NEW YORK (Dec. 9)
Greece will throw its full support behind the Middle East peace process when it assumes the presidency of the European Community next month, Deputy Foreign Minister George Papandreou said at a meeting here this week with the American Jewish Committee.
Papandreou told a small gathering of AJCommittee leaders that the peace process will be high on Greece’s list of priorities and the Athens government will soon be in a position to influence the E.C. agenda on Middle East issues.
“Ten days ago, Israeli Foreign Minister (Shimon) Peres and Chairman (Yasser) Arafat visited Greece,” said Papandreou. “When Greece becomes the president of the European Community, we will be able to set the tone and agenda of the work of the E.C.
“One of our priority issues will certainly be the peace process in the Middle East. We want to help in any way we can,” he said.
Papandreou also told the small gathering that he strongly opposes the inclusion of religious affiliation on Greek national identity cards, a troubling issue for the Greek Jewish community.
“I believe it is an outrage and I think our government will change this,” he said.
Papandreou was visiting the United States to pave the way for a visit early next year by his father, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, who was returned to power in elections this year.
During his previous tenure as prime minister, he supported the Palestine Liberation Organization and was highly critical of Israel.
AJCommittee Executive Director David Harris welcomed the deputy foreign minister’s comments.
“It is now clear that this new government is prepared to change its attitude, both with Israel and with world Jewry,” Harris said.