News / Europe

Greece Boosts Cooperation with Turkey

Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (L) and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during their meeting in Istanbul, March 4, 2013.
Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (L) and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during their meeting in Istanbul, March 4, 2013.
Reuters
Beset by economic crisis at home, Greece took a symbolic step towards improving relations with long-time arch rival Turkey on Monday by pledging to double annual trade with its eastern neighbor over the next three years.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, on his first visit to Turkey since winning power in June, met his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul and signed deals on issues from agriculture to disaster relief.

They set a target of $10 billion in annual trade by 2015.

The Aegean nations have long been embroiled in disputes over territory, energy exploration and the divided island of Cyprus, but Greece's main priority now is boosting an economy which has shrunk about 20 percent since 2008.

"Today is a good day for Greek-Turkish relations, and it's in our hands to have more of these good days,'' Samaras told a news conference in Turkey's largest city Istanbul, saying the two sides were carefully building trust.

"There are still issues we do not agree on and our disagreements may be significant, but ... we are trying to create relations of mutual respect," he said after a meeting that included more than 20 cabinet members from both sides.

The two NATO members were nearly drawn into a military clash as recently as 1996 over an uninhabited Aegean islet, and fears of conflict have driven high levels of Greek spending on defence that Athens can no longer afford.

Ties between the two neighbors improved after 1999, when earthquakes in both countries led to spontaneous deliveries of aid and prompted their leaders to begin dialogue. Trade has grown strongly and amounted to $5 billion last year.

Greece is the fifth-biggest foreign investor in Turkey, with its direct investments totalling $6.5 billion between 2002 and 2011, Erdogan said. Around one million Turks and Greeks visit each other's country each year.

Cyprus Problem Persists

Erdogan reinforced the sense of a thaw in relations.

"We believe the constructive atmosphere between our countries, the mutual understanding and good neighborliness will strengthen our ties further," he told the news conference.

Erdogan also emphasised that better relations between the neighbors boosts stability in the east Mediterranean.

While Athens backs Ankara's European Union bid, the failure to reunite the divided island of Cyprus has stood in the way.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 in response to a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the east Mediterranean island with Greece. Turkey keeps some 30,000 troops in a Turkish Cypriot enclave that only it recognizes.

"We want to bury the Cyprus problem in history," Erdogan said. The Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus joined the EU in 2004.

A dispute over Aegean energy exploration is also flaring up, with Samaras suggesting Greece wants to demarcate the areas beneath the sea in which it hopes to find oil and gas. Turkey warns against any unilateral moves.

Other problems include Ankara's objection to the Greek state's involvement in the appointment of religious officials, including Islamic clerics, and stalled plans for a state mosque in Athens where an ethnic Turkish Muslim minority lives.

Turkey's refusal to reopen the Halki Greek Orthodox seminary on an island near Istanbul is another bone of contention.

Critics also accuse Turkey of interfering in the affairs of the Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul, although church officials have praised government moves to improve some rights.

"Enabling minorities in the two countries to live a prosperous and happy life will undoubtedly strengthen our friendship," Erdogan said.

At the meeting, ministers signed 25 deals on areas including agriculture, health, transport, media, immigration, disaster relief and more. A Turkish diplomatic source said they were largely pledges of goodwill to deepen cooperation.

"Historically Greek-Turkish relations have been difficult, we were like cats and dogs," he said. "This meeting is the expression of the political will on both sides to see this relationship fulfil its potential. We have differences but there is a desire for a positive agenda."

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: SAS from: USA
March 05, 2013 10:33 AM
Long live Greco Turkish friendship.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs