Monday, April 07, 2008

PM Karamanlis to brief President on NATO summit

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will brief on Monday President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on the outcome of a three-day NATO Summit in Bucharest last week and more particularly on developments regarding the "name issue" of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Greece on Wednesday vetoed an invitation to FYROM to join NATO on the grounds that a mutually acceptable solution on a dispute over the land-locked republic's name had not been reached, due to the neighbouring country's intransigence.

An off-the-agenda debate on the issue of FYROM's name is to take place in Parliament on Thursday, April 10. The debate will be held at party leader level, following a relevant motion submitted by Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party leader George Karatzaferis.

Greece will not consent to NATO entry for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) while the dispute over its name remains unresolved, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis repeated on Friday, in statements after the conclusion of a NATO summit in Bucharest.

He stressed that Greece's goal was that its smaller, land-locked neighbour to the north should have a "clear composite name for all uses," while adding that Athens was prepared to take part in a new round of negotiations under UN auspices in order to find a name that was mutually acceptable by both sides.

The Greek premier also expressed the opinion that relations with the United States had not been strained as a result of Athens' hard-line stance on this issue at NATO.

"We have a relationship with the United States as allies but that does not mean that we have identical views. On the specific issue it is clear, that views are different. We went along our own views and raised a veto. I do not see shadows cast over bilateral relations," the Greek premier added.

He disagreed, furthermore, with the view that Greece's veto would lead to a wider destabilisation in the region:

"I believe that conditions will soon be ripe to repeat negotiations to find a mutually accepted solution," he said.

Greece's friendly feelings toward FYROM, in general, were also expressed by Karamanlis, who stressed that there was no hostility on the part of Athens and that Greece wanted to support the country's Euro-Atlantic prospects, provided that the issue of the name was first resolved in a satisfactory way.

"The framework of negotiations in known, we have already crossed half the distance and it is now up to FYROM to make the steps that form its own share," he said.

Pointing out that Athens was in favour of the gradual incorporation of all of southeastern Europe into Euro-Atlantic structures, provided that the required terms and criteria were met, he expressed his satisfaction at the invitation extended by NATO to Albania and Croatia, when commenting on the outcome of NATO's decision concerning the 'Adriatic group'.

"We are glad that we can extend an invitation to begin accession negotiations with the first two countries, which have made major efforts. We have invested in their Euro-Atlantic prospects for development and stability of the region. Unfortunately, the same does not also apply for FYROM, since we are not in a position to give our approval as long as the problem of the name exists," he underlined.

According to the Greek premier, the ongoing dispute with FYROM meant that it did not meet NATO's criteria of good neighbour relations, while noting that NATO's charter required new countries wishing to join to first resolve territorial differences or disputes of an irredentist nature with existing members.

In response to questions, Karamanlis indicated that Greece would adopt the same stance when FYROM's application to begin accession negotiations to join the European Union comes up for consideration in September, while saying that there was ample time to find a solution to the "name issue" before that time.

"I consider that there is enough time to find a solution. On the issue of the accession negotiations, our country's stance was, is and will be consistent," he stressed.

Questioned about the results of the NATO summit and how Greece's stance was received by the other allies, Karamanlis said Athens had achieved its diplomatic target at Bucharest and that its veto was a tool that could work toward finding a solution and the ultimate goal, which was a mutually acceptable agreement.

Among the positive points listed by Karamanlis regarding the summit was the fact that all sides had come to understand the true nature of the problem poised by the FYROM "name dispute", which had not been achieved in any of the previous 17 years since it first arose. In addition, Greece was hardly isolated in its views but had received support from several countries, while a general understanding of Greek positions was also expanded during the summit, he said.

Greece strenuously objects to the use of the name "Republic of Macedonia" by FYROM on the grounds that the country's insistence on the name, which is also that of a major northern Greek province on FYROM's border, forms part of an irredentist strategy and expansionist designs.

Karamanlis also commented on other NATO-related issues, among them a proposed enlargement toward Ukraine and Georgia. He stressed that no one could impose on the Alliance whether it should accept new members, provided that the party involved was in agreement and fulfilled the criteria.

On the issue of Afghanistan, he indicated that Greece already participates in the NATO force and can increase its contribution to the effort for reconstruction in the war-ravaged country.

With respect to Russia, the Greek premier said that NATO-Russia cooperation was extremely important for international stability and security. He also noted that the cold war was over and that the challenges now facing NATO and Russia were new ones.

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