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World > Europe > Greece > Foreign Relations (Notes)

Greece - Foreign Relations (Notes)


FOREIGN RELATIONS
Greece's foreign policy is aligned with that of its EU partners. Greece gives particular emphasis to its close relations with Cyprus but also has growing political and economic ties with the Balkan countries and the Middle East.


Greece maintains full diplomatic, political, and economic relations with its Southeast European neighbors, except with Macedonia (see below), and regards itself as a leader of the region's Euro-Atlantic integration process. It provides peacekeeping contingents for Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Greece has good relations with Russia and has embassies in a number of the central Asian republics, which it sees as potentially important trading partners.


Prominent issues in Greek foreign policy include Greek-Turkish differences in the Aegean, Turkish accession to the EU, the name dispute with Macedonia, the reunification of Cyprus, Kosovo final status arrangements and Greek-American relations.


Macedonia
The Greek dispute with its northern neighbor over its constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia, has been an important issue in Greek politics since 1992 and has inhibited the establishment of full diplomatic relations. Greece was adamantly opposed to the use of 'Macedonia' by the government in Skopje, claiming that the term is intrinsically Greek and should not be used by a foreign country. Mediation efforts by the UN and the United States brokered an interim agreement whereby Greece recognized the country as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in September 1995. Talks on the name question continue under UN auspices.


Albania
Greece restored diplomatic relations with Albania in 1971, but the Greek Government did not formally lift the state of war, declared during World War II, until 1987. After the fall of the Albanian communist regime in 1991, relations between Athens and Tirana became increasingly strained because of allegations of mistreatment of the Greek ethnic minority by Albanian authorities in southern Albania. A wave of Albanian illegal economic migrants to Greece exacerbated tensions. In the past several years, however, cooperation between Greece and Albania has improved, with efforts focused on regional issues, such as narcotics trafficking and illegal immigration. However, tensions hover just below the surface. Greece remains host to 600,000-800,000 Albanian immigrants, many of them illegal. Crime in Greece involving Albanians often attracts headlines.


Greece-Turkey-Cyprus Relations
For historical reasons, most Greeks see Turkey as the major potential threat to their security. Greece and Turkey have unresolved disagreements regarding the Aegean maritime boundary, the treatment of the Orthodox Church and Greek minority in Istanbul, and the Muslim (primarily ethnic Turkish) minority in western Thrace. The largest source of tension in their relationship since 1974 has been the Cyprus conflict. Various UN-led efforts over the years to resolve the issue on a bizonal, bicommunal basis have failed: the latest attempt, the Annan Plan, was overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots in March 2004. Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the plan and both Greece and Turkey expressed their approval. The Republic of Cyprus entered the EU on May 1, 2004 as a divided island. The UN is currently assessing whether the political will exists among the interested parties to restart negotiations.


At times over the past three decades, tensions between Greece and Turkey have almost reached the point of armed confrontation, usually caused by one side or the other attempting to clarify an ambiguous status quo in the Aegean. In 1996, President Clinton intervened to help avert a possible armed exchange after Greek and Turkish journalists generated a dispute over ownership of a tiny, uninhabited islet called Imia (Kardak in Turkish.) A significant breakthrough in relations took place when major earthquakes hit Turkey and Greece in 1999. Both countries and peoples responded generously to the other's need, helping turn around official perceptions that rapprochement was too risky politically. Since that time, Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers have increased the quantity and quality of bilateral exchanges, both official and unofficial.


Greece has endorsed and supported Turkey's bid for candidacy to the European Union since the Helsinki EU Summit in 1999. Despite continuing disagreements with Ankara over Cyprus and the Aegean, Greek opinion leaders across the political spectrum are convinced that Greece's long-term interests are best served by Turkey's successfully fulfilling the requirements for membership and joining the European Union. The EU opened accession talks with Turkey on October 3, 2005.


The Middle East
Greece claims a special interest in the Middle East because of its geographic position and its economic and historic ties to the area. Greece cooperated with allied forces during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. Since 1994, Greece has signed defense cooperation agreements with Israel and Egypt. In recent years, Greek leaders have hosted several meetings of Israeli and Palestinian politicians to contribute to the peace process. Greece has been traditionally supportive of Palestinian claims. However, beginning in the late 1990s, efforts to strike a more balanced relationship with Israel received a boost. Greek-Israeli relations have been complicated by Israel's strategic cooperation with Turkey. Israeli President Moshe Katsav visited Greece in 2006, the first-ever official visit by an Israeli head of state.


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions - Euro Exchange Rates
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



Facts at a Glance
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Climate
Current Time
Ranking Positions
Euro Exchange Rates


Notes and Commentary
People
Economy
Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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