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24 January, 2002
Foreign Minister George Papandreou met in Athens on Wednesday with his Spanish counterpart Josep Pique who in his capacity as rotating president of the EU Council of Ministers is currently on a tour of European capitals.
Following his meeting with Papandreou, Pique expressed the intention of the Spanish European Union presidency to do everything possible so as to complete the soonest possible the discussions concerning the final settlement of EU-NATO relations with regard to European security and defense policy.
Replying to questions by journalists concerning the British non-paper and the positions of the Spanish EU presidency around this issue, Pique did not wish to give details, restricting himself to reconfirming that he is familiar with the Greek positions and that "we will do everything possible so that the positions will be able to converge and for us to have results."
The Spanish foreign minister called for "flexibility by all so that we will be able to achieve a mutually acceptable result," clarifying that the Spanish presidency "does not have strict positions" and that what it is interested in is for the issue to be settled as soon as possible so that the European security and defense policy can be strengthened and implemented.
Asked whether he intends to visit Turkey, Pique said that Ankara is not included in this round of capitals but he announced that he will visit Turkey within the framework of the inter-religious meeting which will be held in mid-February with the participation of the EU member-countries, the EU candidate countries and the Islamic countries.
In reply to a question regarding the progress existing in the implementation of the EU-Turkey partner relationship, Pique said that it is important for Turkey to bring closer to the EU its social and economic structures, describing all the process as "difficult and time consuming, but definitely important."
Furthermore, the Spanish foreign minister said that "we are at a difficult phase of pre-screening and we are making an effort to pass to the stage of a strengthened pre-screening." He added, "we are proceeding slowly but we are proceeding," stressing that progress does no depend only on the goodwill of the EU but also that of Turkey.
Earlier, Papandreou termed as ambitious the program of the Spanish EU presidency presented to him by Pique and which includes six basic priorities. Papandreou noted that he discussed with his Spanish counterpart two main issues, that of the Cyprus problem and the common European security and defense policy.
With regard to the Cyprus question, Papandreou said that he discussed with Pique the course of talks in Cyprus and that they both wished for a good outcome of these talks.
Papandreou announced that he will also raise the issue for discussion at the EU Council of General Affairs on Monday and reiterated that "we desire the participation of the Turkish Cypriots in the EU and the accession of a united Cyprus in Europe." He underlined that "this however will depend on the outcome of the talks on the Cyprus issue.
The Greek Foreign Minister also said that the Spanish EU presidency will continue its accession negotiations with the candidate countries.
Source: Athens News Agency