- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Diplomacy falters

The earthquake diplomacy between Greece and Turkey has failed to bridge fundamental disputes between the two regional rivals, according to Greek Defense Minister Yannos Papantoniou.

Mr. Papantoniou offered a downbeat assessment of Greek-Turkish relations when he met last week in Washington with our reporter, David R. Sands, and other correspondents at a breakfast meeting at Greek Ambassador Alexandre Philon's residence.

His surprise analysis contrasted with the widely reported thaw in relations after the Greek humanitarian response to the devastating earthquake in Turkey in 1999.

"All the rapprochement to date between Greece and Turkey has been on a superficial level," said the minister, who met with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during his visit.

"It has dealt with the soft issues in the relationship but has not touched the core questions," including disputed boundaries in the Aegean Sea and the standoff over Cyprus, Mr. Papantoniou said. The improved tone of the relationship "served Turkey's interests at the time, including getting candidate's status with the European Union."

Turkey did receive the EU offer to apply for membership, but "now the core issues are front and center," said Mr. Papantoniou, and the current outlook in Athens isn't optimistic.

He said the political weakness of the Turkish government and the surging fortunes of Turkish political elements opposed to greater integration with the West were causes of concern.

"Is Turkey ready to make the necessary moves to resolve some of the fundamental questions between us? I'm afraid the answer for the time being is not a very hopeful one," Mr. Papantoniou said.

Mission to Venezuela

A delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS) rushed to Venezuela yesterday to try to make sense of the political upheaval that saw President Hugo Chavez overthrown and restored to power within 48 hours.

OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria is to report back to the OAS Permanent Council on Thursday.

"In the last few days, the situation in Venezuela has been of great concern to all democratic countries of the Americas," Mr. Gaviria said in a statement before his departure to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

"It is important for the OAS to evaluate the situation carefully and determine how we can best support Venezuela in its efforts to consolidate democracy in these difficult times."

The OAS General Assembly late Sunday passed a resolution denouncing the short-lived military coup that overthrew the leftist president last week.

The OAS condemned "the alteration of constitutional order in Venezuela."

Relations with Sudan

Sudan expects the United States to upgrade its diplomatic presence but still does not know whether it will be at the full ambassadorial level, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said this week.

Mr. Ismail told reporters in Khartoum that Washington has decided to return diplomats to the U.S. Embassy, but that he has not been "specifically informed of the level to which the U.S. diplomatic representation in Sudan will be raised."

The United States withdrew its diplomats in 1996 because of a deteriorating security situation there. The Americans operated out of Kenya, with a charge d'affaires visiting Sudan on a monthly schedule.

President Bush has been trying to help negotiate an end to the 18-year civil war between the Muslim government in Khartoum and Christian and animist rebels in the south.

Islamic initiative

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is building a stable of specialists on Islam, Central Asia and terrorism with its latest appointment of a Pakistani journalist, who has advised several Pakistani presidents.

Husain Haqqani, a columnist for the Indian Express and Pakistan's Nation newspaper, will serve as a visiting scholar through September. He joins Abdujabar Abduvakhitov, Uzbekistan's leading expert on Islamic political movements in that region. Mustapha Sayyid of Cairo University will join the think tank in July as a visiting scholar.

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