© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
22 March, 2001
A call for active involvement by NATO in the FYROM crisis was made here on Wednesday by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who said the Alliance, should not treat a situation created by its own actions with indifference.
The violence in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, triggered by the attacks of Albanian extremists around Tetovo, near the tiny republic's border with Kosovo, was one of the main issues discussed by Simitis and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday.
According to Simitis, during his talks with Blair on Tuesday evening and in earlier talks with NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson in Athens, he was given the impression that the UK and NATO want to plan their next move in the area carefully, to ensure any intervention they decide is successful.
A belief that Britain and the US want to pull out of the area was mistaken, he continued, and said that US President George Bush had assured him of this during a telephone conversation a few days earlier.
The Greek prime minister categorically ruled out unilateral action by Greece in FYROM, even if the neighboring state's government would like this, and stressed that Greece would act within the framework of the international organizations of which it is a member, such as NATO and the European Union.
"If NATO and the EU decide something, we will participate," he said and called for a more "decisive" NATO and EU presence in the area.
Simitis also ruled out sending Greek troops to FYROM, in response to questions, and said there were other ways of supporting FYROM's government.
The most important thing, he added, was to seal off the border with Kosovo, which Greece had supported from the start. The problem was that this required moving troops - something that could create problems in other areas.
Regarding bilateral relations between Greece and FYROM, Simitis said that these were at a very good level but that the dispute over the republic's name was still unresolved.
"I have pointed out to the Skopje government that the name issue cannot be bypassed by developing good bilateral relations, and that initiatives by Skopje are needed," he said.
Commenting on his talks with Blair on Tuesday night, Simitis described Blair as Britain's "most Europeanist prime minister," and said they had discussed EU affairs after the Nice summit.
"We cannot be satisfied with the results at Nice, we have to keep going. But we must decide, before we make any institutional changes, what we want from Europe, where we are going and why," he added.
Another topic raised during his talks with Blair, Simitis reported, was the Cyprus problem. According to the Greek premier, the UK's position on this largely satisfied Athens.
He said they had also touched upon organized crime and terrorism, and cooperation on this between the Greek police and Britain's Scotland Yard, which Blair had commented on very favorably.
Finally, the two men had discussed bilateral trade relations, the sale of British tanks to the Greek army and relations between Europe and Turkey.
Earlier on Wednesday, Simitis had met with the Committee, an influential union of Greek ship owners based in London.
Source: Athens News Agency