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12 May, 1999
Greece and Portugal yesterday agreed in that peace should be pursued in Kosovo and that further hostilities complicated already existing problems.
"It is our common conviction that peace should be pursued right now, because the problem of (continuing) hostilities add to already existing problems. Diplomacy should be the main means through which we will solve the problem," PM Costas Simitis told reporters in Thessaloniki after talks with his visiting Portuguese counterpart Antonio Guterres.
"Every move that contributes to peace is positive," Mr. Simitis added, referring to an announcement by Belgrade on Monday regarding a partial withdrawal of federal troops from the province of Kosovo.
He said President Slobodan Milosevic's act was positive but must be accompanied by further action.
"An end to the bombings is also a positive move, which must be combined with other moves," he added.
Mr. Simitis said last week's draft proposal for a settlement from the 'G8' countries was a good basis for a final settlement of the Kosovo problem.
The Greek Prime Minister stressed the need for prompt and coordinated action to rebuild the Balkans as soon as peace was achieved and said Mr. Guterres had agreed that Thessaloniki was best placed to be the center of these efforts.
Mr. Simitis said he would propose that the agency to be created at the end of hostilities to coordinate the rebuilding of the Balkans be based in Thessaloniki.
He underlined that this agency should include a range of different countries and not just those in the region, which are unable to bear the full cost of restoring the damage the war has caused.
Mr. Guterres said the proposal had his agreement and that Thessaloniki was not only the best choice in terms of geography but also in terms of its access to international networks.
Both urged the speediest possible settlement of the crisis, saying the G8 proposal had to be implemented without delay and that it could lead to a resolution of the crisis. Mr. Guterres said respect for existing borders was a priority.
"This is no time for such changes in the Balkans because any like this will create rather than solve problems," he said. He also called Greece's role in the Balkans "key" to resolving the problems. Asked how long a possible settlement of the Kosovo crisis could take, Mr. Guterres said: "We should be neither optimistic nor pessimistic but we should be decisive".
Mr. Simitis said the Greek government regretted the loss of civilian life in the NATO bombing campaign and reiterated the need for a peaceful end to the conflict.
Mr. Guterres said there should be a clear definition between actions taken to stop ethnic cleansing and other military activity, saying that NATO's bombing of the Chinese embassy was an example of military activity that was "not expedient".
The crisis in Kosovo has illustrated that the European Union has need of a common foreign and security and defense policy, the two premiers said.
Mr. Simitis said Greece was ready to offer full support to Portugal when it becomes EU president in the first half of 2000 and to its attempts to forge a common foreign policy and policies on employment and expansion.
Mr. Guterres said he had been impressed by the progress achieved by the Greek economy and said he was certain that Greece would be participating in Economic and Monetary Union as of 2001.
Source: Athens News Agency