Hope for progress at Rice meeting

The state of relations between Greece and the USA is likely to become clearer late tonight after Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis meets with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington. In her most high-profile diplomatic meeting since being appointed foreign minister in last month’s Cabinet reshuffle, Bakoyannis will have a number of issues to raise. Cooperation between the US and Greece in the Balkans is one subject that both sides will want to address, especially with the future of Kosovo still unclear. Twelve months ago, the US secretary of state said that Greece was the White House’s closest ally in the region. Greece’s relations with Turkey and developments in Cyprus will also be on the agenda but the Greek delegation is likely to discuss these issues in more detail with Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. Bakoyannis will also meet with President George W. Bush’s homeland security adviser Frances Townsend. It is thought that the Greek side will want to raise the issue of visas, as Greece is the only country among the original 15 member states of the European Union whose citizens still require a visa to travel to the USA. Bakoyannis’s visit comes at a sensitive point in Greece-US relations as the government has said it will not be buying any more F-16 fighter jets from the Americans for the time being and caused controversy by hinting at a link between a recent phone-tapping scandal and the US Embassy in Athens.