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Posts tagged ‘Ancient Land of Greece’

Macedonia’s Zaev set to warm up ties with Greece, Kosovo

December 12, 2017

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Macedonia’s prime minister reiterated his will on Tuesday to reach a solution with Greece following more than two decades of disputes over his country’s name. Zoran Zaev said Macedonian and Greek officials were working “to reconfirm their will of resuming essential talks … to reach a solution.”

Zaev, in power since spring, has vowed to improve relations with Greece, which has opposed Macedonia’s name since it declared it and won recognition by the United Nations after Yugoslavia’s breakup in 1991.

Greece says Macedonia’s name harbors territorial pretensions on Greece’s northern province of the same name. Greece blocked Macedonia from joining NATO in 2008 under its provisional name. In Kosovo on the first-ever visit by a Macedonian prime minister to its neighbor, Zaev also vowed to warm ties there.

He said Skopje would acquiesce to Kosovar demands for a new, international investigation into a 2015 attack by militants from Kosovo in the northern Macedonian town of Kumanovo. Eight police officers and 10 militants were killed in fighting that was hotly disputed by both sides and was the worst outbreak of violence in Macedonia since a nine-month insurgency by fighters from its Kosovar minority in 2001.

“Such an issue is in the interest of our cooperation and that should not remain an obstacle to our ties,” Zaev said at a news conference with his host counterpart Ramush Haradinaj. Macedonia has a large ethnic Albanian minority — which is the main single ethnic group in neighboring Kosovo and also Albania — that regularly plays an important part in creating governing coalitions.

“We share the same aspirations for membership into the European Union and NATO because the future of the whole Western Balkans is in EU and NATO,” said Zaev.

Associated Press writer Llazar Semini contributed from Tirana, Albania.

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Leaders of Turkey, Greece air grievances at tense conference

December 07, 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The leaders of Greece and Turkey publicly aired their grievances Thursday in a tense news conference as a two-day visit to Athens by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan got off to a rocky start.

The Greek government had expressed hopes that the visit — the first to Greece by a Turkish president in 65 years — would help improve the often-frosty relations between the two neighbors. The NATO allies are divided by a series of decades-old issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea, and have come to the brink of war three times since the early 1970s.

But from the outset, the discussions focused on disagreements. On the eve of his visit, Erdogan rattled his Greek hosts by telling Greece’s Skai television that the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne should be “updated.” The treaty delineated modern Turkey’s borders and outlines the status of the Muslim minority in Greece and the Greek minority in Turkey, among other issues.

In a visibly testy first meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the two engaged in a thinly-veiled verbal spat over the treaty and Greece’s Muslim minority, which Erdogan is to visit Friday.

“This happened in Lausanne, that happened in Lausanne. I get that, but let’s now quickly do what is necessary,” Erdogan told Pavlopoulos. “Many things have changed in 94 years. If we review these, I believe that all the sides will agree that so many things have to (change.)”

The spat continued during Erdogan’s appearance at an unusually candid joint news conference with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The two listed a series of grievances their countries have with each other, including religious and minority rights, the divided island of Cyprus and the case of ten Turkish servicemen who have applied for asylum in Greece following a Turkish government crackdown after a failed coup last year.

“It is very important to strengthen our channels of communication, and this can only happen on the basis of mutual respect,” Tsipras said. The prime minister said the two also discussed tensions in the Aegean Sea, where Greece complains Turkish fighter jets frequently violate its airspace.

“The increasing violations of Greek airspace in the Aegean and particularly the simulated dogfights in the Aegean pose a threat to our relations, and particularly a threat to our pilots,” Tsipras said.

For his part, Erdogan insisted once more that the Lausanne treaty needed to be reviewed, but stressed his country had no territorial claims on its smaller neighbor. On the topic of the Muslim minority in Greece — which the country recognizes only as a religious minority, while Turkey has long pressed for better rights — Tsipras said his government agreed that improvements must be made in their quality of life.

“But issues that concern reforms involving Greek citizens are not an issue of negotiation between countries,” he said. Tsipras noted it was unclear exactly what Erdogan was seeking with his call to update the 1923 treaty.

“The truth is I am a little confused about what he is putting on the table,” he said. Greeks have been aghast at Erdogan’s previous comments over possibly revising the Lausanne treaty, fearing that could harbor territorial claims.

Erdogan and Tsipras also sparred over Cyprus, a Mediterranean island divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion into a Turkish-occupied north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south. Another round of internationally-brokered peace talks to reunify the island failed earlier this year.

“Who left the table? Southern Cyprus did … we want the issue to reach a fair and lasting solution but that is not southern Cyprus’ concern,” Erdogan said. Tsipras retorted: “My dear friend, Mr. President, we must not forget that this issue remains unresolved because 43 years ago there was an illegal invasion and occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.”

