24 January, 2007
Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis held informal talks with her French counterpart Philippe Douste-Blazy during a brief visit to Paris on Tuesday, as well as meeting prominent members of France's business community.
After the meeting, the two ministers appeared together to make statements to the press. Bakoyannis said the meeting had been an opportunity to exchange views and pointed out that "Greece and France have common positions on very many issues".
Douste-Blazy praised the Greek minister's "deep knowledge" on Balkan issues, in particular, and showed particular interest in Greece's position regarding Turkey's EU prospects, with Athens supporting full accession for Turkey if it fully meets EU criteria, terms and requirements.
Bakoyannis' talks with the French foreign minister centered on preparations for an international meeting for the reconstruction of Lebanon, PARIS III, that will take place in the city on Thursday, chaired by French President Jacques Chirac.
The two ministers also discussed developments in Serbia following the results of the elections on January 21 and the process for deciding the future status of Kosovo, as well as the future enlargement of the European Union, with emphasis on Turkey's prospects of EU accession that are currently the object of lively debates in France.
According to Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, the Greek and French position on the conference for Lebanon's reconstruction was that it should also contain a clear political message in support of the government of Lebanese premier Fouad Siniora and the stability and integrity of Lebanon.
PARIS III is the third international effort by Chirac in support of Lebanon and has received additional publicity because it may be the last international initiative by the outgoing French president.
Regarding Serbia, Koumoutsakos said the message sent by the Serb people through Sunday's elections was that they wanted moderate and modernizing forces, who see Serbia's future in Europe. He expressed hope that the country's European prospects would be the catalyst in the formation of the next Serb government and that Europe, having assessed the message of the elections, would signal its willingness to support Serbia's European course.
With respect to Kosovo, the spokesman said that Athens' main concern was that the process to decide its future should lead to decisions that ensured stability in the region.
After her visit to Paris, Bakoyannis departed for Strasbourg, where she will accompany Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis who is due to address the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.
She is due back in Paris on Thursday for the PARIS III conference on Lebanon.
Bakoyannis meets French business people
During her visit to Paris on Tuesday morning, Bakoyannis met 150 members of the French business elite and outlined Greece's positions on Turkey's European prospects and other major foreign policy issues. Bakoyannis had been invited by the French political-economic review "Politique Internationale".
She also stressed the foreign ministry's greater emphasis on economic diplomacy, the greater stability in the Balkan region following the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU and Greece's steadfast commitment to the European prospects of all the western Balkans.
The minister also noted Greece's rising importance as an energy junction for the region, through projects such as the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and the Turkey-Greece-Italy natural gas pipeline.
Source: Athens News Agency