23 January, 2008
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday underlined his government's desire for better relations between Greece and Turkey, during an interview given one day before the start of an official visit to Ankara to the Turkish news agency Anadolu.
"I will be the first Greek prime minister to visit Turkey after an interval of 48 years. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and I will have an opportunity to focus on Greek-Turkish relations and their future," he said.
Emphasising that the Greek government was doing everything in its power to improve relations, he also repeated Athens' support for Turkey's European prospects and said it was the right time to take action in order to boost bilateral ties.
During the interview, Karamanlis pointed to the great progress made in bilateral trade and investments and noted that the volume of trade between the two countries had risen to three billion dollars in 2007 from just 200 million dollars in 1999.
He also listed positive developments in tourist traffic between the two countries and the Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline, which was the result of bilateral cooperation.
At the same time, he pointed to serious bilateral problems that were still outstanding and needed a resolution, such as finding a viable solution to the Cyprus issue based on a bi-communal, bizonal federation.
Regarding Turkey's prospects of joining the EU and the opposition voiced in some quarters of Europe, Karamanlis said the EU had an obligation to send a "clear message to all candidate-countries, including Turkey".
"Greece believes that, if Turkey fully complies with the EU acquis, then this will lead to its full accession," the Greek premier stressed.
He noted that Turkey had a long way to go before reaching this target, however, and expressed hope that it would succeed in meeting EU criteria.
"It must, also, settle its relations with Cyprus and recognise it," Karamanlis underlined.
Asked to state his message to the Turkish people during his visit, the Greek prime minister said his message was pristine and that Greece desires to fully restore its relations with Turkey:
"The two countries must make efforts to resolve their differences peacefully and on the basis of international law," he said, expressing hope that Turkey would respond to the "hand of friendship extended by Greece".
The Greek prime minister also said that the message he wants to send to Turkish public opinion with his visit to Ankara is related to the desire for work in the direction of "the prevalence of a complete order in our relations, to enable the two countries to be able to enter the orbit of development."
Karamanlis, who will be arriving in Ankara on Wednesday for official talks, stressed that "of course, neither am I deceiving myself nor do I have illusions. I am very well aware that this is a longterm timetable, which is difficult and tiring. Be as it may, we cannot allow the problems to continue forever and to multiply.
Inertia is a morass and it is undoubtable that this will be harmful for both countries."
The prime minister also noted that with investments in peace and in prosperity, sources and opportunities can be secured for the two peoples, adding that "we believe that the time has come for us to pass from words to action to achieve a result, in accordance with international laws, International Law and the securing of a solution in a peaceful way. This is the challenge in our upcoming meeting."
Source: Athens News Agency