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09 April, 2002
Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou held hour-long talks at the Pentagon with his U.S. counterpart Donald Rumsfeld on Monday, conveying Greece's disagreement with the endorsement of an ''extra institutional'' text in which Turkey, Britain and the U.S. agreed with the operation of a European rapid deployment force.
Papantoniou said Greece is not prepared to back down and accept a text about which it had not even been consulted.
He said he briefed his U.S. counterpart at length on latest developments on the Cyprus issue and talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, pointing out to his interlocutor that Cyprus will join the European Union even if no political solution is found.
He further said this position expresses all the EU, underling that Ankara should be aware of this.
Papantoniou termed the meeting ''very substantive'' and added that Rumsfeld thanked him for Greek participation in the mobilization against international terrorism, expressed by the sending of a frigate to the Persian Gulf and of Greek forces to Afghanistan.
Greek-Turkish relations were also discussed and Papantoniou said Turkish ''unilateral claims against Greek sovereign rights'' have forced Greece to spend an extremely high percentage (5 percent) of GDP on its defense budget.
NATO's impending enlargement was another issue discussed by the two ministers, while Papantoniou underlined Greece's positive stance and, primarily, the country's active support for the accession of Bulgaria and Romania.
In this context, relations with Russia were examined and the Greek defense minister had the opportunity of briefing Rumsfeld on his recent talks in Athens with his Russian counterpart Sergey Ivanov.
Papantoniou further said that no reference to armaments issues was made during the meeting.
After his talks with Rumsfeld, Papantoniou had a brief meeting with U.S. Joint Staff Chief Myers for a discussion on changes being brought about in the structure of the Greek armed forces and cooperation between the two countries' forces in the framework of multinational peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, where European forces will be replacing U.S. ones in the medium-term future.
Source: Athens News Agency