Useful contact

The meeting between US President George W. Bush and Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at the White House today has sparked interest. The meeting takes place in a positive climate, free from any bilateral hitches. The lack of pressure from such problems, which normally dominate top-level talks, will allow a more profound contact. Free from distractions, the American administration, which was for 20 years used to dealing with PASOK government officials, will now have an opportunity to get to know Karamanlis and the new mentality that permeates the Greek premier and his administration. It should be noted that Karamanlis’s visit comes at a challenging time for Washington due to the looming presidential elections and the serious difficulties facing the US-led troops in Iraq. The political and military pressure on the Iraq front has made the Bush administration more willing and appreciative of bilateral relations than in past periods. Meanwhile, the fact that none of the presidential candidates appears to enjoy any comfortable lead in the election race magnifies the significance of the Greek-American factor – a fact that strengthens Karamanlis’s hand and enables him to better promote Greece’s national interest. We should not forget that though there are no Greek-American disputes and although the government in Athens has embraced Washington’s request for support of Ankara’s demand for an EU membership talks date, at the same time neither the Cyprus problem nor any other dispute or bilateral claim in Greek-Turkish relations has been resolved. Given that Athens wants to see a solution to all outstanding issues, Karamanlis will obviously try to convince Bush that American interest or any initiative that could help to reach a mutually endorsed settlement will be most useful and welcome. It is understood that it will be hard to maintain momentum toward a solution to the Cyprus problem – a solution that can come only through radical changes to the UN reunification plan, making it more appealing to the Greek Cypriots, most of whom rejected it – without substantial intervention by the US which also played a decisive role in hammering out the blueprint. Of course, no one should expect anything spectacular to come of the meeting. However, keeping efforts alive toward finding a settlement on Cyprus, the issue of cooperation between the two states on the paramount issue of Olympic Games security, and the broader strengthening of bilateral ties at the highest political level will not be negligible gains for our country.

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