EU bid, Cyprus to top Bakoyannis US talks
(Turkish Daily News Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Newly appointed Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was expected to depart on Wednesday for the United States for talks with top-level U.S. officials including President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Turkey's European Union membership process and the decades-old Cyprus problem are expected to be key issues Bakoyannis will discuss with U.S. officials during the visit, according to diplomatic sources.
Ankara's relations with Greece, which is a supporter of Turkey's EU aspirations, have taken a turn for the worse in recent months, particularly over Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's refusal to recognize EU-member Greek Cyprus
Turkey has until the end of the year to open its ports and airports to trade from Greek Cyprus, but Erdogan has said Turkey will not do so unless sanctions imposed on the Turkish Cypriots are lifted
In a recent exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Bakoyannis said with regard to the Cyprus problem that some progress had been made on restarting talks to unify the divided island after the rejection by the Greek Cypriots of a U.N.-proposed peace plan in a 2004 referendum.
Bakoyannis is scheduled to meet today with Rice, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and a U.S. Senator of Greek origin, Paul Sarbanes.
On Friday the Greek foreign minister is expected to have talks with Bush at the White House and then attend a ceremony together with the U.S. president on the occasion of the Greek national day.
Bakoyannis will also meet with U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and will then travel to New York where she will have talks with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Other issues to be discussed during the Greek minister's visit include U.S.-Greek relations as well as Kosovo and other regional issues, diplomatic sources said.
Speaking to reporters Burns said U.S.-Greek ties are at their highest level in recent times.
"We respect Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Bakoyannis. Our relations with Greece are very good when that country's cooperation on Afghanistan and Kosovo is taken into consideration," Burns was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.