 18/05/1995 (ANA):
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou said yesterday the government's measures to help the victims of a 6.6 Richter quake on Saturday would be announced by the middle of next week, as strong aftershocks continued to shake the region. Another strong quake, measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale and originating from the same area as Saturday's 6.6 Richter quake that devastated villages in the Kozani-Grevena region, jolted north-western Greece at 7:14 am yesterday.
Speaking to reporters after chairing a meeting of ministers, Mr. Papandreou said that a delegation of ministers would travel to Grevena and Kozani tomorrow and on their return, possibly on Sunday, final decisions would be taken as to the medium and long-term measures to be taken. In the meantime, he said, immediate measures such as the granting of a family allowance of 200,000 drachmas to a total of 4,500 families and the re-opening of schools will have been completed. In Grevena alone, 30 schools have been forced to close due to structural damage.
Describing the damage caused by the quakes as "enormous", Mr. Papandreou said that 7,000 buildings had collapsed. Initial estimates of the damage speak of figures in excess of 100 billion drachmas. Mr. Papandreou said that the government was considering the overall reconstruction of the region hit by the quakes and its economic and social development. "It's simple to extend a loan for a house but what is important overall is development.
The victims of the quakes will be given loans (in such a way that) what is built is economically and socially viable. A programme will be implemented which will revitalise the region, create something new and keep the inhabitants in their native towns and villages," Mr. Papandreou said. The premier said that efforts were being made to provide the quake victims with tents and caravans, since it would be at least two to three months, or even longer, before they could return to their homes.
Yesterday's quake, which followed three others of increasing intensity -- 4.3 Richter at 00:54, 4.5 Richter at 2:00 and 4.7 Richter at 2:57 -- had its epicentre in the Siatista region, between the towns of Kozani and Grevena, 125 kilometres west of Thessaloniki and 300 kilometres northwest of Athens, the Geodynamic Institute of the Athens Observatory and the Thessaloniki University's Geophysics Laboratory reported.
This quake, and another of the same intensity Monday morning, are believed by seismologists to be aftershocks of the 6.6 earthquake. More than a thousand tremors, at least 100 of which have been of above 4.0 Richter, have been recorded. Seismologists believe the post-quake activity may continue for up to three months with occasional strong jolts.
Thessaloniki Aristotelion University professor Vassilis Papazachos said Monday that a 5.4 Richter aftershock had been expected by seismologists since, according to statistics, the strongest aftershock usually has an average intensity of 1.2 degrees less than the main quake, although this did not necessarily occur after every large quake.
Athens, 18/05/1995 (ANA):
The bill on the setting up of a National Land Register provides a real foundation for the country's development, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou told Parliament during yesterday's debate on the bill. The prime minister described the project as the most necessary of all large projects, and an historic initiative on the part of the government.
Its completion in a period of 15 years, he said, will protect public lands from encroachment, will produce revenues of 500 billion drachmas for the state, and create 2,000 jobs. Its first phase, 1995-99, will cover 1,700 of the country's 6,000 municipalities, at a cost of 80 billion drachmas. The second phase will cost a further 170 billion drachmas.
Both Political Spring party leader Antonis Samaras and former conservative prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis said the government should have shown an interest in the project many years ago, and that it was now simply trying to create impressions. Mr. Mitsotakis said the state did not possess the capability for such a project, and proposed it be undertaken by the private sector, or through self-financing. He described the bill as a deception, unable to solve the issue of property titles.
Environment Minister Costas Laliotis said everyone agreed on the need for a Land Register, but kept their distances for petty political reasons. He accused New Democracy of engaging in cheap populism. The government considered the project of national priority, and for this reason it had planned under the Second European Union Support Framework.
Brussels, 18/05/1995 (ANA/F. Stangos):
The European Commission's Spring economic report, presented yesterday by Commissioner Yves-Thilbault De Silguy, contains more optimistic forecasts for the Greek economy than last December's report.
The report, which presents forecasts on the basic macro-economic indicators of the 15 member states, forecasts a 1.6 per cent growth rate for the Greek economy in 1995, as opposed to 1.1 per cent last December. The unemployment rate is revised downwards to 9.6 and 9.5 per cent in 1995 and 1996 respectively, as opposed to 10.6 and 10.8 per cent in the earlier forecast. The report also contains a significant correction in the estimates regarding fiscal deficits (budget, public debt, current account), resulting in part from a change in the system of calculating the Greek GDP.
In general, the Commission's economic forecasts bring the performance of the Greek economy in 1995 very near the targets of the Convergence Programme (1994-99), required for the transition to the third phase of the Economic and Monetary Union. However, the Commission retains reservations regarding next year's performance, particularly with respect to a fall in the inflation rate and fiscal deficits.
Athens, 18/05/1995 (ANA):
A UN human rights official said yesterday "the rights of Moslems in Greece are well protected."
Erika Daes, a UN human rights official and inspector, who was addressing an international conference on racism in the northern city of Thessaloniki, was equally categorical when, referring to minorities in Greece, she said "there is only one minority in Greece, the Moslem one." "There is no other minority in Greece," Ms. Daes reiterated, adding that she had addressed the issue with surveys she made both in Greece and abroad. "A specific minority, as recognised by international agreements and rules, does not exist in Greece. Dissenters are individuals who are possibly pursuing political aims," she said.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Antenna Radio, Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos proposed a policy of integrated development in Thrace with the creation of major infrastructure projects including the development of the minority.
Vienna, 18/05/1995 (ANA/D. Dimitrakoudis):
Austria is set to undertake an initiative for the settlement of Greece's differences with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), during Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias' two-day official visit here, starting today.
Vice-chancellor and Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel is expected to propose the signing of a 'Stability Pact' involving Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia and FYROM, sources close to the Austrian Foreign Ministry said. The pact is said to envisage mutual recognition, the guaranteeing of borders, the abandonment of territorial claims, and safeguards regarding the protection of minorities. Austria favours FYROM's speedy accession to the Council of Europe, and its full membership in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Apart from bilateral issues, the two foreign ministers are expected to discuss the war in the former Yugoslavia and the Cyprus problem. Due to the good condition of its economy, Austria considers Cyprus "a natural candidate" for European Union membership. It also considers that Cypriot membership will have positive repercussions on the problems arising from the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.
The Greek foreign minister's visit returns the one by his former counterpart Alois Mock to Athens in July 1993. He will also meet President Thomas Klestil and Parliament President Heinz Fischer.
Washington, 18/05/1995 (ANA/D. Dimas):
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert had a working breakfast with President Bill Clinton's special adviser George Stephanopoulos at the Greek embassy yesterday. "I am pleased at having the opportunity of meeting Mr. Evert. We had a substantive discussion on all issues concerning the two countries and issues concerning our strong friendship," Mr. Stephanopoulos said after the meeting. Mr. Evert also met House of Representatives International Relations Committee President Ben Gilman (R-New York) yesterday morning.