|Thursday, 29 October 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-03-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 29, 2005
 Greece accepts leading role in OECD's plan to support SMEs
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)Greece accepted a proposal by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the country to take a leading role in the organization's activities aimed to abolishing hurdles facing Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises in seeking access to international markets, a letter sent by Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas to OECD's deputy Secretary-General Dr. Herwig Schlögl said on Monday.
Greece's role will focus on participating in drafting of an international study by OECD and organizing a high-level international conference on abolishing hurdles facing SMEs in gaining access to international markets.
The conference will be organized in cooperation with Greece's Economy and Finance ministry.
The Greek minister was the main speaker at a 2nd Ministerial Conference on SMEs, organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Istanbul in June last year.
Sioufas recently received a letter from its Finnish counterpart Mauri Pekarinnen, in which he expressed Finland's agreement with a Greek proposal to organize a 6th Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Industry in Greece in autumn 2006.
The event will be held in cooperation with Finland and the European Commission.
 Balkans, Cyprus issue top agenda during FM Molyviatis' meeting with UN Secretary General
NEW YORK 29/3/2005 (ANA/D.Konstantakopoulos)The Cyprus issue, the situation in the Balkans - particularly Kosovo and FYROM, as well as Africa and the Middle East, dominated the discussion Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis had with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York on Monday.
On the issue of Cyprus, Molyviatis and Annan confirmed the need for the island's reunification and estimated that all interested parties are in agreement on that point. The Greek minister, however, emphasized that the right conditions must be established this time around, in order to avoid a repeat of failed negotiations last year.
As for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Molyviatis reiterated Greece's position that a mutually-acceptable solution must be found to the problem surrounding FYROM's use of 'Macedonia' as part of its name, so that the international community as well as FYROM and Greece can concentrate on the region's other problems which warrant attention.
According to sources, Athens' views coincide with UN views regarding the importance of Kosovo fulfilling the necessary criteria before the relevant assessment report is finalized. Kosovo's final status will be determined based on the evaluation report. However, the European Union has insisted that Kosovo cannot return to its pre-1999 state.
As for the Middle East, Molyviatis and Annan agreed that Syrian forces must withdraw from Lebanon.
The two also discussed issues concerning Africa, and particularly the situation in Darfur.
 FM Molyviatis attends Greek Independence Day celebrations at the White House
WASHINGTON 29/3/2005 (ANA/A.Ellis)Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis was due to conclude his five-day visit to the US on Monday, by attending a special ceremony at the White House - as President George W. Bush's guest - in celebration of Greek Independence Day. Molyviatis arrived in Washington after meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York earlier and discussing issues such as Cyprus, FYROM and Kosovo, among others.
Members of the Greek-American community, including Archbishop of America Dimitrios, were also to be attending the White House event.
On occasion of March 25, Greek Independence Day, Bush issued an announcement, emphasizing the contribution Ancient Athens had made by founding the principles of democracy, which later served as a source of inspiration for the creators of the American nation. He also referred to ties between Greece and the US, as the two promote freedom and democracy in addressing the challenges of the 21st century.
 Gov't remains adamant on media ownership issue, comments on support by Theodorakis
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)Questions related to the government's high-profile efforts to promote transparency in the broadcast ownership sector and to prevent media operators from bidding on state contracts and projects -- the unremitting 'primary shareholder' debate -- again dominated the regular press briefing.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Monday first dismissed any notion of the government seeking legal assistance from a foreign law firm. He merely noted that Athens will respond within the period allotted to the EU Commission's recent reservations vis-a-vis a constitutional article -- 14, paragraph 9 -- and related executive laws on media ownership in the country.
"The government wants to defend the constitution and national interests; in this effort we have the tools, ability and arguments to do so with success," Antonaros stressed.
Theodorakis: The spokesman also commented on an unexpected show of support on the issue from well-known composer Mikis Theodorakis.
"Mikis Theodorakis has had a lengthy presence in Greece's political history, and the specific statement has a substantive value," Antonaros said.
Theodorakis, 80, on Sunday released a letter he sent former French culture minister Jack Lang, where he stresses, among others, that "my country is experiencing an unprecedented attack at this moment by the Commission".
The award-winning composer cited the aforementioned reason as leading to his decision not to sign a joint appeal -- along with other European artists and scholars -- for ratification of the draft European Constitution.
