Greek, Turkish FMs outline positions on Aegean, EU relations

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu began a three-day official visit to Greece on Tuesday, with his Greek counterpart Dimitris Droutsas later stressing after talks that Athens will contribute towards the goal of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey "cooperating as full members of the EU for their common future."

Beyond bilateral relations or issues linked with the EU, both men also discussed the situation in the southern Mediterranean during the 45-minute meeting.

On his part, Davutoglu expressed what he called a "message of friendship, good-neighbourliness and a common destiny," while adding that in the near future "the entire world will see the excellent cooperation between Turkey and Greece."

Turning to core issues that have dominated Greek-Turkish talks for decades, Droutsas said boldness and decisiveness are necessary for substantive progress within the UN framework to be achieved vis-à-vis the long-standing Cyprus problem. He also reiterated Athens' standing position that a resolution to the Cyprus problem is a condition for a full normalisation of bilateral ties.

In reference to the recently re-emerged question of delineating the continental shelf in the Aegean, the Greek FM repeated Athens' position on upcoming exploratory contacts, namely, that such talks aim at the "self-evident ... (delineation) from Evros (in extreme northeast Greece) to Kastellorizo (an island in the south of Rhodes and off Turkey's southwest Mediterranean coast)."

"The framework is clear, one based on international law, sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said, underlining that certain practices by Ankara, "ones that do not contribute to our common effort", should cease.

Referring to other timely issues, such as illegal immigration, Droutsas called for better cooperation between the European Union and Turkey, as well as on the bilateral level. Along those lines, he praised a recently penned EU-Turkey agreement for the repatriation of third country nationals, expressing a hope that it will soon enter into force so that discussion over lifting the visa regime for Turkish citizens can commence.

On his part, Davutoglu cited a "new phase" in cooperation, beyond what he called "old stereotypes" in Greek-Turkish ties. He expressed satisfaction over Athens' support within the EU over the visa waiver issue, something he said was very important for his country.

In response to the comments on the Cyprus issue, he said the entire east Mediterranean should be considered as a "basin of peaceful co-existence. Cyprus must become an island of peace." In reference to the problems faced by Turkey in course towards the EU due to the Cyprus issue, he merely noted that it will continue to "plague our relations" in the wider region.

Davutoglu also commented on the unprecedented developments occurring in North Africa, where Turkey enjoys significant relations with the region's countries, saying he briefed Droutsas on his recent visit to the area.


Asked directly about his most recent statements regarding Kastellorizo, carried in an interview published by the Athens daily "Kathimerini" over the weekend, Davutoglu said there was no dispute of the isle belonging to Greece.

"My message is that Turkey has a positive approach in resolution (of problems in the) Aegean," while qualifying that his position on Kastellorizo is "absolutely geographic ... Greece has its own positions, but issues should be discussed in the open."

Finally, the Turkish prime minister was asked about his same-day visit to the Thrace province, which hosts a Muslim minority. Davutoglu emphasised that it was an "inseparable part of Greek sovereignty", while saying he wants to get to know the region better through his visit, which will also include stops to the cities of Thessaloniki and Kavala in northern Greece.

"Greece is a free and hospitable country, and Mr. Davutoglu is welcome everywhere," Droutsas said.

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