April 26, 2006

Greeks, Cypriots slam Rice comments on Turkey

By Alkman Granitsas and Michele Kambas

ATHENS/NICOSIA (Reuters) - Greek and Cypriot media and
opposition parties on Wednesday attacked remarks by visiting
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying the comments
revealed American favoritism toward Turkey.

Rice, on a five-day visit to Europe and Iraq, told
journalists in the Greek capital on Tuesday that Cyprus should
not stand in the way of Turkey's bid to join the European

She called on the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot
half of the divided island, to ease the isolation of the
breakaway northern Cypriot enclave, which is recognized only by

"The American secretary left a bitter aftertaste in both
Greece and Cyprus," wrote the Cypriot daily Simerini in a front
page commentary, echoing statements by several opposition
parties on the island.

Since joining the European Union two years ago, Cyprus has
increasingly become a sticking point in the European ambitions
of its giant northern neighbor Turkey.

Divided by a Turkish invasion in 1974, Cyprus defied
repeated efforts at reunification, most recently in 2004 when
Greek Cypriots voted down a U.N.-backed plan to reunite the

Turkey began accession talks with the EU late last year,
but as recently as February refused to open its ports to
Cypriot ships, as required by its EU obligations. Greek Cypriot
officials have warned that Cyprus may veto Turkey's EU bid.

In Athens, the main opposition Socialist PASOK party said
some of Rice's comments on Cyprus were "unacceptable."

"Ms Rice's visit, in the end only created more uncertainty
and brought more anxiety to the Greek people," said PASOK
official Christos Papoutsis.

Government officials in both countries were more reserved
in their reaction but made clear they disagreed with U.S.

Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said
that despite being strategic allies with the United States,
Greece "does not completely agree with American policy."

In Nicosia, Cypriot government spokesman George Lillikas
told journalists that Turkey must meet its EU commitments.

"We support the accession of Turkey to the EU, under
certain conditions, as laid out by the EU itself," he said.
"Turkey's EU accession course depends only upon herself."