In his letter, Theodorakis stressed that the ongoing clash has taken on a "national dimension", while adding that "vested interests and corruption are real scourges of today's public life (in Greece), and I would go as far as saying that they are adulterating the essence of democracy."
"Article 14 of the Greek constitution aims at the protection from the forces of vested interests, with the complete separation of media ownership and those companies that assume public works," the letter read.
 Papariga criticizes PASOK over latter's opposition to 'primary shareholder' law
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga on Monday covered a variety of issues on current political developments, warning that a "new anti-popular attack" is pending because of the latest decisions at the EU Summit -- especially efforts to boost implementation of the Lisbon Agenda.
On the domestic front, Papariga commented on the prime time TV interview of a fugitive (Apostolos Vavylis) linked with a Church corruption and influence-peddling furor, saying the problem "was not individuals ruining the institutions, but institutions geared towards profiteering".
Papariga was particularly critical of main opposition PASOK, charging that the party was "hypocritical".
"They (PASOK) are driving us insane about the (so-called) 'primary shareholder' law and the fiscal audit ... If PASOK wanted to mount an opposition there's the developmental law and the tax code," she said, adding that PASOK's cadres "went all out" in its opposition to the 'primary shareholder' law.
Conversely, she said the laws on media ownership did not solve problems in the sector, while forecasting that the government will lose its case at the EU level.
 Papoulias meets with Albanian President Moisiu in Ioannina
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)Newly sworn-in Greek President Karolos Papoulias met with his Albanian counterpart Alfred Moisiu in the northwest lakeside city of Ioannina on Monday, a meeting that served as the former's first official contact with another head of state since assuming the presidential office earlier this month.
Papoulias is scheduled to meet with the president of Bulgaria on April 8.
Afterwards, the Greek president said he believed the talks were positive for the course of bilateral relations, ties he added were excellent.
Moisiu echoed Papoulias' comments about excellent bilateral relations and noted that Greek-Albanian ties served as a model for relations of other Balkan countries.
The next meeting between the two men is expected to take place in either Gjirokastr or Sarande, two towns in Albania's south.
 Turkey insists that extension of customs union agreement does not mean recognition of Cyprus
ANKARA 29/3/2005 (ANA/A.Abatzis)Turkish Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said on Monday that Turkey received the text, which extends the Ankara Agreement between Turkey and the EU to include the Union's 10 new member-states, over the weekend. Gul said that Ankara would review the text and might sign it during the British EU presidency.
Referring to Cyprus, Gul reiterated that Turkey's signing of the protocol does not mean recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. "We will act in accordance with international law. There is no issue of recognizing the Greek Cypriot Administration. That will happen once there is a permanent solution [to the Cyprus problem]," he said. Furthermore, Turkey's foreign minister also noted that Turkey recognizes the ''Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)'' and will continue to do so.
Turkey's government spokesman Jemil Cicek also emphasized that signing of the protocol does not constitute recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey, in comments he made to reporters after the Turkish ministerial council met on Monday. He said that Ankara would make a related announcement at the time of the signing.
 Jerusalem Patriarch questioned over alleged land deals by Jordanian authorities
JERUSALEM 29/3/2005 (ANA/P.Charitos)Jerusalem Patriarch Irineos was given a 72-hour deadline by the Jordanian government on Monday, in order to prove in writing that no changes have been made to the Patriarchate's land assets. The deadline was issued after Irineos, following an invitation by King of Jordan Abdallah, went to Amman and met with Interior Minister Samir Habashneh.
Habashneh questioned Irineos over press reports which allege that the Patriarch sold church property in Arab East Jerusalem to Israeli business interests. Irineos said that he never sold nor leased land that was part of Palestinian territory. He said that the allegations were meant to hurt his reputation as well as the Patriarchate as an institution.
Finally, Jordanian officials also stated that Jordan wishes to reinstate law 27/1958, which calls for the participation of Arab clergy in the synod of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.
A letter signed by seven bishops, demanding Irineos' resignation is expected to be publicized on Tuesday. The bishops will be demanding his resignation for the same reasons put forth by 24 archimandrites in a similar letter made public two days ago.
