Cem in Athens to improve bilateral ties

Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem arrived in Athens yesterday for a working visit in one of the biannual meetings that he and his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, have established as a way of improving ties between their two countries. The two men will discuss the war against terrorism, bilateral issues and regional problems. Talks will include agreements that the two countries have signed and ratified as well as proposals for confidence-building measures. Cyprus is certain to figure high in their talks as Cem’s visit follows a series of threats from Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, that Cyprus’s accession to the EU (which could be in 2004) could lead to Turkey’s annexation of the occupied part of northern Cyprus. Cem arrived on a regular Olympic Airways flight from Istanbul and was welcomed at Venizelos Airport by Papandreou. ‘During our discussions today and tomorrow, we will have the opportunity to make a general review of our bilateral relationships and we will also be able to assess the results and the implementation of many agreements, which we have not only signed but have also been ratified by our parliaments. So this is one major part of our work,» Papandreou said. Cem paid a visit to President Costis Stephanopoulos and also met with the leader of the opposition New Democracy party, Costas Karamanlis. Stephanopoulos raised the issue of the Turkish threats to annex northern Cyprus. Papandreou and Cem are to hold a news conference today at which, according to sources, they will announce three confidence-building measures. These are expected to involve cooperation for environmental development in the Evros border region, exchanges of opinion between the chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff in the context of international organizations on issues pertaining to international cooperation, and the invitation of lower officers (aside from military attaches) to watch major military exercises in each country. In his talks with Karamanlis, Cem said that he did not think a solution to the Cyprus problem was likely, casting blame on the Greek-Cypriot side. Karamanlis said that there must be a just and viable solution in accordance with the UN’s resolutions.

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