NEWS

Greek, Syrian presidents see eye to eye

DAMASCUS (Combined reports) – President Costis Stephanopoulos, on the first visit by a Greek head of state to Syria, called for the implementation of UN resolutions on Israel, the Golan Heights and Cyprus. Stephanopoulos condemned terrorism and stressed the right of Israel to live in security. He said that Greece was opposed to any liberation movement targeting civilians and he accepted Syria’s position that Hezbollah, an extreme militant group described by the United States as a terrorist group, was not aiming for civilians. «President (Bashar) Assad assured us that this is not the policy of Hezbollah,» Stephanopoulos said after a meeting with the Syrian leader on Saturday, the first day of his three-day visit. The two men condemned Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories. During a dinner, Assad described «the invasion of residential Palestinian areas by Israeli tanks. .. (and) the killing of innocents» by Israel as «terrorism.» Stephanopoulos said that «the continuation of acts of destruction of houses and infrastructure by Israel is pushing the Palestinian people to despair.» He expressed concern over «the tragedy that is being played out in the Palestinian territories and the continued bloodshed, whoever may cause it and whoever its victims are.» Assad said there was «complete agreement» between the two on the «necessity to define terrorism through a conference organized by the United Nations» against the backdrop of the US-led war on terrorism. The issue of defining terrorism has grown increasingly important to the Arab world, where there is widespread popular support for militant groups fighting against Israel. Assad told reporters the talks had been «positive and fruitful.» Stephanopoulos stressed the importance of promoting economic relations, and said that the countries had agreed to reopen a link between the Greek port of Volos and Lattakia in Syria which was abandoned several years ago. He also invited Assad to visit Greece. Yesterday, Stephanopoulos attended the divine liturgy at the Greek Orthodox cathedral of Saint Mary of Damascus. Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Hazim welcomed relations between Greece and the Arab world, and recalled Syria’s role in the spread of Christianity. (ANA, AP, AFP)