17 June, 2006
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis expressed satisfaction with the conclusions reached by the European Council here on Friday, especially those regarding Turkey, and stressed that they contained two important elements.
He underlined the European Council's call to Turkey to make progress in fulfilling criteria set by the Union, while stressing that this included a pledge to maintain good neighborly relations.
In addition, the summit conclusions urged Turkey to avoid any action that would negatively affect the peaceful resolution of differences, Karamanlis noted.
The Greek premier also pointed to references to Ankara's obligations arising from the September 2005 statement, related to the additional customs union protocol, that were contained in the summit conclusions.
Asked to comment on a statement made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan, who said that his country would not open its ports and airports to Cyprus ships and planes even if this meant suspending Turkey's accession talks, Karamanlis stressed that Greece supports and encourages Turkey's European prospects.
He pointed out that Ankara had specific obligations, that the agreement between the EU and Turkey was very clear, while stressing that Turkey must fulfill specific commitments that were clear-cut and could not be circumvented.
In response to other questions, Karamanlis expressed disagreement with an "absorption capacity" criterion for enlargement, saying that this might send the wrong message to the countries of the western Balkans.
According to Karamanlis, there was also a question of whether Turkey had a sufficiently strong motive to meet its EU obligations.
"The less clear the end, the more restricted the motive," he told reporters.
Turning to trade regulations between the EU and the Turkish-Cypriots in occupied northern Cyprus, Karamanlis said that this could not be linked to the fulfillment of Turkey's obligations to the EU.
At the same time, he conceded that there were different opinions concerning the regulations within the EU.
The Greek prime minister also denied speculation of cooler relations between Athens and Nicosia, stressing that there was constant and close cooperation with the Cypriot government, good personal communication and close contact between himself and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos.
"We supported Cyprus' fundamental concerns and the results were positive. This is how things are," Karamanlis emphasized, stressing that there was no room for "alternative interpretations" or facile misunderstandings.
Referring to his recent meeting with main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) President George Papandreou - and the latter's call for a 'new' national strategy toward Turkey - Karamanlis said that he did not hear anything new and stressed that there was a specific strategy that is being implemented, is unfolding and is going well.
European leaders on Friday issued a stern warning to Turkey to agree to the Ankara Protocol, opening its ports and airports to Cyprus, by the end of the year.
"We expect that by the end of the year these commitments should be truly fulfilled," Austrian President Wolfgang Schuessel was quoted as saying after the end of the two-day EU summit.
According to French President Jacques Chirac, meanwhile, Turkey would be "putting in doubt itself its capacity to pursue enlargement," unless it complied.
Source: Athens News Agency