NEWS

Flurry of diplomacy for FM

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is bracing for a flurry of diplomacy as she welcomes her Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan to Athens today and awaits the arrival of United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz tomorrow for a new round of talks on the thorny Macedonian name issue. Talks between Bakoyannis and Babacan, on his first visit to Greece in his new role, are expected to focus on finalizing the agenda for a scheduled visit to Turkey by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis early next year. The two diplomats are also due to discuss the progress of Ankara’s bid to join the European Union, the rights of the Greek minority in Turkey, the problem of illegal immigration and the intensification of trust-building measures between their two nations. After talks with other top-ranking politicians and businessmen, Babacan is to travel to Komotini tomorrow evening to meet with representatives of Greece’s Muslim minority in Thrace. Meanwhile Bakoyannis will be preparing to meet UN envoy Nimetz, who is due in Athens tomorrow morning, fresh from talks in Skopje. Bakoyannis expressed cautious optimism yesterday despite the envoy’s failure to reach a breakthrough in Skopje yesterday. «I would like to hope that they will not persist in their intransigence so that a solution may be found,» she said following talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Earlier yesterday Nimetz had signaled that the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was willing to continue talks on the name dispute but that it had not embraced any of the envoy’s new proposals for a possible compromise. «This is not an easy situation – but it is good that the will to tackle the problem exists,» Nimetz said after talks with top FYROM officials. He said there was no deadline for a resolution and that the current round of talks would not necessarily be the last. Athens insisted that it wanted the best for FYROM, despite its tough stance on the name issue. «Greece can, and wants to, lead (FYROM) in its course toward the EU and NATO – on the condition that a mutually acceptable solution is found,» Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said.