OPINION

Beyond the visit

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s visit to Washington took place in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, as he said, but regardless of any public statements (notably, Greek officials were the only ones to make statements, as the American ones kept silent) attention should now focus on the future as the country faces some grave challenges. The issue of terrorism dominated the Washington talks and Simitis provided assurances that soon «there will be positive results,» pointing at the disruption of the November 17 terrorist group. There should be no doubt that the US administration will keep a close eye on future developments in this sphere. The prime minister openly acknowledged the differences between Athens and Washington on the issue of Europe’s nascent rapid deployment force, as the US insists on a quick settlement of the issue in the framework of the joint US-British informal initiative in order to extract Turkey’s consent without taking Greece’s interests into consideration. Simitis put forward Greece’s position regarding the independence of a European defense, and the question concerns the way in which the government can reverse the present situation. This will be a crucial year for a series of Greek foreign policy issues, and it was undoubtedly helpful that Simitis had the opportunity to exchange views with the American president in a period marked by a radical transformation of US priorities in the wake of the September 11 terrorist strikes. But beyond the broader geopolitical imperatives, which also affect our country, Greece has specific problems to deal with, mainly in connection with Turkey, whose policy has remained unchanged through the process of Greek-Turkish rapprochement. During his meeting with President Bush, Simitis did not raise the issue of Greek-Turkish relations and as regards the Cyprus issue, the US stance appears unaltered as the prime minister admitted during the press conference. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s visit to Washington will be revealing in terms of the way in which the US president treats the leaders of the two allies. But the behavior of Turkey after Ecevit’s visit to Washington, both on the Cyprus issue and the Aegean Sea dispute, will reveal whether there was really an essential intervention by Bush to restore normality in Greek-Turkish relations on the basis of international law.