11 December, 2004
ISTANBUL 11/12/2004 (ANA/A.Kourkoulas)
"I came here to support the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Vartholomeos and to inform him of the statements I had made as former Foreign Minister but also as leader of the main opposition in our efforts to change the Turkish government's stance," George Papandreou, President of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) said on Friday during his meeting with Vartholomeos in Istanbul.
"I believe that the next days are crucial as are the days after December 18, so that the Patriarchate can have its rights guaranteed," he continued. Papandreou briefed Vartholomeos on statements he made to Turkish businessmen earlier. "I also spoke to them about the issue of (the Theological School of) Chalki and the Patriarchate's broader rights. I explained to them that all these problems must be solved during Turkey's EU course," Papandreou said, adding that when asked about the Ecumenical Patriarch he explained that it is to Greeks what Mecca is to Muslims.
Papandreou also said that the Turkish businessmen asked him about comments Vartholomeos recently made. "I told them that His Holiness' comments are justified because for years he's asked that these problems be resolved and they haven't been," the PASOK president explained.
"The Patriarchate was, is and will try to always be an institution and factor that is constructive for the country in which it is based and to serve as a bridge between Greece and Turkey; an institution, not just religious, but also cultural which over the centuries has provided valuable services to civilization everywhere and one which will always be a factor of peace and stability," Vartholomeos said. He also expressed hope that the Patriarchate's problems will be solved. "As for December 17, we are all in favor of Turkey joining the European Union and we hope that a start date for accession talks will be given to Turkey," he added.
Source: Athens News Agency