- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

Greece is convinced that its strategic location astride the Balkans and the Arab world, and its close contacts with key figures in the region, make it ideally suited to help the U.S.-led campaign to promote democracy.

“We are in the United States to see how we can deepen strategic cooperation with the United States to further democracy,” Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis said Thursday during an interview at his suite at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Later in the day, he delivered a virtually identical message to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“Indeed, we have an excellent opportunity to review our excellent state of bilateral relations and also to express — to reaffirm — our determination to further promote that relationship into a strategic cooperation on several fields,” he told Miss Rice.

In the interview, Mr. Molyviatis revealed the issues Greece has in mind on which Athens and Washington could work fruitfully together.

The final status of Kosovo, now under U.N. tutelage, will be discussed shortly at the United Nations.

“We will contribute our ideas on the matter, but one thing appears certain. There will be no going back to a Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia and Montenegro,” he said.

Greece looks forward to its July tenure as president of the U.N. Security Council, which will consider a number of proposed reforms in the world body.

“We fully intend to play a constructive role on these issues,” the Greek foreign minister said.

Reforms proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan would expand the number of permanent members of the U.N. Security Council from its present five, revamp peacekeeping operations to respond more quickly to world crises, clarify the U.N. role in authorizing the use of force to resolve international disputes and tackle endemic corruption at the world body.

Greece is also hoping the United States will help restart talks on a unified Cyprus, he said.

As a member of the European Union, Greece also has sought to promote harmony in the region by backing Turkey’s bid to become an EU member.

Mr. Molyviatis’ service as an international diplomat stretches back to the 1970s, when Greece resumed its democratic ways after a brief period of military rule.

His U.S. counterpart, Miss Rice, 50, is a relative newcomer to international democracy.

Despite the gulf in years and diplomatic experience that separates the two, they have common ground in their vigorous espousal of democracy.

On this issue, Greece hardly needed coaxing as it is proud of its history as the birthplace of Western-style democracy.

After the meeting at the State Department, Mr. Molyviatis flew to New York to touch base with U.N. officials, including a meeting with Mr. Annan.

He is scheduled to return to Washington Monday to join President Bush in celebrating Greece’s national day, marking its independence from nearly 500 years of Turkish rule.

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