Diplomats air their views

As representatives from 56 different countries converged in Athens for talks on global security yesterday, Greek interest appeared to be focused more on diplomatic exchanges on the sidelines of the event than on the central proceedings. Opening the two-day conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), whose rotating chairmanship Greece currently holds, President Karolos Papoulias noted, «Dividing lines remain; old disputes have not been solved and new threats are appearing inside and beyond our borders.» Prime Minister George Papandreou subsequently referred to the ongoing row between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as problems in Georgia. But on the sidelines of the conference, another dispute was the focus of debate. Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Antonio Milososki, discussed the longstanding rift between their two countries over the Balkan country’s official name. According to sources, the talks were cordial but unproductive with the two sides simply «agreeing to disagree.» Speaking to reporters after the conversation with Milososki, who also spoke briefly with Papapandreou, Droutsas said the conference «offers us the opportunity to discuss not only issues of concern to the OSCE but our own issues too… ahead of the European Union summit in 10 days’ time.» Debate at the OSCE conference yesterday focused on security in the region, though other pressing issues, such as illegal immigration and climate change, were also discussed. A proposal made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for a new security pact for the Euro-Atlantic region was coolly received by Western diplomats, who instead proposed the reform of existing security provisions. The conference, which concludes today, ran smoothly following the mobilization of thousands of police officers. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner praised Greece for making «an exceptionally efficient and substantial effort» during its yearlong chairmanship, which is to be assumed by Kazakhstan in January.

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