Time could run out for US bases in Greece
Athens — Greek-American talks on the future of key US bases in the Mediterranean are facing a critical time squeeze. If negotiations are not completed in time for the Greek Parliament to approve the defense agreement covering US bases in Greece and military aid before its long summer recess, the whole issue may have to be postponed until after the general elections in the fall.
The fall elections could bring in a government of a different composition than the one now in power or, possibly, a new, less pro-Western government.
Although Andreas Papandreou and his neutralist Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) are believed to have lost some of their early momentum, they still pose a major challenge to Premier George Rallis and the ruling New Democracy Party. Mr. Papandreou has vowed to close down the US bases if he comes to power.
The present team of Premier Rallis and Foreign Affairs Minister Constantine Mitsotakis are generally counted on to get the defense agreement passed through Parliament as smoothly as they passed the one on Greece's return to the military wing of NATO last winter -- only if the negotiations are completed in time.
"The time element is getting to be quite significant in the face of a number of disagreements," stated Foreign Affairs Minister Mitsotakis. If the committee currently conducting the negotiations fails to find a solution, then the talks will move to the ambassadorial level. If it fails again, it will go to the ministerial level.
The United States drew up new defense agreements for Greece as well as Turkey in 1977, but both were eventually scrapped. In MArch 1980, the US signed a military aid and bases agreement with Turkey, but Greece refused to renegotiate until after its reintegration into NATO, something that was achieved in November 1980.
Talks on the revised agreement started between Greece and the US on Jan. 27. It was expected that negotiations would be completed by mid-March, but there is still a w ide gap between the two sides.