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01 March, 1997
Prime Minister Costas Simitis held talks here yesterday with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana focusing on tensions in Greek-Turkish relations and efforts to restructure the alliance.
The premier first held private talks with Mr. Solana, while the meeting was subsequently attended by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.
Mr. Solana's proposals for defusing tensions in Greek-Turkish relations were discussed at length, although Mr. Simitis said arrangements already existed to deal with the situation.
Specifically, the premier cited a memorandum agreement reached in 1988 by then Greek and Turkish foreign ministers Karolos Papoulias and Mesut Yilmaz, respectively. In 1988, Mr. Papoulias and Mr. Yilmaz agreed in the Athens seaside resort of Vouliagmeni to promote confidence-building measures (CBMs) between the two countries based on the principle of good-neighborliness.
"In time, discussions can be held," Mr. Simitis added.
Mr. Solana said that what was important was to work on the issue before the NATO summit on July 8-9.
According to sources, Mr. Solana underlined during yesterday's talks that in view of NATO's eastward enlargement, the problems which exist between alliance members must be dealt with.
The same sources said Mr. Solana appeared to insist on his proposal concerning an extension of a two-month moratorium on Greek and Turkish military exercises in the Aegean during July and August.
At the present time, the Greek side does not appear willing to discuss the issue given Ankara's general stance towards Athens, reports state.
For this reason, Mr. Solana intends to return to Greece and Turkey before the July summit, while the sources said the NATO chief was insisting that a solution be found by July.
When asked by reporters if Ankara was in agreement with his proposals, Mr. Solana replied that any agreement should be formulated on the basis of the Vouliagmeni memorandum as well as on ideas put forward last summer.
"I shall make every effort to secure agreement from both sides because this is my job," Mr. Solana said.
Asked whether radar pictures of the situation in the Aegean would continue to be relayed directly to NATO headquarters in Naples beyond the four-month period agreed, Mr. Simitis said this would continue if necessary in order to brief the alliance on
developments, "because it is a positive thing if the allies are better informed."
Mr. Solana described his talks as "extremely constructive" since he had ascertained that Athens' positions were very positive concerning the building of a new NATO, in a reference to proposed new military structures, new missions, new members and the
alliance's new relationship with Russia.
In these sectors, Mr. Simitis underlined, important decisions must be taken at the Madrid summit in July, adding that talks would continue.
Source: Athens News Agency