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05 September, 2002
Foreign Minister George Papandreou had a half-hour meeting with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in Johannesburg on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the Earth Summit.
The meeting focused mainly on the Cyprus problem, in view of Annan's meeting with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in Paris on Friday.
According to sources, Annan said that the main goal of Friday's meeting was to preserve the momentum of direct talks between the two communities on the island and give the process a new thrust.
The same sources said that the UN chief did not intend to present an overall solution for the Cyprus issue in Paris because of the delicate pre-election phase in Turkey that precluded any substantial progress and also because he wanted to first assess the conclusions of the Paris meeting.
On his part, Papandreou pointed out the constructive stance of the Greek-Cypriot side and stressed the need for substantial steps from the Turkish-Cypriot and Turkish side.
Both Papandreou and Annan agreed, however, that particular care was needed to avoid making the Cyprus problem a major issue in the Turkish pre-electoral race since this would encourage extreme positions and further reinforce nationalist tendencies.
The Greek minister informed Annan that Cyprus was still progressing normally toward joining the European Union, probably during the EU summit in Copenhagen. He also reiterated that Greece genuinely supported Turkey's European prospects and believed that the issue of starting accession negotiations should be left open.
The two men then discussed Iraq, where the UN secretary-general underlined that UN decisions had to be respected. Papandreou said that Greece wanted all avenues for finding a political solution that ensured respect for UN decisions explored.
Annan told Papandreou that he had contacted Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz, who said that Iraq was willing to accept an inspectorate but continued to have reservations about whether it would be objective or whether it would act on instructions from the United States.
Finally, the two men discussed the situation in the Middle East and Papandreou briefed Annan regarding the talks on the issue held by the informal EU foreign ministers council a few days before.
Regarding relations between the US and the EU, they noted the need to overcome the current negative climate. Regarding EU relations with the UN, Papandreou said that the Greek EU presidency aimed to promote and enhance cooperation between them.
Source: Athens News Agency