Erdogan also raised the issue of Athens having no official mosque, to which Tsipras responded by saying Greece had restored several mosques around the country, including a centuries-old mosque in Athens.

The refugee crisis appeared to be the only issue the two sides did not disagree on, with both noting they had shared a significant burden of the migration flows into the European Union. More than a million people crossed from Turkey through Greece at the height of the crisis.

Later Thursday, several hundred leftist, anarchist and Kurdish protesters held a peaceful march through Athens against Erdogan’s visit. On Friday, Erdogan will visit the northeastern town of Komotini to meet with members of Greece’s Muslim minority.

Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, Derek Gatopoulos and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed.

22 detained as Greeks mark 2008 police shooting of teenager

December 06, 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Rioting youths hurled fire bombs, set up street barricades and damaged storefronts in Greece’s two largest cities Wednesday, violence that broke out after marches marking the ninth anniversary of the fatal police shooting of a teenager and continued on-and-off for several hours.

The clashes in Athens and Thessaloniki coincided with a police security operation to prepare for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s two-visit to Greece, which starts Thursday. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Authorities said at least 22 people were detained for questioning in the Greek capital, where a pair of rallies drew several thousand participants. Some youths proceeded to hurl stones, flares and Molotov cocktails at police officers and set a parked car ablaze, police said.

The unruly rowdy demonstrators also blocked streets with burning trash bins and material taken from construction sites. Similar scenes unfolded in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, where protesters threw rocks at police from the top of apartment buildings. locks.

About 2,000 police were deployed in Athens for the events marking the 2008 death of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos. A police officer shot the boy while he was out with friends in Exarchia, a central Athens neighborhood popular with anarchists.

The policeman who fired the fatal shot said he didn’t intend to shoot Grigoropoulos. He was convicted of deliberate manslaughter and is serving a life sentence. The teenager’s death sparked riots across Greece that lasted for weeks. Athens was the hit the worst, with many stores, buildings, and vehicles in the capital smashed and burned.

Kantouris reported from Thessaloniki, Greece.

Greeks clean up, mourn after floods kill 16; 4 still missing

November 16, 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Rescue crews scoured floodwaters Thursday for residents missing after flash floods cut a swathe of destruction near the Greek capital, killing at least 16 people and tossing cars into buildings like toys.

The hardest-hit area from Wednesday’s flooding was Mandra, a modest working-class district on the western outskirts of Athens. Most of the fatalities occurred there. Authorities said about 500 homes and businesses were damaged in the area.

“There is huge damage. Inestimable damage,” Mandra Mayor Ioanna Kriekouki told local media. The disaster was among the worst to hit the Greek capital in decades, and the government declared a day of national mourning. Flags across the country flew at half-staff Thursday, including at the ancient Acropolis landmark in Athens.

Wednesday’s flash floods, which came after a severe overnight storm, turned streets into raging torrents of mud and debris, carried away vehicles, collapsed walls of houses and businesses and submerged a section of a major highway.

Four people remained missing Thursday night, the fire department said after crews recovered the body of a man from the flooded basement of his home in the nearby Nea Peramos district. Two other missing men were found alive earlier in the day.

Those still missing were reportedly all motorists, and search and rescue efforts were concentrating along the flooded highway. Twelve of the 23 people injured remained hospitalized, including an 82-year-old woman listed as being in serious condition in an intensive care unit, the National Health Operations Center said.

Residents of the worst-hit areas struggled to clean up the devastation. Cars upended by the torrents lay piled on top of each other or flung against buildings. Some houses and businesses with collapsed walls had their interiors exposed to the elements. Rubble, twisted metal, household goods and smashed vehicles lined the roads.

“As you can see, everything is a mess,” Mandra resident Katerina Sideri said. More storms lashed the Greek capital on Thursday, temporarily severing traffic on one of Athens’ main central avenues, although they did not cause flash floods.

Nearly all the injuries and fatalities occurred in Mandra and the surrounding area. Twelve of the dead were found there, while the coast guard recovered the bodies of two men who were swept out to sea by the flood.

The ages of the people killed ranged the mid-30s to the 80s. Most drowned, a coroner at the hospital told local reporters, while some appeared to have been struck by debris. The victims included a truck driver swept away by floodwater, a hunter and several people who died in their flooded homes.

Local municipalities provided hotel rooms for those left homeless. The Merchant Marine Ministry said it was making arrangements for a cruise ship to provide temporary accommodation. It also said plans were being made with Greece’s army and navy to provide water tankers to supply clean water to residents.

The fire department said Thursday it had received 660 calls for help to pump water from flooded homes and businesses since Wednesday morning, while it had rescued 88 people trapped in houses and vehicles.

