NEWS

Greece is ‘strategic partner’ in regional matters, US says

A senior US official yesterday called Greece a «strategic partner» that could help Washington’s plans to promote democracy in the Middle East and the Balkans. Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick, who was in Athens yesterday, met with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis. «Greece is a very good strategic partner,» Zoellick said after the talks. Last week, Molyviatis visited the USA, where he held talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and met with President George W. Bush. Zoellick called the trip by Molyviatis «very successful,» and noted that Greece was willing to hold an international conference on promoting peace in the Middle East. «We talked about the Middle East,» Zoellick said. «Greece is the home of democracy, and is willing to possibly hold an event to try to help share its experience with some of the countries in the region.» Greece, a Balkan European Union member with a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, has been diplomatically active in Southeast Europe in an effort to promote stability and development in the region. In early March, Karamanlis visited Zagreb, Belgrade and Pristina as part of an ongoing diplomatic effort to find a solution for Kosovo, the southern Serbian province that has been an international protectorate since the 1998-99 war there between Serbian government troops and ethnic Albanian separatists. Molyviatis said he and Zoellick had discussed «the great progress that we see in the spreading of democracy in many areas of our region.» The Greek diplomat noted, however, that those efforts did not include an intervention in the domestic affairs of another country, or the enforcement of democracy. The two diplomats also discussed the accession course of Turkey in the EU and the stalemate in efforts to reunify Cyprus. Talks to reunify the island based on a plan by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan collapsed in April last year after the Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected the plan while the Turkish Cypriots accepted it in separate referendums. «It is our mutual desire to restart the process with a goal of reunifying the island with negotiations on the basis of the Annan plan,» Molyviatis said.