US and Spain press for deal on EU force

Greece will veto any arrangement allowing the EU’s nascent defense force to use NATO assets if it feels that its interests are threatened, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday. This came after the EU’s Spanish presidency increased the pressure on Greece to accept a deal that would allow Turkey to have a say in the force’s operations in the Aegean and Cyprus. «We will not accept arrangements for European defense that are against our autonomy and the principles of the EU. That is why we reject the unbalanced ‘Ankara text.’ Without changes that will satisfy our aims and safeguard our interests, no document will be accepted,» Simitis told a meeting of his PASOK party in Athens. «The Union’s security and, even more so, the security of our country cannot be the subject of compromise or uncertain arrangements.» But a US State Department spokeswoman, Lynn Cassell, raised the pressure yesterday. «We urge all parties to accept the text as soon as possible,» she said. Kathimerini’s G.G. de Lastic reported from the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Reykjavik yesterday that the Spanish presidency has made a proposal aimed at appeasing Greece, according to sources close to Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem. The plan is regarded as positive by Ankara, usually reliable sources said. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister George Papandreou avoided referring to the existence of a new proposal. But Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique referred to one late on Tuesday. «Let us see how, at the same time, we can give sufficient guarantees to the Greek government so that its concerns can be met… without getting into changing a document, which would mean an endless process,» Pique said. He said Spain had put forward a fresh proposal to Athens that would couple a top-level formal EU declaration of assurances on the use of EU forces in «certain geographical areas» with an exchange of letters between the EU and NATO secretaries-general on practical arrangements. He said it was important the issue be settled by June 30, before Greece takes over the chair of the EU defense policy council for 12 months.