WASHINGTON (CNA)–Greece and the US have exchanged sharp words over critical remarks Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos has made about US policy on Cyprus and in particular promises by President Bill Clinton which never materialized.
Greece–according to the US State Department–has canceled meetings US Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Miller was due to have Monday in Athens. Miller flew to the Greek capital on Friday evening for talks–following his meetings in Cyprus with President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
White House spokesman Mike McCurry said Pangalos’ remarks were "intemperate–disappointing–undiplomatic and unbecoming of a senior official of a close ally."
He described the commen’s as "inconsistent with what are otherwise close and warm bilateral relations we enjoy with the government of Greece" and expressed hope that Pangalos would "revise and extend his remarks because they were not appropriate".
Pangalos told a gathering of overseas Greek deputies that Clinton had made many pre-election pledges about finding a settlement in Cyprus which he did not keep.
This–he is quoted as saying by the Athens News Agency–is a preposterous lie.
He also noted that American weapons find their way to Cyprus’ Turkish occupied areas in contravention of US law and said the US–having failed to exercise effective pressure on Turkey–has now turned its attention to Greece.
Pangalos’ commen’s came only days after McCurry had described Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus as a "conflict" and steadfastly refused to refer to it as an invasion.
US officials also refrained from commenting on illegal visits to the occupied areas of Cyprus by Turkish officials–including the country’s president and premier–and failed to acknowledge that there was a violation of Cyprus’ sovereign air space by Turkish aircraft earlier this week–when planes came to mark the 24th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
The White House spokesman’said the US has made verbal representations to Pangalos and expressed its concern in a formal note through its Athens- based ambassador–Nicholas Burns.
"Pangalos’ remarks amounted to accusing the US President of being a liar on issues related to Cyprus"–McCurry told his briefing on Friday.
The spokesman’said he had already contacted Senator Paul Sarbanes–a leading Greek-American–over the remarks and "explained very carefully our determination to pursue reconciliation with respect to Cyprus."
"We think that our diplomatic efforts have been designed to help–and undiplomatic statemen’s are not helpful," he added.
US State Department spokesman Lee McLeeny said the US is "extremely disappointed by the remarks" which he described as "objectionable–unwarranted and clearly surprising and inappropriate."
Noting these were made by a NATO ally–he said they were "inconsistent with the Greek government’s decision to cancel Miller’s visit in the region to continue US efforts to promote a Cyprus settlement."
"The US–under President Clinton’s leadership–has tried mightily to help resolve the Cyprus problem. Our efforts are fair and objective and their aim is to achieve a united Cyprus on a bizonal–bicommunal and federal basis," he added.
McLeeny said that disagreemen’s between allies should not be aired in public but concerns should be shared privately "rather than resort to unreasonable public statemen’s."