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20 November, 1999
Visiting US President Bill Clinton last night pledged to help resolve the protracted Cyprus problem and improve Greek-Turkish relations.
"Mr. President, I heard what you said in your address. As you know I just arrived from Turkey. I must tell you that I deployed my best efforts to help you resolve those issues and to promote friendship and reconciliation. Talks on the Cyprus issue are due to begin. I must also tell you I will do everything on my part in order to have progress on this issue as well," President Clinton said, in a response to Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos' address during an official dinner at the presidential mansion.
"The future we envision includes Greece. We expect (Greece) to assume a leading role in the region," the US president said.
Earlier, the US president called Greece the "economic powerhouse in SE Europe, the country with the highest growth rate in the EU" and with a "booming stock market."
"Greece is one of only seven nations of the world that has sided with the United States in every major military conflict," Mr. Clinton said, before referring in detail to the contribution of the ethnic Greek community in the United States over two centuries since Greek sailors permanently settled in New England as well as US President James Monroe's encouragement of the Greek Independence struggle in 1822. He also lauded Greek-Americans for their "hard work and devotion to church and family," saying the United States would not be the same without them.
"Oli mazi (all together)," was President Clinton's final remark in his address.
President Clinton, along with his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea, arrived at the presidential mansion at approximately 9:10 p.m. They were greeted by President Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis, before the playing of the American and Greek national anthems.
Among the Greek president's gifts to the Arkansas native were two classic volumes, Aristotle's 'Politics' and Plato's 'Republic'. Premier Simitis headed a high-ranking government delegation at the official dinner, including top Cabinet ministers, most of Greece's party leaders -- sans the leftist opposition leaders -- past presidents and premiers, Greek-American leaders, including well-known businessman Angelos Tsakopoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, new Archbishop of America Demetrios and Mr. Clinton's entourage -- a total guest list of 162 in all.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright preceded the US president at the presidential mansion by about 20 minutes.
President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos in his address said: "Welcome to Greece. We greet you and Mrs. Clinton with feelings of sincere friendship and great respect towards your person, as well as towards your great country, with which Greece is connected by strong past and present ties."
"We greet you as a distinguished president of the United States; who with his policy reinforced even more the prosperity of his country, and as president of the leading country of the western world, (a country) that aspires to express and support the grand principles of freedom, democracy and respect of human rights," Mr. Stephanopoulos added.
"Greece today is a peaceful nation, fully respecting its international obligations, with an impeccably functioning democratic system of government, with a strong and growing economy, a member of the European Union and many other international organizations, an important factor of stability in the Balkan region. We do not like war, nor do we project it as a means for resolving differences, we accept and support United Nations resolutions, we respect international law and international treaties, and maintain friendly relations with all our neighbors, not having problems other than those caused against us by Turkey's aggressive policy," he said.
Referring to the Cyprus problem, Mr. Stephanopoulos said it should be resolved according to the principles of justice and democracy.
"It is not possible to be resolved through the acceptance of military force and faits accomplis. It is not conceivable for the bicommunal system of government being studied to disregard the overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots, as it is not conceivable for the rights of all Cypriots to be disregarded... The entry of the Republic of Cyprus in the EU cannot be permitted to depend on a previous solution of the Cyprus problem. This problem, I believe, is of primary importance," he said. The Greek president stressed that no nation desired friendship and cooperation with Turkey more than Greece, as this would be beneficial to the economic development of both countries and save money from expensive armaments.
"Greece has proposed to all sides and, of course, to Turkey, the (adoption of the) procedure of the International Court at The Hague, which bears the guarantees and the binding nature of the rulings of this court. The international community also concurs to this proposal".
Arrival and statements:
President Bill Clinton arrived at the Athens international airport at approximately 6:50 yesterday afternoon for a 24-hour lightning trip to the Greek capital following a brief flight from Istanbul, where he participated in an Organization for Security an d Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit.
A complete flight ban was in effect over Attica prefecture as the US president, accompanied by his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea, arrived aboard Air Force One. Security in and around the airport, located in a seaside Athens suburb, was described as draconian.
In a brief statement at the airport shortly after exiting Air Force One at 7 p.m. President Clinton said: "Hello, thank you all for coming out to greet us...my family and our American delegation are very happy to be here in Greece, I have come here as a philhellene (a friend of Greece), and I look forward to experiencing that wonderful quality of hospitality -- philoxenia -- known to all the world."
Besides Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and White House Chief of Staff John Podesta also accompanied the US president, who was officially greeted at the airport by Foreign Minister George Papandreou and the US Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns.
President Clinton noted that he wanted "through this visit" to demonstrate to the US people the significant role that Greece plays today in southeastern Europe in terms of stability and economic vigor, mentioning the Athens Stock Exchange in particular, "...we look to ancient Greece for inspiration, we look to modern Greece for leadership," he stressed, before heading with Hillary Clinton into a crowd of supporters gathered on the runway and waving Greek and US flags.
"Our nations have so much in common, we are allies with a long tradition in democracy, two nations proud of our past which also look to the future. I look forward to my stay here," he said.
Mr. Clinton mentioned both a solution to the long-standing Cyprus problem and "building a Europe in which the Balkans are stabilized". "Our nations have so much in common...democracies with a long tradition of impassioned political debate about issue s which affect our lives..." he said.
The US president's motorcade has reached the Intercontinental Hotel in central Athens, running a route from the airport cleared of all vehicular traffic and with no one in sight, sans police.
Clinton says unconcerned over protests to his visit: ANKARA (ANA)
Speaking in Istanbul yesterday, President Clinton said the Greek government and the Greek people have hopes over the new initiative on the Cyprus issue, adding that he was not concerned over the prospect of protests against him in Athens.
"If there is a question of protest rallies, there should be a possibility for them to take place," he said and went on to say that the majority of the Greek people "think differently" from himself and that "facts have proved that I was right."
President Clinton said he was not concerned over the rallies and that "the US and Greece are allies and Greece is very important to us. Greece has achieved amazing progress over the past 10 years."
Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, President Clinton said that "in three different speeches I made in Turkey, I referred to the need for a compromise between the peoples of Turkey and Greece and I received a receptive ear."
Source: Athens News Agency