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30 November, 1999
Foreign Minister George Papandreou again reiterated yesterday that Athens has not yet decided whether or not to endorse Turkey's European Union candidacy at next week's EU summit here.
"We are ready for a 'no', just as we are ready for a 'yes'," to Turkey's EU candidacy he said, and warned that very "tough bargaining" still lies ahead.
Mr. Papandreou was speaking yesterday at a joint press conference after holding talks here with his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonen.
He said Athens desires a substantive candidacy and not "a sham candidacy, as some countries might want."
Regarding the state of human rights in Turkey (missing persons, torture, etc), the Finnish foreign minister said Turkey's proclamation as a candidate is nothing more than the start of the process, while she recognized that Turkey's possible EU path will be rougher than that of many other countries.
Ms Halonen tried to explain how Turkey's candidacy, on the one hand, and the state of human rights in Turkey, on the other, are compatible, claiming that how much progress a country should achieve before being proclaimed a candidate is an open issue. She added that the atmosphere created after the recent earthquakes, particularly in relations between Greece and Turkey, created hopes for a solution to issues between the two countries.
"We have a realistic faith in that Turkey will follow a certain specific path for its accession to European structures," she said.
On the question of Cyprus, Ms Halonen said it should be resolved in any case and expressed hope that the New York proximity talks will produce results.
On his part, Mr. Papandreou underlined that Greece is not calling for its interests to override the Turkish ones, but desires Turkey to be incorporated in the EU's norms and practices.
"In a way, we have more interest in a European Turkey than other EU countries," he said.
Mr. Papandreou underlined that it should be ruled out for any third country to be able to raise, even indirectly, a veto to the accession of Cyprus. He expressed support for the separation of a political solution to the Cyprus issue from Cyprus' accession, reminding of Germany's example, and added that EU accession will contribute to the protection of the Turkish Cypriots' rights.
Ms Halonen said Finland is facing issues related to Cyprus with an open mind, expressing the hope the Cyprus issue will have been resolved before accession.
During their talks, Ms Halonen spoke primarily in the capacity of the EU presiding country, which is mainly interested in the views of the EU's member-states.
After concluding his visit to Finland, Mr. Papandreou will leave for Russia today for talks with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov on bilateral Greek-Russian relations, the Cyprus issue and issues concerning the Caucasus region.
Meeting with Sweden's Lindh:
Before arriving in Helsinki, Mr. Papandreou had an informal meeting with his Swedish counterpart Anna Lindh.
The two ministers discussed the prospects for Turkey's candidacy bid for the EU, ahead of the Council of General Affairs meeting on Dec. 6.
Specific texts were discussed and, according to reports, both sides ascertained a common approach to their positions, particularly on the framework, which Turkey must meet.
They agreed to keep in touch on a ministerial and official level.
According to diplomatic sources, Stockholm continues to believe that Turkish progress on the issue of Cyprus and on human rights is "inadequate" and is still reserved on the final position it will take at the summit.
Mr. Papandreou arrived in Stockholm on Sunday night.
Russian talks: NICOSIA (CNA/ANA)
Meanwhile, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Vladimir Rahmanin said yesterday that the Cyprus problem is among the issues, which Mr. Papandreou will discuss with his Russian counterpart in Moscow.
He added that Moscow "is satisfied with the present state of Russian-Greek relations."
Mr. Rahmanin noted that the political dialogue between the two countries "is becoming increasingly intensive and concrete", saying they intend "to further develop and deepen interaction with Greece in various spheres, including those of trade and economy."
During the talks, "special attention will be given to questions of ensuring lasting peace and security on the European continent," including Kosovo and Yugoslavia, he added.
Source: Athens News Agency