NEWS

Premier clinches talks with Obama

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appears to have secured a much sought-after face-to-face meeting with US President Barack Obama this weekend, marking the beginning of an intense period of diplomatic activity for the premier. Sources said that the two leaders’ aides were in the process of finalizing the details of the meeting, which is due to take place on Saturday lunchtime on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Strasbourg, France. Athens has been trying to arrange a meeting between Karamanlis and Obama for some time but so far only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis have met. Sources said that during Saturday’s meeting, Karamanlis will likely place particular emphasis on Greece’s dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the name issue but the two leaders are also expected to discuss relations with Turkey and the situation on Cyprus. Obama is due to begin a three-day visit to Cyprus on Sunday. Karamanlis is also likely to hold talks on Saturday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Discussions are expected to focus on economic issues and investment by German companies in Greece. Just a few days later, on April 9, Karamanlis will fly to Paris to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who invited the Greek prime minister to visit. Karamanlis will follow this up with a two-day trip to Cyprus on April 22, where he will hold talks with Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias, during which the two men will discuss ways of getting reunification talks moving with the Turkish Cypriots. The premier will then travel to Sofia to take part in an international summit on the use of natural gas in Europe. Should Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attend, it is likely that Karamanlis will meet privately with him.