Greece and US look to stronger ties

Greece and the USA reaffirmed their strategic alliance over the last few days after a series of meetings between Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and top American diplomats in Washington. Sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini that during a meeting between Bakoyannis and Condoleezza Rice late on Thursday, the US secretary of state indicated that the White House was keen to take advantage of Greece’s expertise in the Balkans and its good relations with Muslim countries. Bakoyannis also discussed these aspects in detail with Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. After Thursday’s meeting, both women agreed that the future of Kosovo should be settled in such a way as to safeguard stability in the Balkans. Rice also encouraged Athens and Ankara to keep improving relations and expressed hope that as Turkey became «more democratic,» obstacles between the two countries would be removed. «Turkey’s European future lies in its own hands,» Bakoyannis said, «with the application of European norms and practices, both inside Turkey and in its relationships with its neighbors, Greece and Cyprus.» Bakoyannis is due to meet with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York today, where the Cyprus issue will again be raised. President George W. Bush held a White House ceremony on Friday to mark Greek Independence Day and praised Greece as a useful ally. «Greece provides security at Kabul international airport and we thank your government for that,» he said. He lauded the contribution that Greek Americans and the Greek Orthodox Church had made to the USA and emphasized the role of two of his Cabinet members with Greek roots; John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, and homeland security adviser Frances Fargos Townsend. Washington did not agree to drop the visa requirement for Greeks visiting the USA. Rice did, however, accept an invitation from Bakoyannis to visit Greece. A specific date for the visit has not been set.