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10 January, 1997
Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday said Greece would be ready to deal with developments on its national issues over the course of the year, as well as to contribute constructively with positions and views to developments which serve Athens' interests .
"Our strength lies in our remaining calm, our insistence on international law and international treaties and the strengthening of our armed forces, which is continuing so that they constitute a strong deterrent force against any threat," Prime Minister Costas Simitis said shortly after a government meeting on foreign policy.
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou, outgoing Foreign Undersecretary Christos Rozakis and PASOK Eurodeputy Yiannos Kranidiotis participated in the meeting.
Mr. Simitis advised "coolheadedness and prudence", warning against "worry and fear". "The government is aware of these developments and knows how to handle them," the premier added. Commenting on Greek-Turkish relations and the latest threats launched by Ankara, Mr. Simitis said "what is happening is neither new nor unknown", adding that Greece would be playing into Turkey's hands if on each occasion it displayed particular concern.
"If we blow (Turkish threats) out of proportion, we shall be dragged into an atmosphere of crisis," Mr. Simitis said.
The prime minister said 1997 would be a "year of developments" for Greece's national issues and the European Union, while 1998 was associated with the commencement of crucial negotiations for Cyprus' accession to the 15-member Union.
Greece must be ready not only to deal with developments and react, but also to contribute constructively with positions and views to developments which serve its interests, the premier noted.
Within the month, he added, Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides will visit Athens for a joint examination of the positions of the two sides.
Asked by reporters to comment on Nicosia's decision to purchase the advanced Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, Mr. Simitis said the Cyprus government not only had the right but also the obligation to take the measures it considers necessary for its defense.
He noted also that by taking such measures, Nicosia was strengthening its negotiating position, adding that Greece fully supported Cyprus in these efforts.
Replying to other questions concerning the visit to the region this weekend of the State Department official responsible for southern Europe, Carey Cavanaugh, Mr. Simitis said Athens, "as always", would listen to US proposals.
Mr. Cavanaugh is scheduled to visit Nicosia, Athens and Ankara in an effort to smooth over relations following the signing of the multi-million dollar missile deal between Cyprus and Russia last weekend.
Mr. Simitis clarified, however, that Athens had already adopted positions with respect to the various proposals put forward by the US and in meetings between Mr. Cavanaugh and foreign ministry officials would examine "if there is anything new in order to see whether we should change these positions".
The premier expressed the view that he did not consider such an eventuality likely at the present time.
Source: Athens News Agency