Athens Cautious Of Turk Advances

Athens cautious of Turk advances
November 7, 2009

A recent effort to advance relations between Greece and Turkey is being treated with caution by Athens, it emerged yesterday after a flurry of diplomatic activity between the two countries.

Speaking in Vienna, where he was attending an event to mark the 20th anniversary since the fall of the Berlin Wall organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), of which Greece holds the rotating presidency, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas indicated that Greece was not getting carried away with Turkey's overtures.

Greece supports Turkey's efforts but is very insistent that all the conditions and obligations that Turkey has undertaken vis-a-vis the European Union and its member states are met, said Droutsas.

Greece is always open and looking for honest cooperation. Turkey knows the issues on which it must help find solutions, such as in the case of Cyprus or in achieving good-neighborly relations with Greece.

We will not shy away from actual contact, after all we initiated it and we are actively seeking it, as long as the proper groundwork is carried out and there is the necessary seriousness, said the minister.

Sources suggested that although encouraged by Turkey's response to a visit to Istanbul by Prime Minister George Papandreou just days after coming to office, Athens prefers to be cautious so it can wait to see if this is a genuine effort by Ankara to resolve problems or more of a public relations exercise.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded to Papandreou's visit by sending him a letter in which he suggested ways of strengthening ties between the two countries.

Turkey's chief European Union negotiator Egemen Bagis revealed in a visit to Athens on Thursday that in his letter to Papandreou, Erdogan proposes the establishment of a joint council involving the premiers and ministers of both countries to debate key issues of bilateral concern such as the Cyprus problem, tensions in the Aegean Sea and illegal immigration.