Accessibility links

Turkish PM Visits Athens - 2004-05-08


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Greece for a historic visit marking the continuing thaw in relations between the two long time rival countries.

Mr. Erdogan and his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis, looked like the friends they profess to be as the visit started.

The three-day trip began on Thursday night with an informal dinner between the two, but the main business started on Friday, when the two leaders held talks aimed at tackling some of the disputes that have long marred relations between Greece and Turkey.

They addressed the issue of Cyprus, the Mediterranean island divided into ethnic Greek and Turk sectors. An internationally backed plan to reunite the island failed only two weeks ago when it was rejected by the Greek side in a referendum.

But both men insisted that the collapse of the Cyprus peace deal would not dent the friendship between their countries. Instead, Mr. Karamanlis said that Greece would continue to support Turkey's bid for membership of the European Union, a process which Ankara is anxious to see initiated later this year.

The Greek prime minister congratulated his Turkish counterpart on the reform efforts he had led, while Mr. Erdogan described Greece's support as remarkable.

The friendly attitude between the two men is in contrast to the frosty stand-off that typified relations between Greece and Turkey only a few years ago. In 1996, the two NATO members nearly went to war over territorial claims in the Aegean sea.

After five years of growing harmony, however, those issues are finally being addressed during Mr. Erdogan's visit. But, while Mr. Erdogan has spoken of his desire to turn the Aegean into a lake of peace, observers say the talks are unlikely to produce any formal settlement over territorial disputes for some time.

Instead, Mr. Erdogan is to head Saturday to Thrace in northeastern Greece, which is home to some 120,000 ethnic Turks. That community has long accused Greece of human rights abuses, and Mr. Erdogan is the first Turkish leader to visit the region in 50 years.

XS
SM
MD
LG