May 27, 2009

British Foreign Secretary in Athens

Posted at 5:48 pm in Acropolis, Elgin Marbles

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has visited Athens & whilst there visited the Acropolis. It is unclear whether any of the meetings he attended in Greece talked about the Elgin Marbles, but now that he has seen the Acropolis for himself, it will be interesting to see if this affects his opinion on the way that the government handles the issue of the reunification of the Elgin Marbles.

Athens News Agency

Miliband in Athens for talks

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, currently on an official visit to Greece, held talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and then Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday. These covered a range of issues, including the Cyprus problem, Turkey’s European accession course, developments in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, climate change, and a missile launch test by North Korea.

In statements after meeting Bakoyannis, Miliband stressed the need for a solution to the Cyprus issue “by Cypriots and for Cypriots” and said that Britain was determined to play only a supportive role in the vitally important negotiations underway, which had to make progress within the next few months.

He also stressed that achieving the desired solution, which was a bi-zonal, bi-communal joint entity, would require courage and flexibility.

The British foreign secretary went on to praise the stance shown by Greece over the past 10 years with respect to European Union enlargement to Turkey and the western Balkans, describing it as ?strong, clear and brave?. Britain shared those positions and believed that this would strengthen the EU,” he added.

Miliband will next go to Turkey but is not due to visit Cyprus, citing practical reasons that made a visit to Nicosia impossible at this time, while pointing out that Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou had only recently visited London.

Asked if the UK intends to withdraw from the Treaty of Guarantee now that Cyprus is in the EU and there is no longer a security issue, and whether it will offer the lands currently occupied by the British bases for a territorial settlement on the island, Miliband noted that the ?details? of the Treaty of Guarantee were something that should be discussed at a later stage, and that the focus at present should be on the progress of the talks for a solution.

Regarding accession negotiations with Turkey, he said there was no proposal for postponing a review of its progress in December and that the UK wanted Turkey’s preparation for EU entry to go ahead, as well as progress on the Cyprus issue.

On her part, Bakoyannis said there was an agreed process with clear deadlines underway at the EU, adding:

“This is the reason by we once again call on Turkey to fully implement the Ankara Protocol, a necessary condition in order to open eight chapters and allow the accession process to go forward, which is something that Greece supports. We want to see a European Turkey on our borders, we believe that this is in the interests of both countries, on condition that Turkey fulfils its obligations and has implemented all the criteria that are required,” she said.

Greece’s foreign minister also said that Turkey’s accession course was at a “crucial turning point” and that it was up to Turkey to make a strategic choice in favour of radical reforms that will bring it closer to Europe.

“Greece openly and clearly supports this choice, but is not willing to give ‘discounts’ that would jeopardise the Union’s cohesion or be against its national interests,” she stressed.

On the Cyprus issue and the efforts for a solution, Bakoyannis said that this was also at a crucial stage that required “courage and good will”, as well as a constructive stance from Turkey.

Also in comments on the role of the EU, Bakoyannis reiterated Athens’ support for the accession prospects of the western Balkans but stressed that a necessary condition for this was respect of the rules and criteria that had been agreed, especially that of good neighbour relations.

Early on Tuesday morning, Miliband had paid a private visit to the Athens Acropolis, in order to “admire this unsurpassed Greek historic heritage” at close quarters.

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