NEWS

Greek, Palestinian PMs talk diplomacy

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday reassured visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Greece’s support for the formation of an independent Palestinian state while expressing concern about the collapse of the latest peace initiative in the Middle East. «If the peace process fails again, there will be great disappointment, not just that of the nations and governments involved but also of the peoples of many other countries, and this disappointment will lead to extreme positions and actions,» Papandreou said following his talks with Abbas at the Maximos Mansion. Papandreou reiterated Greece’s support for a «just and viable solution that would facilitate a comprehensive settlement to the Middle Eastern problem,» stressing that the matter was significant for the entire region and «of crucial interest to Greece.» Abbas, for his part, called on the European Union to take a more active role and contribute to the peace process on the political level. The Palestinian leader also took the opportunity to express solidarity with debt-ridden Greece and optimism about the country’s prospects of emerging from the current crisis. «We believe that, with the wisdom of the prime minister and the government, Greeks will succeed in getting through this crisis,» Abbas said. The Palestinian leader also met with Greek President Karolos Papoulias, who highlighted the potential of «disaster diplomacy» for healing rifts between neighboring states, a tactic employed successfully by Greece and Turkey following earthquakes in both countries in 1999. Papandreou said that he had proposed to both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Greece undertake a regional initiative foreseeing the joint management of natural disasters. Last weekend, the Greek government sent aircraft to battle a forest fire that broke out close to the northern Israeli city of Haifa.