Washington wants to see a lessening of tensions between Greece and Turkey

How would you describe US-Greek relations at this time? I think that relations between Greece and the United States are significantly strengthened, much improved. Certainly the best at any time in my memory. We have strategic incentives between the two governments, in NATO, in what has to be done in the Balkans – which is a region of great importance to Greece. We work very closely together on EU issues that affect the United States. There’s been a very good personal relationship between the Greek leadership and the United States. We listen to the Greek government. Both the prime minister is well known to us and Foreign Minister Molyviatis, who is a very experienced, skillful diplomat, and so I think we are in an excellent period in our relations. On this end, people think things could be better. Athens and Washington see eye to eye on many things, but there’s a sense here that Athens has not been getting much in return for this. I don’t agree. I think that any relationship, of course, has to be a two-way street and I think the Greek people and the Greek government should expect the United States to be responsive to Greek needs and I think that we have been. We’ve been very supportive, for instance, over the last six or seven years, of the new Greek influence in the Balkans, of Greek investments, of Greek trade, of the Greek diplomatic role there. The US has seen Greece as a stabilizing role there has advised the Balkan countries that Greece can be a friend. I think we’ve been very helpful to Greece in that respect. We certainly were supportive of the Olympic Games, both our companies and our government gave enormous support. So, I don’t agree. No two countries are going to agree on everything. There will be times when we have rows. That’s normal in any relationship. That happens with us with all of our friends and partners. But I actually think there’s probably a greater degree of strategic coincidence and cooperation now than there was, for instance, when I was there as ambassador. And I am very happy about that. If we look at the outstanding issues one by one, Greece has supported Turkey very much in its moves toward closer ties with Europe. On the other hand, air and sea violations by Turkish forces have continued. We also haven’t seen any progress on the issue of the Halki Seminary or in the way Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios is treated. It’s as if Greece supports Turkey whereas Turkey sticks to an unbending position. Can Washington affect Ankara to the effect that Turkey adopts a softer relationship with Greece? Some of these issues have to be discussed and negotiated between Greece and Turkey. The US agrees with Greece that the Halki Seminary should be reopened. We agree that the necessary support should be given to His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew. We certainly want to see both countries look at their problems. So I don’t think there’s a lack of support from the United States. I think these are difficult issues, and they’ve existed, some of them, for 30, 40 years. I think Greeks can be assured the United States wants to see a lessening of tensions between Greece and Turkey. There has been an historic rapprochement between Greece and Turkey. Things are vastly improved from what they were, say, in 1997 or 1998. On the issue of the Church in Istanbul and on Halki we have a very clear opinion. We have called for the Halki Seminary to be reopened. We have called for the rights of the Patriarchate to be respected. There was also some tension over the last couple of weeks over statements made at the OSCE by your country’s ambassador, regarding Greece’s treatment of what the envoy termed minorities in Greece. Athens protested to Ambassador Ries here. Is it now US policy to recognize an «Albanian minority» in Greece, as well as the others mentioned? There’s really no major change in US policy. We’ve had a longstanding practice of recognizing that there are minorities in Greece. This is nothing new. I remember that the previous Greek government did not appreciate this fact. We simply have to stick to our own opinion. But it’s not a crisis in our relationship. It should not be a crisis. There are more important issues that we should be discussing. It may be a difference of opinion but that’s all it is and we certainly agree on so many more issues strategically between our two countries. There’s so many good ties that underlie US-Greece relations. Greece has been on the UN Security Council this year. How has cooperation between Greece and the US been on that level? I think the cooperation has been very good. We consult very frequently in New York as well as between Athens and Washington. As you know, we have similar views on many important world issues. We certainly appreciate Greece’s support for the US, and the US support for Greece, on issues concerning terrorism, for instance. We have felt that support in our country… and in NATO as well. On a bilateral level? I think I can say that when Prime Minister Karamanlis came to Washington in May he and President Bush had an excellent meeting.I think bilateral relations between the two governments have not been this good for a long, long time. I think that’s going to continue, because there’s personal confidence among the leaders. Do you have any ideas on how to get the Cyprus process moving again? We wish we did. It’s a shame that the opportunity was not taken advantage of last year with the Annan Plan. We would just hope that continued progress will be made. We are actively engaged through our ambassador in Nicosia. We have very close contacts with Greece on the Cyprus issue as well.