Athens puts Palestinian case to EU

Foreign Minister George Papandreou had a long telephone conversation with Yasser Arafat yesterday afternoon and assured the Palestinian leader that he would do all in his power to get the EU and the United States to help end the Israeli blockade on him. «Mr Papandreou expressed the regards and solidarity of Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the government, and he repeated Greece’s and the EU’s support for President Arafat as the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people,» a Foreign Ministry statement said. Arafat «requested that Greece undertake an initiative with the European Union and the United States for the lifting of the blockade and the resumption of the peace process,» the ministry said. Papandreou, it added, «assured President Arafat that he would immediately brief the EU presidency and every effort will be made toward taking a relevant initiative. Mr Papandreou communicated with the president of the EU Council of Ministers, Danish Foreign Minister (Per Stig) Moeller, whom he informed of the latest developments in the Palestinian issue and the possibilities for the EU’s intervention.» Earlier, addressing local PASOK party members in the western city of Patras, Papandreou said that Greece’s unchanging position was «yes to security for Israel but this cannot exist without the establishment of a Palestinian state.» Foreign Ministry spokesman Panayiotis Beglitis issued a similar statement earlier. «We call on the Palestinian Authority to intensify its effort for the reform and restructuring of security services, the control and strict punishment of extreme, terrorist elements and (we call on) the Israeli government to raise the blockade on President Arafat in Ramallah and the Palestinian territories. The impasse feeds the impasse, and violence cannot conquer violence.» Palestinians protested outside the Israeli embassy yesterday afternoon, urging Greece to begin an initiative. Meanwhile, 140 Israeli teenagers, including some who had been hurt in Palestinian suicide bomb attacks, arrived in Athens yesterday for a holiday as guests of the national union of mayors. They follow two visits by a total of 300 Palestinian teenagers this summer.

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