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03 May, 2001
President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos underlined in statements on Wednesday that efforts to improve relations with Turkey would in no way affect Greece's positions on the Cyprus problem, which remained the foremost issue in Greek foreign policy.
Stephanopoulos was speaking after a meeting with visiting Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, in Athens for a two-day official visit.
The Greek president said that Athens and Nicosia hoped for a solution to the problem in the near future, while stressing that Cyprus proximity talks had been led to an impasse by Turkey's intransigence. He called on the UN Secretary General to undertake an initiative for the continuation of talks.
Stephanopoulos also expressed optimism regarding Cyprus' EU accession course, saying that it was in the lead among candidate countries, and confirmed Greece's standing position to use its veto if Cyprus was not among the first group of countries to join the EU.
Finally, he said that he would raise the Cyprus issue in his talks with Pope John Paul, due in Athens in two days time, if the opportunity arose.
Stephanopoulos hosts official dinner:
President Kostis Stephanopoulos on Wednesday night reassured his Cypriot counterpart Glafcos Clerides that the whole of the political leadership in Greece would make every effort to contribute to the struggle for a free and independent Cyprus, noting that after the parliamentary elections of May 27 in Cyprus, the international community is expected to make moves towards a permanent solution.
Speaking at a formal dinner, hosted in honor of President Clerides who is paying an official visit to Greece, Stephanopoulos said that Greece would "continue to provide every contribution and support to Cyprus, fulfilling its moral, political and contractual obligations towards the Republic of Cyprus", adding that the joint defense pact between the two countries was a "top national priority" for Greece.
Stephanopoulos pointed out that Cyprus was already at the doorstep of the European Union and that the island's accession was a "strategic goal" for Greece, regardless of a prior solution to its political problem.
He furthermore said that Greece would continue to seek a solution to the Cyprus problem which would "truly consolidate peace and security in the region", adding that "a solution of the political problem would undoubtedly act as a catalyst which could create a climate of trust between Greece and Turkey, and between the EU and Turkey".
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
The Greek president noted that the period following the parliamentary elections in Cyprus and prior to concluding EU accession negotiations "may prove to be especially significant, as a move on behalf of the international community is expected, at a UN initiative, to give a dynamic impetus to the process for a final solution of the Cyprus problem", adding that for this reason "we must all intensify our efforts in order to secure a solution" within a desirable framework.
On his part, President Clerides expressed hope that "the international community will continue its initiative within the next few months", adding however that "if the states that are in a position to influence Turkey's foreign policy do not exert their influence this time either, to the extent necessary, the deadlock in the Cyprus problem will remain", which would mean that the Cyprus problem would continue "to adversely affect Turkey's European prospect and Greco-Turkish relations".
President Clerides expressed hope that the conclusion of Cyprus' EU accession course would prove to be a catalyst on Turkey's refusal to negotiate a solution of the Cyprus problem within the parameters set out by the UN.
Cyprus president given golden key to Athens by Avramopoulos:
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, in Greece on a two-day official visit, was handed the golden key to the city of Athens on Wednesday by Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos during a ceremony at the city's Town Hall.
Avramopoulos praised Clerides as a politician and a person, noting his unflagging efforts for a solution to the Cyprus problem, with Cypriots now being the only nation in the world forced to live in a divided capital.
Replying, Clerides said that Greece had been a valuable and selfless supporter of Cyprus in diplomacy, EU accession and in defense.
Presidents of Greece and Cyprus unveil statue of Archbishop Makarios III:
President Kostis Stephanopoulos and his Cyprus counterpart Glafkos Clerides on Wednesday unveiled the statue of Archbishop Makarios III in Athens, while Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos said in his address that Makarios, the first president of Cyprus, was militant for values and ideals for which he even devoted his life.
The bronze statue was erected in a park at the intersection of Alexandras and Vassilissis Sophias avenues and shows the Archbishop leaning on his scepter with his arms crossed.
The ceremony was attended by scores of Cypriots, representatives of the Holy Kykkos Monastery from Cyprus, as well as representatives from the municipality of Athens and political parties.
Avramopoulos praised the work and political course of Archbishop Makarios, as well as his contribution to the struggles of Cyprus.
The statue is the work of sculptor Memos Makris and the Kykko Monastery contributed to it being placed at this central location in Athens.
Source: Athens News Agency