Politics: US Assistant Sec't confers with Athens over North Africa

Visiting US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon briefed local reporters here on Wednesday following his talks with Greek foreign ministry leadership -- including Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas -- with the emphasis expectedly focusing on recent developments and violence in North Africa and the Mideast, particularly Libya.

"Greece has been a very helpful partner," Gordon said, while praising Athens efforts to evacuate thousands of third country nationals to Greece from eastern Libya.

Pressed on the US administration's position regarding the fluid situation in the North African country, the high-ranking US diplomat denied that a military operation was pending, noting that extra US naval assets were ordered to the Mediterranean to deal with whatever contingencies arise. "We're simply preparing for what may be unforeseen circumstances," Gordon said.

Moreover, he was succinct in referring to Washington's position vis-à-vis the turmoil in Libya and clashes between pro- and anti-government forces, stressing that "this (Gadhafi) regime is going to go, so there's no reason to perpetuate this violence."

Queried on the possibility of the United States recognising a provisional or transitional government in eastern Libya, Gordon merely noted that Washington is studying its options.

Asked about the long-standing Cyprus problem -- which was dicussed earlier with Greek officials -- Gordon echoed the US State Department position that direct talks between the two communities on the island republic offer the "best prospects" for progress, "but having said that, we would have wished to have seen more progress."

He cited a lack of progress on the issues of property and security, amongst others. "We encourage the parties to accelerate efforts."

Turning to standing issues on Athens' agenda, Gordon praised continued efforts by the Greek and Turkish governments to improve and broaden relations via joint ministerial meetings and reciprocal visits, adding that "context and the overall tone and atmosphere" matter greatly when trying to solve often complicated and long-entrenched problems.

In reference to the still unresolved "name issue" between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) to its north, the US official underlined that the Greek government is committed improving stability in the region. Along those lines, he reminded that Washington is not a party to negotiations between Athens and the one-time Yugoslav republic, while it nevertheless considers a resolution to the problem as a "win-win" situation, but absolutely not a "zero sum game".

Finally, the US official expressed Washington's support, as he said, towards the "difficult and courageous" steps taken by the Greek government to face down the ongoing and unprecedented fiscal and economic crisis.

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