NEWS

PM in US to talk Cyprus, Olympics

Olympic security, and the Cyprus issue, will be the focus of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s four-day visit to the United States, which begins today. Karamanlis will meet with US president George W. Bush on Thursday. Later that day, he will meet with Vice President Dick Cheney and with members of the House Committee on International Relations and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Tomorrow, Karamanlis will meet in New York with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Archbishop Demetrios, America’s top Greek Orthodox prelate. Foremost among Karamanlis’s goals is to reassure US officials and public opinion that Greece is ready to host an Olympics as safe as possible. In this he will have the understanding of US officials, who have followed Athens’s security preparations closely. The United States, along with six other countries including the UK and Israel, is advising Greece on setting up its security umbrella. Karamanlis will have a tougher task convincing both Bush and Annan of the necessity of seeking anew a solution to the partition of Cyprus. Last month’s resounding «no» by Greek Cypriots to a plan proposed by Annan, and accepted by Turkish Cypriots, has angered both the UN chief and Bush, along with most European Union member states. The prevailing feeling now is that Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, long an international pariah due to the massive presence of Turkish troops and its unilateral declaration of independence in 1983, must be brought out of its isolation. While international recognition appears unlikely, there might be moves toward informal recognition, such as allowing northern Cyprus to export its goods through its own ports and airports. Karamanlis will try to distance himself discreetly from the Greek Cypriots’ uncompromising stance. However, his near-invisibility in the critical phase of the negotiations – in contrast to that of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who got all the accolades – will complicate his task of trying to keep the Cyprus issue alive. On the Olympics, Karamanlis can point to the success of security exercise «Olympic Guardian II,» which was concluded yesterday, and the positive opinion of the International Olympic Committee. Still, US Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said last week that more work was required on security matters and that the US was willing to help. US officials have secured a three-story building in downtown Athens where athletes can meet safely with relatives and friends, Agence France-Presse reported from New York on Saturday.