Palestinian diplomat calls for Jerusalem Patriarch's resignation: The Palestinian Authority's charges d' affaires in Athens on Monday came out in favor of embattled Jerusalem Patriarch Eirinaios' (Irineos) resignation, although he expressed his opposition to the "Arabization" of the Patriarchate -- a centuries-old bastion of Greek Orthodox Christianity in the Holy Land.
The Palestinian diplomatic mission's official, Ismat Sabri, made the statement after meeting with Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos, as the latter also said he favored the Patriarch's resignation in the wake of charges that Patriarchate properties in east Jerusalem were illegally sold to Israeli interests.
Moreover, Alavanos said the furor surrounding the Jerusalem Patriarchate has graduated from being merely an ecclesiastical issue into "a serious foreign policy problem for our country, one linked with world's pre-eminent crisis, namely, the problem of Palestine and the Middle East."
He also stressed the need for any property sales to be nullified.
 Vavylis interview finally airs, reactions follow
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)A long-rumored television appearance of Greece's unofficial "most wanted fugitive" finally aired Sunday night on a private Athens television station (Alter), with convicted drug smuggler Apostolos Vavylis answering questions ranging from his involvement with the Church of Greece's hierarchy to the 2001 election of a new Jerusalem Patriarch to cooperation with local drug enforcement authorities and even reputed ties to intelligence services.
Vavylis, in communicado several months now following a corruption and trial-fixing furor that spilled over from the independent judiciary into the Greek Church's highest echelons and beyond, spoke to noted TV investigative journalist Makis Triantafyllopoulos from an undisclosed location -- believed to be in Italy.
In the videotaped interview, Vavylis claimed, among others, that Archbishop Christodoulos sent him on a mission of "national importance" (the Jerusalem Patriarch's election); that current Patriarch Eirinaios (Irineos) promised him US$300,000 to 400,000 if elected, and that he was "tipped off" to an Interpol warrant issued for his arrest in 1998 by then narcotics squad chief George Aggelakos (the current Greek police chief).
Aggelakos strenuously denied the allegations a day earlier, even before the videotaped interview aired, while Archbishopric of Athens' press office on Monday reminded that Christodoulos has repeatedly denied he sent anyone, officially or otherwise, to assist with Eirinaios' election.
Finally, a spokesman on Monday said the government had no comment on the fugitive's statements.
 Frigate Nikiforos Fokas joins fleet
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)The frigate 'Nikiforos Fokas' joined the fleet during a special ceremony held at the naval base at Salamina on Monday in the presence of the defense ministry's civil and military leadership.
Addressing the event, the defense minister thanked the families of armed forces cadres for the support they are giving them to perform their duties.
The frigate Nikiforos Fokas is the 10th such vessel of the "S" type which the fleet has obtained from the Netherlands.
 Turkish warplanes violate Greece's national air space in the Aegean
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)Forty Turkish warplanes entered Greece's air space over the Aegean on Monday, without submitting flight plans, according to Armed Forces General Staff sources. In 24 cases, they violated the national air space in the region of the northern, central and southern Aegean.
In all cases, the Turkish aircraft were recognized and intercepted by corresponding Greek fighter jets, while in one case the process of interception developed into a mock dog fight.
It was reported that 10 of the Turkish aircraft were armed.
According to Armed Forces General Staff sources, another Turkish airplane flew over the Greek island Oinousses at 25,000 feet. Defense Ministry sources said that this was not particular cause for concern compared with the continuous illegal activity of the Turkish air force, which occurs on a daily basis.
 Gov't says public sector belt-tightening, extra revenues the formula for halving deficit
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)The government on Monday reiterated that it will halve a current 6-percent budget deficit -- the highest in euro-zone -- via a formula of drastic public sector cost-cutting and by increasing state revenues.
"This will be achieved through a 'mild (economic) adaptation', without deviations in implementing the budget and without shifting the burden to Greek citizens. We will lay the foundations over the next two years so that the living standards of our fellow citizens are improved," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters during a regular press briefing.
In a direct criticism of the previous government, the spokesman charged that main opposition PASOK left behind "a scorched earth and empty coffers ... the increase in the budget deficit isn't due to (ruling) New Democracy's governance".
In response to a press question asking how long the government intends to allude to the previous 20 years of PASOK's rule as the root of problems it is facing today, Antonaros stressed:
"When the consequences of bad government continue to affect the current state of affairs in a negative manner, I do not see the reason to avoid such a reference. No one could imagine the extent of PASOK's 'creative bookkeeping' and mismanagement. Are you under the impression that Greek citizens did not want to know what had happened?" Antonaros rhetorically asked.
