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Western Press Review: Diplomacy Forges Ahead For Better And For Worse

  • Jolyon Naegele

Prague, 3 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - The two day Balkan summit which opens today on the Greek island of Crete is the subject of commentary in a variety of European dailies.

FINANCIAL TIMES: Improved relations would give a boost to a reunification of Cyprus

Kerin Hope, reporting today from Crete, concentrates on the Greek-Turkish dispute over Cyprus. "Any improvement in Greek-Turkish relations before EU accession talks with Cyprus next April would give a boost both to hopes of reuniting the island and to Turkey's troubled relationship with the EU."

GUARDIAN: Greek diplomacy will be put to the test

Helena Smith in Athens says "Greek diplomacy will be put to the test today when Balkan leaders meet in Crete for a historic summit, designed as much to promote Athens' leading role in the region as friendship between fractious neighbors after decades of cold war enmity and post-communist turmoil." She concludes, "for once, powerful patrons of the Balkans, particularly the United States, will be conspicuously absent. The summit will prove one way or the other whether the neighbors are really able to forge friendship without a helping hand."


Werner Adam says NATO's southern flank has remained virtually untouched by the changes in Europe. "While there is no more talk of a threat from the East, the two NATO partners remain mortal enemies. Greece and Turkey constantly raise the question of NATO's sense and purpose in which the military alliance is understood as a duty-bound community of values. All the more distressing is that from the Aegean to Cyprus a new adversity is brewing that threatens to get out of control and lead to armed conflict."

Matthias Rueb writing from Albania in the Frankfurter Allgemeine says "Tirana and Belgrade clearly want to use the Crete talks to sound out each other's readiness for compromise and prove their good will to the other countries in the region."

HANDELSBLATT: Closer economic cooperation can help overcome political and ethnic antagonisms.

The German economics daily comments, "Greece, as the economically most developed and political stable country in the Balkans, hopes to profit most" from the conference through agreement on its proposals for cooperation in the energy and telecommunications sectors as well as joint initiatives for technology transfer. By initiating this conference, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who wants it to be held annually, is emphasizing that his country wants to play a more active role in future in the Balkans, the paper notes. The paper says Simitis believes that "closer economic cooperation in future can help overcome the region's political and ethnic antagonisms. But Croatia's and Slovenia's absence gives a hint that this may well be a rocky road."

The weekend Russo-Japanese Siberian summit attracts considerable attention in today's European press.

DER STANDARD: They met each other half way

Marianne Sajdik, commenting in the Viennese daily, writes "they met each other half way, not only geographically, but also symbolically. Russia's Boris Yeltsin and Japan's Ryutaro Hashimoto meet in the sleet of Siberia's Krasnoyarsk and moved the (rail) switches halfway for a peace treaty that has been blocked until now by the unresolved Kurils question. But the symbolism runs further like a red thread through the 'historic' meeting of two statesman. When they went fishing together, they caught no fish and in the confidential Jacuzzi, referred to by the Kremlin in the schedule as a 'tie-less meeting,' good cheer supposedly prevailed, but no speedy changes are likely in the Kurils' status, the main issue in the peace treaty."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: The question of the islands is likely to remain painful

Alan Philips concurs, "For all the talk in Krasnoyarsk of a breakthrough, the question of the islands is likely to remain painful. For Mr. Yeltsin to hand them back would provoke outrage among Russian nationalists, confirming that he has brought the nation to such a pass that it will hand over territory for a few yen."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: There is no cause to fear a return to silence

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung comments "The declaration from Krasnoyarsk shows there is no cause to fear a return to the decades-long silence between Moscow and Tokyo. National sensitivities on both sides, however, may prevent the relationship of the two countries from developing over the next three years as positively as the model partnership between Germany and France."

WASHINGTON POST: The Russians said they would n-o-t surrender the Kuril Islands...

David Hoffman writing from Moscow, reprinted in today's International Herald Tribune, comments, " sooner did the bear hugs and kisses end between President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto than Moscow put a key limit to what it was willing to concede. The Russians said they would n-o-t surrender the Kuril Islands..."

The standoff between Washington and Baghdad over the right of US members of UN weapons inspection teams to visit Iraqi installations provokes considerable comment.

CORRIERA DELLA SERA: Punishing the United States could have a boomerang effect for Iraq

The conservative Milan daily comments, "Iraq is trying to punish the United States for its opposition to lifting UN sanctions until the demilitarization of Iraq, stipulated in the 1991 truce, can be verified.... If matters come to a head," the paper predicts, "this could have a "boomerang effect" for Baghdad by reuniting the long divided members of the UN Security Council on how best to deal with the Iraqi question."

LA REPUBLICCA: An armed American intervention can no longer be ruled out

Rome's left of center paper comments, "it is clear that the UN's order for all its inspectors, including the Americans to resume their normal work in Iraq, will lead to an open clash with the Iraqi authorities. And it is quite likely that the American inspectors will be expelled immediately. At this point, an armed American intervention can n-o longer be ruled out."

SYDSWENSKA DAGBLADET: Military pressure is the only language Saddam Hussein understands

The liberal Swedish daily from Malmo speculates Iraq's direct prevention of UN weapons inspectors from discovering a stockpile of extremely poisonous nerve gas. If the country's leadership really refuse the UN to do its work, the US can consider using all possible means.... Saddam Hussein has shown once again that military pressure is the only language he understands. If it proves necessary, the world should not hesitate to speak a language the dictator understands. If the UN Security Council can not get things moving, it will be up to the US to deal (with Iraq) on its own."

DIE PRESSE: Hussein once again is playing with fire

Christian Ultsch writing in Vienna's conservative paper comments that "Hussein once again is playing with fire. To keep his deadly arsenal out of reach of UN inspectors, he thinks every means is justified.... The Iraqi leadership seems to be less concerned that their renewed provocation could put the 'oil for food' barter in question."

BERLINER ZEITUNG: Why does the Iraqi dictator feel so strong?

The comment says, "the worst Satan of the present day is raising his head once again: Saddam has gone on the offensive. Why does the Iraqi dictator feel so strong? Because he has stockpiled new weapons and feels he can threaten the world once again."

SCHWAEBISCHE ZEITUNG: It was a mistake not to have marched on Baghdad in 1991

The regional German daily (Leutkirch) concludes that "it increasingly appears to have been a mistake not to have marched on Baghdad in 1991 and put an end to the regime."