23 January, 2004
LONDON 23/01/2004 (ANA - F. Karaviti)
The Cyprus issue, the return of the Parthenon Marbles and domestic developments within Greece were the focus of talks here on Thursday between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and visiting Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou.
As the sole candidate for the leadership of Greece's ruling PASOK party, Papandreou has also effectively taken over the task of leading the party to elections on March 7 and stands to lead any PASOK government that emerges from the polls.
Papandreou said the British government was showing heightened interest in a solution of the Cyprus problem, particularly after the new dynamics created by Cyprus' accession to the European Union.
He also reiterated the Greek government's position regarding the need for political will, especially on the Turkish side.
''We can all live together in peace and without walls in new Europe,'' he stressed.
With regard to the Parthenon Marbles, Papandreou once more explained Greece's positions to Blair and said it was an issue that could ''prove positive for both countries''.
''We have a new museum at the Acropolis and we can highlight the contribution of both peoples to international culture. We are open to proposals,'' he added, in a reference to an upcoming meeting between Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and his British counterpart.
The two men also discussed the upcoming change of leadership for PASOK and Papandreou outlined his vision for democracy in the future.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, speaking after talks with his Greek counterpart George Papandreou at the Foreign Office on Thursday, said the British government, which supports Turkey's candidacy for European Union membership, will pursue the reunification of Cyprus before May 1 (when Cyprus will formally become an EU member), as well as Ankara's bid to obtain a date for accession negotiations at the end of the year.
''I cannot characterize reunification prospects, but what is important is with which conditions the solution will be achieved. Our duty is to help the negotiations,'' Straw said who, however, separated the issue of a solution to the issue of Cyprus from that of Turkey's accession course.
Referring to the same issue, Papandreou said that although a solution to the issue of Cyprus ''does not belong to the so-called political criteria of Copenhagen, it officially constitutes one of paramount political importance and will constitute a crucial element in assessments to be made at the end of the year.''
Source: Athens News Agency