Core issues still divide Greeks, Turks

In the first meeting of a Greek defense minister with his Turkish counterpart in Turkey since 1974, Yiannos Papantoniou and host Sabahattin Cakmakoglu met on the sidelines of a gathering of defense ministers of southeastern European countries in Antalya. The informal talks provided an opportunity for Papantoniou to stress that despite the warming of ties between Greece and Turkey, Ankara’s policies on Cyprus and the Aegean prevented further improvement. Papantoniou also spelled out Athens’s opposition to a proposal for the European Union’s nascent defense force to seek Turkey’s approval when Ankara feels that the force’s actions will affect its sphere of influence. This will apply particularly to the Aegean and Cyprus. Greece will not agree to any arrangements which violate its principles, Papantoniou said. The arrangements should not affect the exercise of sovereign rights by any states. In Athens, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that Greece would not accept the deal until it was satisfied. There will either be a common solution within the EU or we will postpone the issue until a solution is found, he said. In Antalya, Papantoniou commented on the improvement in relations achieved by Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart, Ismail Cem. The climate that has developed is not enough for an improvement in bilateral relations, Papantoniou said. He stressed that only if Ankara withdraws its unilateral demands against Greece and contributes to the finding of a just and peaceful solution to the Cyprus problem will there a full normalization of relations. Papantoniou conceded that that there were positive developments in the economic, trade and tourism sectors, but he noted that the main problems remain unresolved… Turkey’s claims and positions on the Cyprus issue and the Aegean are obstacles toward solving them. Cakmakoglu, in turn, said, We have already noted the positive results of the Greek-Turkish dialogue. He called for a direct telephone line between the two defense ministers. We must work to solve our differences with good will and on the basis of international principles, he added.

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