 Greek unemployment marks noteworthy decline last year
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)Greek unemployment rate fell drastically to 10.1 percent in the third quarter of 2004 from 11.3 percent in the first quarter of the same year, Labor Deputy Minister Gerassimos Giakoumatos said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters, Giakoumatos said this decline, in less than a year, was proof of the effectiveness of measures taken by the labor ministry, ones aimed to boost employment in the country.
The minister noted that average unemployment rate in the Eurozone eased by only 0.1 percent in the period January 2004-January 2005.
He noted that Greece recorded the speediest adjustment to the so-called Lisbon Agenda on employment, at a time when other traditionally strong economies were diverging, with un-employment rates rising in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, or remained stable, such as in Austria, Sweden and France over the same period.
Giakoumatos said the ministry's policies were expected to help employment figures show greater improvement in the future.
GSEE answers Giakoumatos on unemployment: The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) in an announcement on Monday accused Deputy Labor and Social Protection Minister Gerassimos Giakoumatos of "arithmetic beautifications which do not fool anyone" and of "accounting alchemies," regarding data on unemployment.
"At the time when Greek society and the working people are experiencing, through daily dismissals, the highest percentage of unemployment in the European Union, the government and Deputy Labor and Social Protection Minister Mr. G. Giakoumatos 'sees' a reduction in unemployment," the Confederation said.
GSEE called on the government to answer "how the 488,000 unemployed in September 2004 became 527,000 in December 2004," while it refers that "unfortunately for the government, the percentage of unemployment is increasing dramatically (and this will be confirmed in the next counts) and the cost of living and the tax burdens are also increasing, but also the one-sided austerity ... The harshest social injustice which is unemployment, is not confronted with wish-making and ascertainments, but with complete government policies which we do not see."
 FM to present Greece's updated Stability and Development program
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis will be presenting the updated Stability and Development program (2004-2007) for Greece on Tuesday.
The program includes three scenarios for Greece's future growth: optimistic, likely and pessimistic.
The government council will convene before Alogoskoufis' presentation.
 IOBE report calls for additional economic measures
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)A slowdown in economic activity after the Olympic Games was smaller than expected, with Greece still recording one of the highest growth rates in the Eurozone (4.2 percent on average last year from 4.7 pct in 2003), more than double the European average (2.0 pct), the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Monday.
In its quarterly report on the Greek economy, IOBE said consumer demand was the driving force of economic growth (consumption grew 4.0 percent last year) reflecting increasing demand for consumer loans, a development that overshadowed a slight slowdown in real available income in the country.
IOBE expects this year's growth rate to slow for the second consecutive year, although it noted that investment prospects were uncertain due to international developments (high oil prices).
The report said business climate in the country was cautious, with business expectations moving on average levels. There are signs of small improvement in the economic sentiment early in 2005, but only in the manufacturing sector, it said.
In the construction and retail sectors, sentiment indices improved in January but fell in February, IOBE said.
The Institute stressed that the country's fiscal situation maximized uncertainties.
"A government change in March last year initially improved business expectations. What followed, however, was not seemingly enough to maintain this climate, which began reversing despite the government's economic policy statements - moving towards the right direction - such as tax cuts and a new development law. Further improvement in economic activity and climate could reappear when this policy would be implemented. For the time being, the climate was affected largely by uncertainties related with fiscal adjustment policy".
The report also underlined the "need for further measures to deal with new fiscal data", and added: "fiscal adjustment must be accelerated with additional measures of permanent nature, just as the EU recommends".
IOBE stressed that containing public spending would not be enough and that the public sector should deal more effectively with its consumer spending by reducing the public sector and putting a cap on new hirings.
PASOK spokesman says gov't is preparing harsh economic measures: Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Monday accused the government of preparing harsh economic measures, stressing that the government "has tied the hands of the economy" and "fell short in all of its calculations on the fiscal indicators."
Athanassakis said that the government intends to confront the problems "which itself created, through the method of numerous privatizations with terms of unacceptable sales, as well as with savage taxation raids at the expense of the working people, pensioners, farmers, entrepreneurs and small-and-medium-sized businesses."
