Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s impending visit to the US and his meeting with President George W. Bush on January 10 could prove crucial for the course of our major national issues. Their talks will inevitably focus on Turkey’s role in the EU’s nascent rapid deployment force and the progress of talks on the Cyprus dispute. It is an open secret that the Greek government tried in vain to postpone Simitis’s visit to Washington, as it considers the current juncture highly unfavorable for promoting the country’s interests. The announcement that Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit will visit Washington a few days after Simitis strengthens the impression that the US is making a coordinated effort to resolve a series of substantial issues pivotal to Greek-Turkish relations. However, the fact that there is little if any sign of convergence between the two sides gives rise to justifiable doubts about whether the American proposals will be compatible with Greece’s interests. The plan drafted by the US, Britain and Turkey on the relations between Ankara and the Euroforce is an example of this. Washington will clearly insist on the plan, as it would indirectly promote American interests in connection with Europe’s nascent military force. The Greek government has rejected the proposed settlement. As for Cyprus, the US has not put pressure on Turkey to end its occupation of northern Cyprus. In effect, no one can guarantee that talks will lead to a solution. Any positive adjustment that would produce a settlement acceptable to Greece will take time, effort and tough negotiations. No one doubts that the framework within which Greece is seeking a solution to the series of Greek-Turkish disputes is the framework of its alliances with the US, NATO and the EU. This, however, does not mean that Greece has to succumb to the objectives of its allies and partners at the expense of its national interests. With a proper evaluation of the global balance of power, wisdom, patience and determination, Simitis’s government has to explain to and persuade the US that Greece’s positions are the right ones. It cannot afford to back down on agreements that, paradoxically, promote the interests of Turkey – a country which the 15 EU members refuse to accept in the EU and will not do so for at least another 15 years – at the expense of Greece, an EEC and EU member for 20 years.

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