Separately, the fire department said that following heavy rainfall around the northern town of Katerini, near Mount Olympus, it had received 300 calls for help.

Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Mandra, Greece, contributed.

Greece backs extradition of Russian to US over bitcoin fraud

October 04, 2017

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A Greek court ruled Wednesday to extradite Russian cybercrime suspect Alexander Vinnik to the United States, where he is wanted in connection with a $4 billion bitcoin fraud case.

The three-member panel of judges backed the U.S. extradition request for the 37-year-old, who was arrested while on vacation in northern Greece on July 25. Soon after the decision, Vinnik’s lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court on behalf of their client.

Russia is also seeking Vinnik’s extradition on separate fraud charges, but no date has yet been set for that hearing. While fighting his extradition to the U.S., Vinnik’s lawyers said he would not contest the Russian request.

“We have not seen the formal decision and we’ll wait for it to come out before making comment,” Vinnik’s lawyer Alexandros Lykourezos said. “We have taken immediate action and appealed the ruling and the case will be examined by the criminal division of the Supreme Court.”

U.S. authorities accuse Vinnik of running digital currency exchange BTC-e and of involvement in laundering money from criminal proceeds, charges he denies. Speaking during Wednesday’s hearing, Vinnik repeated that he had nothing to do with the digital platform he is accused of running to commit the bitcoin fraud. He said he was merely a technician and the platform was one of his clients.

“I have nothing to do with what I am accused of,” he told the judges. Vinnik said electronic equipment confiscated during his arrest was not related to his job, and that the laptop seized by police contained only cartoons for his children.

Elena Becatoros in Athens contributed.

Greece: Joint air force drills with Cyprus, Egypt, Israel

October 01, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Greece’s defense minister says plans are being drawn up for joint air force drills with Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and other European countries as part of efforts to bolster stability in the eastern Mediterranean.

Panos Kammenos’ remarks Sunday came after a military parade in the Cypriot capital to commemorate the 57th anniversary of the ethnically divided island’s independence. The parade included the overflight of a pair of Greek Air Force F-16 jets, the first showing of the Greek warplanes at the event in 16 years.

The island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said there will be no let-up in efforts to reunify Cyprus, despite July’s collapse of peace talks with breakaway Turkish Cypriots. Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missiles were also put on the display at the parade.

Greece struggles to mop up oil spill; critics demand more

September 14, 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities insisted Thursday they were doing everything they could to clean up the viscous, foul-smelling oil that has coated large parts of Athens’ coastline following the sinking of a small oil tanker.

The Agia Zoni II tanker sank Sunday while anchored in calm seas off the coast of Salamina island, near Greece’s main port of Piraeus, carrying 2,200 tons of fuel oil and 370 tons of marine gas oil. Two crew members were rescued.

“All the means available in the country” are being deployed to tackle the spill in the Saronic Gulf, Merchant Marine Minister Panagiotis Kouroumplis said Thursday. “Things are developing very well and from day to day there is a huge improvement,” he said, adding that authorities estimate the “situation will have completely changed” in 25-30 days.

Greece has requested help from the European Union and a specialized cleanup vessel has been deployed. Critics, however, have accused the government of not acting quickly enough prevent the spill from spreading from Salamina across the coastline.

The Saronic Gulf is home to dolphins, turtles, a wide variety of fish and sea birds. Environmental and wildlife organizations have been posting instructions on social media on how residents can help any stricken wildlife they come across.

It’s unclear why the ship sank. The vessel’s owner, Theodoros Kountouris, said on Epsilon TV that the ship, built in 1972, had been overhauled in 2014 to make it double-hulled, which would make it safer for leaks.

Breaking down in tears, Kountouris said he had done everything in his power to try and prevent the leaking when the ship sank. “I’m very sorry for what happened,” he said. Deputy Environment Minister Socrates Famellos said authorities think the leak had now been sealed.

“We believe that there will be no irreversible consequences to the environment,” Famellos said. “I would not call it an environmental disaster. There was a serious environmental accident that is being dealt with.”

Mayors of affected coastal areas were threatening to take legal action over the pollution. Glyfada Mayor Girogos Papanikolaou said on Facebook that he planned to file a lawsuit Friday against “all responsible” — a common Greek practice when a culprit has not been identified.

“From dawn today, we have been making a superhuman effort with all means to restore the massive damage that has occurred on the Glyfada seafront,” he said. Kouroumplis said the pollution spread because heavy fuel oil can sink during cooler nights, escaping the floating booms deployed to contain the slick, before rising to the sea’s surface again in the heat of the day.

Asked on Skai TV who was to blame for the oil spill, Deputy Agriculture Development Minister Giannis Tsironis said “the responsibility lies with an entire society and a global economy dependent on oil.”

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