ATHENS.- Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis proposed strategic partnership to PM Erdogan who is on an official visit to Greece. Erdogan said he found the proposal worth consideration. At a joint press conference with Karamanlis, Erdogan said that they spent efforts to improve relations between the two countries without needing any third parties. Erdogan voiced gratitude of having a warm reception especially at the home of Karamanlis a day before and that relations between Turkey and Greece improved in the last five years.
Tayyip Erdogan before departing Greece, paid a short private visit to the town of Komotini in the border region of Thrace, the home a Muslim minority. In a response to the greeting by the Macedonia-Thrace regional head, Erdogan called on Thrace’s Muslims “to work for a strong Greece”. He initially referred to my “brothers in western Thrace”, before saying that a robust Greece means that their happiness and prosperity will grow as well.
Erdogan’s plane landed in the port city of Kavala earlier in the day to begin his visit to the region. He arrived in Greece at the head of a large Turkish delegation on Thursday for talks with Greek leadership, while he dined twice with his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis. In other comments, the Turkish PM said no bilateral problem should be left unsolved for future generations. In the early afternoon, Erdogan visited the Turkish consulate in the town of Komotini and met with members of the local Muslim minority. His visit is the first to the region by a Turkish premier over the last 52 years.
A NEW ORBIT
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis hosted an official dinner in honour of visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday evening and said ”Greek-Turkish relations have entered a new orbit.”
Addressing the Turkish delegation, Karamanlis said Greece remains steadfastly adhered to the target of the reunification of Cyprus ”so that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots together can enjoy the benefits of participation in the European Union.”
He also stressed the need for ”the corridor to remain open to seek a concerted solution to the problem of Cyprus, based on the Annan plan, harmonised with the principles and the acquis communautaire of the European Union, just and viable, which will guarantee conditions of security for all.”
Referring to Ankara’s efforts for reform, the prime minister hailed the ”decisive commitment by Mr. Erdogan to proceed along the path of reforms amd moderation and along the path to Europe” and reiterated Greece’s steadfast support for Turkey’s European prospect.
”Greece will support this process and Turkey will find us supporters of every effort of hers which signals her convergence with the constitutional, political and economic acquis communautaire of the EU,” he said.
Karamanlis also spoke of ”conjunctures, mistakes and shortsighted options which harmed our peoples, which distanced them and poisoned them with suspicion” and stressed that ”the time has come to turn a page.”
”We believe that respect for national sovereignty, the peaceful solution to whatever differences based on international law and international treaties and protection for human and minority rights are the principles on which we must lay the foundations for our common effort for harmonious coexistence under conditions of good neighbourliness,” the prime minister said and added that ”mutual suspicion lasting for decades belongs to the past.”
The prime minister further referred to economic cooperation between the two countries which ”shows the way for the widening and deepening of bilateral relations”, while focusing in particular on confidence-building measures adopted on a bilateral basis and reiterated Greece’s adherence to supporting similar creative efforts.
On his part, Erdogan stressed that his visit to Greece is the first official visit by a Turkish prime minister in the past 16 years and referred to the ”common cultural framework” and the ”values which were shared” by Greeks and Turks with the agreement between Greek and Turkish statesmen Eleftherios Venizelos and Kemal Ataturk being a milestone.
”The two graet national leaders, on the basis of common sense and wisdom, contributed to Greek-Turkish cooperation and friendship which continued and flourished for some years,” he said.
Erdogan also expressed satisfaction over the replacement of the environment of conflict by cooperation and referred in this context to 25 agreements reached between the two countries so far, adding that work groups are continuing to prepare relevant texts.
”We have acquired a common realisation of the role we can play in the wider region and we believe that we must strengthen the desire of the people and we shall make every possible effort in this direction,” the Turkish prime minister concluded.
Natasha Karamanli and Emine Erdogan, the wives of the Greek and Turkish prime ministers, respectively, visited archaeological sites and the Acropolis Museum in Athens on Friday. Karamanlis and Erdogan had lunch at a restaurant at Lycabettus and later strolled around Plaka and visited a traditional Turkish bath.