NEWS

Athens stays positive on Lebanon despite EU rift

Greece said yesterday that it was pleased with the «loud message» sent out by the European Union to end hostilities in the Middle East even though EU foreign ministers failed to agree on demands for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon. After the extraordinary meeting of European diplomats in Brussels, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said she was satisfied with the outcome of the talks because a major rift between the member states had been avoided and the EU had said clearly that it wanted an end to the bloodshed in the Middle East. Going into the talks, Bakoyannis said Greece was one of the countries that wanted an immediate ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel. «Otherwise, no effective steps can be taken,» she said. However, ministers found it difficult to agree on the wording of the statement issued at the end of the crisis meeting. Britain, Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland objected to the inclusion of a demand for an immediate ceasefire. Greece and France were among the countries that backed the idea. After four hours of talks, diplomats agreed on a statement which said the EU called for «an immediate end to hostilities to be followed by a sustainable ceasefire.» No time frame was given in the statement. Synaspismos Left Coalition slammed the statement, saying it highlighted the contradictions and divisions within the EU and exposed the body’s inability to adopt a positive role. Meanwhile, Greece placed on standby its coast guard and cleanup vessels after being told that a large oil slick had formed in the Mediterranean off the Lebanese coast and was moving north. The slick was caused when the contents of some 110,000 barrels of oil spilled into the sea two weeks ago after Israeli warplanes hit a coastal power plant.