OPINION

Credit where it’s due

The main opposition PASOK party has tried to downplay the recent meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and US President Barack Obama. «It was a formal meeting of the type that President Obama had with a number of leaders,» said PASOK MP Theodoros Pangalos. The former minister is one of Greece’s most intelligent politicians but, in this case, he was mistaken in his assessment. The meeting was more than just a brief official encounter. It was attended by a full compliment of advisers – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser James Jones and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried on the American side, and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis from Greece – and, according to a top American official, all the major issues of concern to Greece were addressed: Greek-Turkish relations and the issue of the continental shelf in the Aegean, the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as well as its NATO prospects, Cyprus reunification efforts, the issue of the Patriarchate in Istanbul and even relations with Russia. Karamanlis had the opportunity of a first face-to-face meeting with the new American president and he briefed him extensively on Greece’s concerns just a day before Obama set off for an official visit to Turkey. At one point in their discussions, Obama asked Karamanlis outright what he could do to help and he received specific answers. The meeting was essential and if over time Karamanlis proves to have not made an impact on Obama, then the opposition party can and should criticize him. For the time being, however, this does not appear to be the case. Clinton is said to have shown understanding for Greece’s position concerning FYROM and the need for a composite name when speaking to her European counterparts in Prague a day after the Karamanlis and Obama meeting. As far as Cyprus and the Patriarchate are concerned, Obama himself addressed these issues when speaking to the Turkish parliament. He supported the reunification of Cyprus in a bizonal, bicommunal federation and the reopening of the Halki Seminary, even though the meeting with the ecumenical patriarch was not what had been hoped for. Even though Greece and Turkey’s Aegean dispute was not brought up on Obama’s visit to Turkey, it is certain that the US president had a clear idea of the situation following his talks with Karamanlis. Beside meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – who were hosting the NATO summit in Strasbourg – Obama also met with Karamanlis and his decision should not be stripped of its importance.