Erdogan in Athens

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Athens last night for the first official visit by a Turkish leader in 16 years. He immediately left the airport for dinner at Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s private residence at Rafina, an indication of the warming ties between the two countries. «We want to turn a new page in our relations,» Karamanlis said in a statement to Turkey’s Anatolia news agency. «We want permanent friendship, cooperation and good relations on the basis of the EU’s principles.» Before leaving Ankara, Erdogan said the main issues he would discuss with Karamanlis would be the furthering of cooperation between Turkey and Greece and the improvement of relations. «I am the first Turkish prime minister to visit Greece in many years and this is a significant fact. On May 8 [tomorrow] I will visit our consulate in Komotini in Western Thrace and meet with our brothers,» he said, referring to the region where most members of Greece’s Muslim minority live. «The improvement of bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey will be to the benefit not only of the two countries but to stability, peace and cooperation in the whole region.» Both Karamanlis and Erdogan have made it clear that the failure to reunify Cyprus will not stand in the way of improving relations, and Athens says it will support Ankara’s effort to start accession talks with the European Union. On the other hand, the failure of the UN-mediated effort to end Cyprus’s division appears to have had serious repercussions in ties between the Republic of Cyprus and the United States. President Tassos Papadopoulos yesterday described as «very hostile acts» the use by Secretary of State Colin Powell and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher of the title «prime minister» in referring to Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who is in Washington this week. «I believe that if these were intentional and not a slip of the tongue, they must be seen as hostile acts. I would say that they are also unproductive, if the aim of all of us is to reunite Cyprus through negotiations and not to create a definite dividing line between the two sides,» Papadopoulos said. He also criticized Boucher’s statement that there are no plans to resume negotiations on the Cyprus issue. «I did not know that Mr Boucher was responsible for the negotiations, at least not in public,» Papadopoulos said. On Wednesday Boucher had said that the UN, US and others had made clear that «there’s no plan to go back to the table. This is the deal.» Responding to Papadopoulos yesterday, he said US policy regarding the non-recognition of a Turkish-Cypriot state had not changed. The United States and the EU want to end the Turkish-Cypriots’ isolation as they voted in favor of the UN reunification plan.

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