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19 April, 2002
The defense ministers of Greece and Turkey on Thursday expressed complete support for the efforts of Romania and Bulgaria to join NATO, speaking during a conference on NATO enlargement in Athens.
In his address to the conference, Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou noted that the countries of southeastern Europe should be allowed to join NATO since this would both increase the Alliance's power and establish peace and stability in the troubled Balkans.
He said that Greece would also back efforts by Balkan states to join the European Union, provided they met the necessary criteria.
Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu also fully backed the Romanian and Bulgarian bids for NATO entry.
Papantoniou said support would be given to Romania and Bulgaria on a diplomatic level, while efforts would be made on a military level to help the Romanian and Bulgarian armed forces meet NATO criteria.
Finally, it was decided that the defense ministers of Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania would meet again to discuss the same issues in Turkey.
The conference was also addressed by NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson, who praised the cooperation agreement between NATO and Russia.
EU defense and foreign policy chief Javier Solana, meanwhile, reiterated that NATO and the EU could avoid overlaps in their activity and artificial friction through mechanisms for cooperation.
Source: Athens News Agency