PASOK accuses the government "that in view of the problems of the economy and the adverse measures which it will be compelled to take, is attempting diversion, showing as a major issue the 'main shareholder', and attempting to focus the discussion on the supposed support of the Constitution."
The PASOK spokesman also said that in this matter "an attempt is being made for the prime minister (Costas Karamanlis) not to appear worthy of blame and to appear that his bad ministers are to blame."
He accused the government that "although it knew that it should have voted an executive law in accordance with the Constitution and European Union law, something which it did not do, while it could have, it preferred the road of petty political party juxtaposition, bitterness and the settlement of interests." The spokesman added that "now, the government is attempting to hide behind the Constitution in an incredible combination of incompetence and hypocrisy."
 Environmental terms regarding public works approved
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)Minister of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works George Souflias signed a series of joint ministerial decisions on Monday which approve and/or amend environmental terms and conditions concerning the construction and renovation of rail and port facilities throughout the country. The decisions have been forwarded for signature to Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis and the Minister of Merchant Marine Manolis Kefaloyiannis.
Specifically, the environmental terms for the renovation and expansion of the Alexandroupolis Port Railroad Station's passenger reception area have been approved, as have the environmental terms for the second phase of the new Igoumenitsa Port. The environmental terms and conditions concerning the expansion of Kyparissia's Port have been amended.
Additionally, Souflias also signed a joint ministerial decision, which approves environmental conditions and sets limitations concerning the construction and operation of the National Museum of Modern Art which will be erected where Fix Brewery was formerly located on Syngrou Avenue. The decision is to be signed by the Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis as well.
The environmental conditions are valid for 10 years.
 Interministerial committee examines investment programs concerning local defense industry
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)The interministerial defense industry committee convened on Monday and, according to defense ministry sources, examined existing and future investment programs concerning the local defense industry.
According to a defense ministry announcement, Finance and Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, the defense minister and relevant officials attended the meeting.
 9th Greek-Albanian interministerial committee meeting opens in Ioannina
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)The promotion of bilateral relations between Greece and Albania in the energy sector, via exchange of electricity and natural gas, in telecoms, and in road network links, as well as protection of the Greek minority in Albania, were the main items on the agenda of the 9th Greek-Albanian inter-ministerial committee that opened Monday in Ioannina, headed by Greece's deputy foreign minister Evripidis Stylianidis and Albanian economics minister Anastas Angjeli.
The two-day meeting in Ioannina was being held at the urging of prime minister Costas Karamanlis and foreign minister Petros Molyviatis, "who believe in decentralization, regional growth and the development of border relations between neighboring countries", Stylianidis told the meeting.
Angjeli stressed the desire of the two governments to promote relations between their countries, a prospect which he said was voiced during the recent meeting between Greek premier Karamanlis and Albanian prime minister Fatos Nano in Athens.
Also taking part in the meeting are representatives of the market, local governments, local Chambers, diplomats and foreign ministry experts.
A protocol is due to be signed at the end of the two-day event summarizing the conclusions of the talks, which would serve as a guide for the course of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries for the 2005-2006 period, Angjeli added, while Stylianidis expressed expectations that the 9th interministerial meeting would serve as "a new beginning in Greek-Albanian relations".
Among the projects of mutual interest that Greece plans on financing in the immediate future, in the framework of the national Plan for Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans (ESOAB) was the Konispoli-Sarande road artery, which will assist communication among the Greek minority villages as well as the movement of commerce, and Albanian's access to the sea.
The project involves improvement of an existing network, 60 kilometers in length, and is budgeted at around 55 million euros.
The Albanian side has submitted relevant studies to the Greek foreign ministry, while the Greek experts were awaiting the additional technical and budgetary data they have requested, so that the foreign ministry may give the go-ahead for construction of the project.
Addressing the opening session, Stylianidis said that the serious problems initially encountered in the ESOAB, with respect to financing, were of a technical and legal nature but also of political substance. He added, however, that Karamanlis desired continuity in foreign policy and the reinforcement of relations between the two neighboring countries.
The two ministers further noted Albania's Euro-Atlantic orientation, and Angjeli thanked Stylianidis for the Greek government's support of his country's European prospect.
It is noted that Greece is the top foreign investor in Albania, with 400 million dollars in invested capital, as well as Albania's second largest trade partner.
