President Bush welcomed the Greek Prime Minister to the White House Thursday to thank him for his country's role in the war against terrorism. The men discussed improving relations between Greece and Turkey.
President Bush told Prime Minister Costas Simitis that the United States is grateful for Greek support in the fight against terrorism. Greece has offered military forces and medical units in the U.S. led war against terrorist targets in Afghanistan. Speaking to reporters before their Oval Office meeting, President Bush said he and the Greek leader share the same commitment to eliminate terrorism wherever it exists. "I am most appreciative, sir, of your strong stand against terror," he said. "You have been a friend in our mutual concerns about routing-out terror around the world and I want to thank you for that very much. I am also very appreciative of your administration working with Turkey. Relations have improved with Turkey and as a result, the world is better off."
Prime Minister Simitis has improved bilateral relations with long-time rival Turkey. Ethnic Greek and ethnic Turkish communities on the divided island of Cyprus have agreed to hold direct talks on their future.
Greece has its own problems with terrorists in the Revolutionary Organization 17 November which the U.S. State Department believes is involved in a number of anti-Western attacks, including the murder of a Brirish Defence Attache in Athens last June.
Prime Minister Simitis said Greece is committed to ending the violence as part of a concerted, world-wide effort to stop terrorism. "We are totally commited to the fight against international terrorism. We take part in the Afghanistan effort. We will be part also of the international peace corps in Afgahnistan," he said. "I think it is necessary to cooperate in order to fight terrorism all over the world."
In preparing for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, President Bush says Greece can count on the full support of the international coalition against terrorism to ensure that those games go off safely. There has been some criticism that Greece is behind in its planning for that event.
Mr. Bush thanked the Prime Minister for his invitation to the Summer Games, saying it will be a "magnificent moment" for the sporting world to have the Olympics return to Athens. Mr. Bush said he is confident Greece will do a fine job as Olympic host.