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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-01-23
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM Karamanlis visits Ankara, holds talks with ErdoganGreek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis began a milestone official three-day visit in Ankara on Wednesday, as private talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan dominated his first day in the Turkish capital.
In statements to reporters, Karamanlis stressed that 2008 will be important for strengthening relations between the two countries and will be a "window of opportunity" to boost ties in all sectors.
Erdogan welcomed Karamanlis and pointed out that it is the first visit by a Greek prime minister to Ankara in 49 years.
On his part, Karamanlis thanked his Turkish counterpart for the warm welcome extended to him and said that the problems of the past must be overcome and the two countries must seize the opportunity of the future.
The Greek prime minister said that bilateral and international issues were discussed and stressed that there has been considerable progress in certain sectors, compared to the past, as he mentioned economic relations as an example, as well as cooperation in the energy sector.
Karamanlis reiterated Greece's support for Turkey's European prospects, noting that the European adjustment of each candidate country, as well as of Turkey, is a difficult process, requiring great effort, determination and commitment.
He also reiterated that Greece supports the principle of "full adjustment, full accession" and stressed that this means that Turkey must proceed along the path of reforms, fulfilling the criteria and the prerequisites set by the European Union and then the EU must accept it in the big European family - Athensā leitmotif regarding possible EU accession for Turkey.
Speaking after their talks, which lasted for an hour more than had been initially been scheduled, Erdogan emphasised that leaders attract greater attention when they dare to "reject taboos", while stressing that an intensive dialogue has begun between the two countries since 1999, and particularly over the last five years.
The Turkish prime minister further said that 2008 will also be important for the Cyprus issue, noting that talks must be resumed, and that the guarantor powers and "homelands" (i.e. Greece and Turkey) must encourage.
Both prime ministers, Erdogan said, believe that the Aegean Sea must be a ?sea of peace?.
"We believe it expedient for a period of cooperation and solidarity to begin between the two sides of the Aegean. A case where the countries are a threat for each other cannot help world peace. Whatever effort is not aimed at peace offers no service to the world," Erdogan added.
He further said that efforts must be speeded up in sectors where no problems exist. And on the other hand, efforts to decrease the distance in sectors where problems do exist must be continued.
Erdogan said that the two prime ministers agreed on accelerating preliminary talks that will also be given a content and importance.
He referred to cooperation in all sectors, particularly in energy, and thanked Greece for supporting Turkey's European prospects.
Erdogan stressed that minorities constitute a bridge between the two countries, noting that there is understanding to a great degree between the two countries on resolving the problems "faced by our minorities." He added that the foreign ministers of the two countries must resolve these problems at a speedy pace.
"The more we try to resolve both the problems existing in western Thrace, and the problems existing here, the more the bridge of friendship between the two countries will be strengthened," Erdogan said.
Ecumenical Patriarchate, continental shelf, Cyprus
On his part, Karamanlis underlined that the issues of the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the closed Halki School of Theology are included in this European framework, while stressing at the same time that protection of minority rights is one of the most fundamental of European criteria.
The Greek prime minister went on to say that a full normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations remains the primary goal. He said that this is the sole path for substantive progress that will ?allow us to utilise the opportunities presented in the European framework.?
"And for our relations to be able to move substantively, he pointed out that the sole criterion is international law and international treaties. It is self-evident that for two countries participating in the same alliance and that aspire to cooperate in the future, in the framework of the same European family, there is no other path than the peaceful resolving of whatever issue in the framework of international legality," the Greek prime minister stressed.
Karamanlis added that both prime ministers agree that investigatory contacts should be intensified and continued.
Regarding the thorny issue of Cyprus, Karamanlis referred to the process agreed on July 8, 2006, whose full implementation will lead, as he said, to a concerted effort to resolve the problem and spoke of a just, viable and workable solution.
Replying to a question on the issue of the continental shelf, Karamanlis said that "indeed there is a pending issue in bilateral relations that conerns the delineation of the continental shelf and international law and international treaties are the tools to resolve it."
Karamanlis added that Greece has declared its readiness for resorting to the International Court at the Hague and that a solution to this issue will create a great momentum for improving relations between the two countries.
The prime minister pointed out that the full normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations is the main aim and in this context, he stressed, relations of good neighbourliness are an undeviating precondition.
He underlined at the same time that "it is inconceivable for countries aspiring to cooperate in a European framework for tensions, provocations or the threat of the use of force to continue remaining."
Referring to the issue of the continental shelf, the Turkish prime minister said that 37 probing contacts have taken place so far and the 38th meeting will be taking place soon.
"The fact that the talks are lasting for so long is due to the seriousness of the issue. It is our intention that a solution is found to this issue, which is one of the main ones, so that such issues will not affect relations between the two countries," Erdogan said.
On the question of Cyprus, Karamanlis mentioned that the political problem on the island must be resolved and, at last, there should be a reunification of the island for the benefit of all the inhabitants of Cyprus.
Karamanlis underlined that the issue of Cyprus is an international problem but its solution will surely help a great deal the atmosphere in Greek-Turkish relations.
The Greek prime minister said that the framework is set by international law, by Security Council resolutions, by the principles of the EU, as well as by the agreement reached on July 8, 2006, stressing that "we must seize the opportunity so that the last wall still standing in Europe will be removed."
"We are ready to help with all our strength the effort to find a solution based on these principles, that will be viable and workable," Karamanlis said.
The Greek prime minister further said that "a solution to the problem of Cyprus is of crucial importance for Turkey's path to the EU and the normalisation of Turkey's relations with Cyprus is necessary in every case."
The Turkish prime minister said that he places great importance on the timetable until the elections in Cyprus, as well as after the election process on the island, stressing that he is expecting Karamanlis to provide an impetus for the resumption of talks.
Erdogan referred to the Annan plan and to its rejection, saying, however, that its spirit and essence can be maintained, while reiterating that the guarantor countries must provide encouragement so that this issue can be resolved with talks.
On the question of the Patriarchate, Karamanlis said that the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has its seat here is a great benefit for Turkey and it is a great "European passport" and criterion.
Erdogan said that Turkey's interest in the Patriarchate is well-known, noting that his country has made every effort and has taken many steps, while mentioning that the characterisation ecumenical is of interest to the Christian Orthodox world.
As regards the Halki Schol of Theology, he said that it had operated until 1972 and then it stopped operating, adding that "we are working on this issue, we are evaluating it and then we shall decide."
Lastly, the prime minister said that 49 years will not be necessary for a visit to Turkey by a Greek prime minister to take place again, while the press conference came to an end with the Turkish prime minister saying in Greek "thank you very much." The two delegations then attended an official dinner.
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