The 220-250 Greek or Greek-interest enterprises headquartered in Tirana or Gorce are active in the sectors of banking, telecoms, construction, petrol and petrol products.
 Development minister says implementation of new development law to begin this week
Athens, 29/3/2005 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas addressed the 1st Panhellenic Conference of Mechanical and Electrical Engineers on Monday and said the implementation of the new development law will begin this week.
The minister also said a new simpler, cheaper and flexible institutional framework will be created for licensing companies which will restrict bureaucratic burdens.
Sioufas outlined his ministry's initiatives concerning the citizen, the smooth operation of the market, healthy competition, the backing of enterprise, boosting competitiveness and attracting foreign investments.
He further said the draft bill on the natural gas market's deregulation will be made available for consultations this week, consultations will last until April 5, while immediately afterwards codes will be signed on the deregulation of the electric power market's deregulation and incentives will be pro-vided for the implementation of investments.
 Cypriot spokesman: new initiative must be well prepared
PAPHOS 29/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides has expressed the Greek Cypriot side's readiness to start negotiations for a Cyprus settlement as long as a new initiative is prepared the right way.
Commenting on statements made by Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan as regards Ankara's readiness to begin talks, the Cypriot official noted that an unprepared initiative that would end in a deadlock or a failure would be harmful.
''The preliminary work for the creation of the right procedures, the right framework for the new negotiations is prepared in the right way by our side, from the President of the Republic, and what is expected is when the UN will launch a new initiative," Chrysostomides said.
He added that every initiative must by under the UN auspices, but the European Union has also an important role to play in the efforts.
''The principles and values, on which the EU is based have a serious role to play, but nobody has ever said that we must leave the UN framework, in which the negotiations take place at an intercommunal level," Chrysostomides said.
He stressed, however, that certain international aspects of the Cyprus issue such as the withdrawal of the occupation troops, the colonist settlers, the guarantors' rights, the rights of intervention can only be discussed with Turkey.
 Cypriot government aware of content of Turkey's protocol
NICOSIA 29/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Monday that the government is aware, and has been for a few days now, of the content of the protocol extending Turkey's customs union to the ten new EU member-states, including Cyprus, which the European Commission has sent to Ankara with a note that it must be signed before October 3, 2005, when Turkey is set to commence negotiations for accession to the EU.
Replying to questions, Chrysostomides said the final text ''contains nothing negative regarding our position,'' noting that Athens and Nicosia were in agreement regarding the protocol.
Chrysostomides said there was no mention of Turkey's ports or airspace in the protocol, noting that these issues were covered by the 1963 Treaty on free trade and the movement of persons and goods.
He added that the protocol did not contain any statement on behalf of Ankara that it did not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
The spokesman noted that was mattered was the signing and implementation of the protocol by the state that was bound by its representative signing the treaty.
''If this protocol the Turkish government is about to sign is not ratified by the Turkish National Council, then of course Turkey cannot proceed to the EU,'' he added.
Regarding the meetings Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis is having in the US, Chrysostomides said Molyviatis would be briefing Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos on his contacts and that the positions the Greek minister was conveying to the US coincided with those of Cyprus.
The spokesman assured that Athens and Nicosia continued their cooperation and were in full agreement.
 Cyprus-Russia agree on a just, viable and comprehensive settlement
NICOSIA 29/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Nicosia and Moscow agree that a political settlement in Cyprus must be just, viable and comprehensive, consistent with Security Council resolutions, and must be reached with the free will of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, according to a press release issued by Nicosia on Monday that quotes an official press release by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The Russian press release said that last week's discussions between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Permanent Secretary of the Cyprus Foreign Ministry Ambassador Sotos Zakhaios focused on ''bilateral ties and prospects for further enhancing them, after Cyprus' full accession to the European Union (in May 2004), as well as the situation with regard to efforts to find a settlement in Cyprus.''
The Russian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement about Zakhaios' meeting with deputy foreign minister Vladimir Chizhov, during which it was confirmed that Nicosia and Moscow believe that there must be a just, viable and comprehensive solution, consistent with Security Council resolutions, and which must have the voluntary consent of the Cypriots themselves.
Chizhov and Zakhaios said they would work towards minimizing any negative repercussions from Cyprus' EU accession on bilateral relations.
In this respect, the two sides concluded that they should sign as soon as possible a joint agreement on the granting of a visa.