- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

NICOSIA — Cyprus Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis carries a thick portfolio of problems to Washington this week in search of a new balance in often difficult relations between the two allies.

Officials in Athens, referring to the trip as “politically vital,” underlined what they described as the effort of the conservative government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to “harmonize” Greek and U.S. policies.

They pointed out, however, that this effort has yet to bring satisfactory results.

Greece feels that the atmosphere between the two capitals has improved since the departure of U.S. Ambassador Thomas Miller, who was often accused in Athens of “unilateral actions” that, according to the Greek daily Kathimerini, “fanned anti-American feeling in Greece … fed into Washington’s fears and prejudices … and cast a cloud over bilateral relations.”

Greek officials say the diplomatic style of the new U.S. envoy, Charles Ries, has considerably eased the path toward better relations, although opinion makers still appear perturbed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not include Greece on her recent trip to Europe and Turkey.

The foreign minister is to meet with Miss Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley in Washington tomorrow; he then travels to New York before returning Monday for a White House meeting with President Bush to celebrate Greek Independence Day.

The Washington visit by Mr. Molyviatis comes at a particularly difficult period for the conservative government, with the European Union accusing Greece of a record budget deficit in contradiction to the rules of the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact that underpins EU economic policy.

Greek disappointment with the European Union and the performance of the Brussels-based European Commission has been growing in recent months.

The government has also been under pressure for lack of significant success in its much-publicized fight against corruption dubbed “the Costas Crusade.”

The agenda Mr. Molyviatis intends to submit to U.S. officials consists of well-thumbed files on Greek-Turkish relations, the paralysis of the Cyprus problem, the situation in Kosovo and developments in the Middle East.

Last but not least, is the highly emotional problem of Macedonia, a country that Greece claims has usurped the historic Greek name, thus implying territorial intentions.

The Greeks refer to it as “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” They resent last year’s recognition by Washington of the Republic of Macedonia.

According to Greek sources, Mr. Molyviatis hopes for U.S. pressure on Skopje, Macedonia’s capital, to accept the unwieldy compound name.

If that happens, Greece would make no objections to Macedonia’s application for NATO and EU membership.

Greece, an elected member of the U.N. Security Council, assumes the council presidency in July for a six-month term.

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