NEWS

Greek chorus says no

Opposition party leaders united yesterday in backing the government’s decision not to compromise in its objections to allowing Turkey to have a say in the EU’s defense force and in pressing for Cyprus’s unhindered EU accession. Prime Minister Costas Simitis met separately yesterday with New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis (for the first time since June 2000), Communist Party General Secretary Aleka Papariga and Left Coalition (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos to brief them. Saying that the time of responsibility and difficult decisions had come, Simitis called for national unity in order to deal with Cyprus’s EU accession, efforts to end the island’s division and how the EU force will use NATO assets (where Turkey demands a say). «On all three of these issues the moment of truth has arrived. The time of responsibility has come,» Simitis told reporters after his meetings. «We need to be alert, united, combative, and, of course, to have a spirit of national solidarity. I called on the party leaders and briefed them on developments. From our talks I found that there is a common will to deal with these issues, despite some reservations here and there.» Simitis warned that some EU partners might try to hold up Cyprus’s accession until the island’s political problem is solved, or to tie the accession issue to Greece’s compromise on the Euroforce. Regarding the «Ankara text» according to which the USA, Britain and Turkey agreed that the EU force should give Ankara a say in how it is deployed in exchange for using NATO assets, Simitis said, «Greece has said the Ankara text has to change and we will insist on this.» Karamanlis echoed: «The Ankara text cannot be accepted.» He stressed that Cyprus should not have to solve its political problem before joining the EU. «Cyprus has to join in the first wave of enlargement during the Greek (EU) presidency in the spring of 2003,» he said. He accused the government of «negligence, to put it mildly,» in allowing the Euroforce issue to come to this point. He called for a unified national strategy and a national foreign policy council. Papariga and Constantopoulos also called for a veto on the Ankara text. Meanwhile, government spokesman Christos Protopappas said that violations of Greek airspace by Turkish warplanes «have multiplied» and that Greece was using «all the diplomatic and political measures at our disposal.»