- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Greece sees itself as the linchpin of U.S. policy in the Balkans and the Middle East in what officials in Athens describe as a “new chapter” in ties with Washington.

The conservative government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has promised to adapt itself to U.S. policy affecting the area “as far as possible,” and Athens has offered to host an international conference to promote peace in the Middle East.

The developments followed what Greek officials think were two significant diplomatic events in March: Talks in Washington by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and a visit to Athens by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick.

When Mr. Molyviatis was in Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Greece as America’s “best friend in the Balkans.” In Athens, Mr. Zoellick referred to Greece as “a strategic partner” in efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East and the Balkans.

Greek officials think that an improvement in Greek-American relations and the setting of common goals coincides with what they perceive as a chill in Washington’s attitude toward Turkey, a traditional rival of Greece.

Last month, Turkish media bristled over a claim of U.S. support for Kurdish nationalists and Turkey’s general opposition to Washington’s policies in Iraq. At the same time, a best-seller in Turkey was “Metal Storm,” a novel about an imaginary U.S. invasion of Turkey.

The conservative Athens daily Kathimerini said that “the Bush administration’s love affair with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s moderately Islamist establishment has turned sour amid rising anti-Americanism in Turkey and subsequent frustration in the United States.”

Some Western analysts have described Mr. Erdogan as being under strain, and “his image losing its gloss.”

Against this background, Greek officials expect closer cooperation with the United States on a host of issues, noting that during the recent talks in Washington “the Americans adroitly avoided raising any issue that might sour the atmosphere.”

Greek news media said the frequent U.S. complaints about inadequate Greek anti-terrorist measures were muted at the Washington meetings. Greek sources said the Washington visit also created a “warm personal relationship” between Miss Rice and Mr. Molyviatis.

In talks with Miss Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Huntley, Mr. Molyviatis apparently also conveyed the views of Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, who opposes further involvement “by foreigners” in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.

Political contacts between the two Cypriot communities were suspended after last year’s Greek Cypriot rejection of a United Nations plan to end the division of the island.

Some diplomats expect a resumption of contacts after the April 17 presidential election in the Turkish Cypriot part of the island. Turkish Cypriots accepted the U.N. plan in a referendum.

Both Greece and the United States think the unification blueprint offered by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan still represents the best possible solution to the Cyprus dilemma.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide