NEWS

Clinton to visit Athens next month

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to visit Greece early next month for talks with government officials that are expected to focus on the latest attempt at Greek-Turkish rapprochement and a recent drive to boost ties between Greece and Israel, sources said yesterday. Clinton is expected to visit Athens on February 6 or 8 and, apart from foreign relations, it is anticipated that she will broach the issue of the recent spike in domestic terrorism in Greece as well as American concerns about international terrorists slipping into the country unnoticed amid a relentless influx of illegal immigrants. Another topic on the agenda is the ongoing dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the Balkan state’s official name. Washington is pushing for FYROM’s NATO accession but Athens insists that the country cannot join the alliance before the name spat is resolved. Last March, when Clinton received Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in Washington, she had praised him for his efforts to boost bilateral relations between Athens and Ankara. This time, Greek-Turkish relations are expected to be less of a priority than the Cyprus problem as the latest peace drive on the divided island is foundering. Aegean tensions remained the focus of attention in Greece’s Parliament though. Papandreou yesterday accused the leader of the Communist Party (KKE), Aleka Papariga, of slander after she said that the government was ready to compromise Greece’s position on the delineation of the continental shelf around the island of Kastellorizo. «I am sorry, Mrs Papariga, because you have become the worst propagandist for extreme Turkish positions,» Papandreou said. «The things you are saying here in the Greek Parliament would not even occur in the dreams of the most extremist Kemalist general of Turkey’s deep state,» the premier added. Papandreou stressed that the government’s foreign policy priority remained «the peaceful resolution of the dispute over the continental shelf,» noting that Greece would propose a joint appeal to the International Court of Justice at The Hague if exploratory talks with Turkey do not progress.