12 January, 2007
Arrangements are currently being made through diplomatic channels to set a date for a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to Greece, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told reporters on Thursday.
Asked to comment on a recent speech by Gul to the Turkish Parliament, in which the Turkish minister claimed that the Moslem minority in Thrace was being subjected to discrimi-nation and lived in region that was significantly backward in comparison with other regions of the European Union - as well as what was perceived as an effort by Turkey to make the minority a bilateral issue - Koumoutsakos stressed that Greece has a clear policy where the minority in Thrace was concerned.
"The members of the Moslem minority in Thrace are Greek citizens and citizens of Europe that enjoy full equality before the law and state," he underlined, adding that Greece was "proud of its European policy for minorities, which is constantly developing and which we consider an example for others".
The spokesman also pointed out that Gul's speech had referred to Turkey's unswerving desire to improve bilateral ties with Greece.
On the prospect of Gul touring Thrace while in Greece, Koumoutsakos said that the Turkish foreign minister would be free to visit any area of the country and repeated that Greece was proud of its policy for minorities so that there was no reason for concern from such a visit.
He also stressed that Greek governments past and present had made efforts to use EU Community Support Frameworks in the best possible way, while the region of Thrace was among those where special efforts were being made to make optimal use of 4th CSF funds.
Finally, he said a report of shots fired near the Imia islets, which in 1996 sparked an incident that brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of hostilities, had been checked and found inaccurate.
In response to a question regarding an EU regulation to allow direct trade with Turkish-Cypriots in the occupied territories of Cyprus, Koumoutsakos said that this would be discussed by both working teams and by the Permanent Representatives on COREPER and all indications pointed to a repetition of the discussion in order to arrive at a specific decision at the Council of EU foreign ministers on January 22.
Source: Athens News Agency