26 April, 2006
Greek-US relations are the “strongest in a decade and a half”, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Bryza told reporters during a special press briefing on Tuesday regarding US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice's visit to Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria.
According to Bryza, Rice intends to build on the hard work carried out by former Greek foreign minister Petros Molyviatis and current Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.
The focus of talks while in Athens will be on the Balkans, with particular emphasis on Kosovo; cooperation in the broader Middle Eastern region where Greece hopes to play a more active role; Greek-Turkish relations; Turkey's EU accession; the Cyprus issue and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Bryza said.
Asked why Rice's program does not include a meeting with main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou, Bryza replied that the State Secretary's schedule is finalized on the spot, adding that Papandreou is well respected in Washington.
Regarding the Cyprus issue, Bryza said he hopes that Rice will have the opportunity to discuss in both Athens and Ankara how negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan can resume. He also said that he expects Rice to discuss the extension of the customs agreement between Turkey and the EU to include the Republic of Cyprus, an obligation Ankara must fulfill.
Asked about Turkey's reforms and its fulfillment of EU accession criteria, Bryza said that he would not be surprised if Rice were to bring up the issues of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Theological School of Chalki - which the US would very much like to see re-opened - as well as religious freedom in general, during her talks in Ankara.
Source: Athens News Agency