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26 June, 2002
President Kostis Stephanopoulos arrived here on Tuesday, beginning a three-day official visit at the invitation of Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had visited Athens last July.
Kazakhstan is home to some 13.000 Greek expatriates and plays an important role in Eurasia, as diplomatic sources stressed, justifying the president's visit.
Stephanopoulos will meet with Nazarbayev on Wednesday and will discuss bilateral and international issues, while Deputy Foreign Ministers Andreas Loverdos and Yiannis Magriotis, who are accompanying the president, will sign three agreements with the Kazakh side.
Stephanopoulos was greeted at the city hall of Almaty by Greek expatriates, who presented their problems and requests, of which the highest on the list was the possibility of elderly people in the community visiting Greece, while educational and cultural issues also topped their agenda.
The president asked of the two deputy ministers to look into the possibility of satisfying the requests of the Greek community in this far off corner of the world.
Speaking to them, Stephanopoulos stressed the importance of every part of Hellenism and made special mention of the Pontian Greeks (originally from the Black Sea region), who make up the majority of Kazakhstan's Greek expatriate community, which, as he said, suffered exile and mass deportation by the Stalinist regime.
He noted that many Pontian Greeks came to Greece from the former Soviet Union, who are still facing problems of adjustment to Greek society and stressed the efforts of the Greek state to ameliorate the problems.
He called on them to come to Greece if they so wish, but stressed that nothing is secure as Greece has high unemployment.
Stephanopoulos called the Pontian Greeks one of the most pure parts of Hellenism, which repatriated after the genocide of the 1920 in Turkey. He underlined that the Greek Parliament recognized the genocide of the Pontian Greeks by the Neo-Turks and a day in May was set as a remembrance day of that sad day in the history of Hellenism.
Closing his address, the president called on the Greek expatriates to think of the homeland.
Source: Athens News Agency