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05 June, 1998
National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said yesterday that NATO is now assuming the role of a very broad collective security organization, which newly emerging Balkan states could join.
"The new character of NATO, which is no longer a military organization but an institution of very broad influence aiming at collective security, provides the possibility to newly founded states in the region to join in," he said during a joint press conference at the presidential palace with his Slovenian counterpart Alojz Krapez and Foreign Minister Boris Frlec.
Earlier, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos held talks with the two ministers and Slovenia's president, Milan Kucan. The high-level meetings, the first between the two countries, were described as particularly substantive, creating favorable conditions for a climate of stability and peace at the two ends of the Balkans.
The talks also centered on the crisis in Kosovo, as both sides concurred on the need for respect of the right to autonomy for the ethnic Albanian majority, as well as to avoid any change of borders in the Balkans and to promote a dialogue leading to the ultimate resolution of the problem.
Slovenian officials expressed a positive view of the creation of a Balkan peacekeeping and crisis prevention force, as discussed in recent summits in Sofia and on Crete.
"It is especially significant for us to discuss such issues, because the current crisis points are here, in Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, Cyprus and the Aegean, where Turkey's aggressive behavior and its refusal to respect international law is leading to destabilization," said Mr. Tsohatzopoulos.
He added that Slovenia's future participation in NATO could provide the conditions for security and peace for all countries in the region, stressing that Greece also fully backs its application to join the European Union.
"Slovenia is a country quickly forging ahead with a course of convergence with Europe," he said, adding that it was also necessary for Bulgaria and Romania to join the next wave of NATO enlargement.
In addition, initial agreement was forged to sign a bilateral defense cooperation pact that will include the holding of joint exercises, during Mr. Krapez's planned visit to Athens in the next few months.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos later visited a military base and the Hellenic Navy frigate "Macedonia", which is participating in a NATO naval force in the Adriatic, as well as the Turkish frigate "Kara-Deniz", also part of the same force. The NATO commander heading the force later hosted a reception in the Greek minister's honor aboard the vessel.
Source: Athens News Agency