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Rice and Bakoyannis discuss Cyprus question
2006-03-24 11:12:28

by Apostolis Zoupaniotis

Washington, Mar 24 (CNA) -- The Cyprus question was among issues discussed during a meeting here between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.

Other issues discussed were Turkey's European perspective, and international issues such as the Middle East, Iran, Iraq, the Balkans and fighting against terrorism.

To see the State Department's converage of the meeting, click here.

In statements after the meeting, Rice referred to the goal of reuniting Cyprus ''on the basis of democratic values'', while Bakoyannis said ''we believe in a united bicommunal Cyprus.''

''I had the opportunity to stress to my colleague a solution to the Cyprus problem will only be viable if it is based on relevant Security Council resolutions, the UN Secretary General's sets of proposals and the norms of the EU to which Cyprus belongs, Bakoyannis noted.

Rice said ''we've had a great opportunity to discuss our strategic partnership with Greece. This is a relationship that is first and foremost, of course, based on values''.

''It is a relationship that recognizes the seminal role of Greece as a cradle of those values and recognizes that in the modern era in which we find ourselves now with so many challenges that Greece is a stalwart partner in the spread of democratic values, whether it be in Greece's work in the Broader Middle East Initiative, in which we've all been involved, promoting stability and prosperity in the Balkans, fighting terrorism and, of course, seeking the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of democratic values,'' she added.

She said they had a very useful discussion of these issues, as well as the concerns of NATO in Afghanistan, in the training mission in Iraq, in Sudan. ''In other words, it's been a very broad and good discussion and I look forward to many, many more with Dora over the years,'' Rice said.

Asked about Turkey's European perspective, she noted that ''the United States has strongly supported good relations between Turkey and Greece, the effort to work out -- to reach out. I remember at the time of the earthquake the very helpful efforts that took place on a humanitarian basis that demonstrated that Turkey and Greece have come a very long way in their relations.''

''We are asking both parties to do as much as they can. I do know that a lot of courageous steps have been taken. The Minister raised Halki with me and we, of course, raised Halki with the Turkish Government on a number of occasions, including at very high levels,'' she added.

''And so we have a common view that -- we have a view that Turkey and Greece have a great deal in common -- in their NATO membership, in their desire for a stable Balkans, their desire for a stable Iraq and indeed, as Turkey has become more and more democratic over time, in shared values. And so there's a lot to work with here and I'm sure that with goodwill and effort on both sides, they will be able to succeed in improving the relationship,'' US Secretary of State noted.

Bakoyiannis said they had a very fruitful and constructive meeting, adding that ''the US and Greece enjoy an historic relationship. It is the relationship between the world's most powerful democracy and the world's oldest democracy, the birth place of our shared values and ideals.''

''In our talks we sought effective ways of enhancing this relationship. We discussed developments in the western Balkans, a region of strategic importance for Greece, where we have a strong political and economic presence. We agreed that the future of the western Balkans lies in Europe, that any solution to the problem of Kosovo may take into account all parts concerned and the stability of the region,'' she said.

As regards Turkey's EU course, Bakoyiannis said ''we both support Turkey's European aspirations, but I must say that Turkey's European future lies in its own hands on the application of the European norms and practices, both inside Turkey and in their relationships with the neighbors, particularly Greece and Cyprus.''

Noting that they discussed international issues, especially the Middle East, Iran and, naturally, Iraq, Bakoyannis said ''Greece enjoying a 14 centuries-long relationship with the Islamic world is well suited to play a role in the better understanding between the West and Islam.''

She said she invited Secretary Rice to Greece and she was very happy that Rice accepted her invitation.

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