‘We are committed to strengthening dialogue’

Mr Prime Minister, what do you see as the key to an effective, definitive solution to problems in Greek-Turkish relations? It is an undeniable fact that Turkish-Greek relations are in a satisfactory course since 1999. Turkey is sincerely committed to strengthening further the current process of dialogue and cooperation between the two countries. We are pleased to see that the Greek side has the same determination.   The accomplishments in the political field obviously have had positive impact on the overall texture of our bilateral cooperation. Achievements are particularly encouraging in the fields of trade, energy, transportation and tourism, which constitute the strategic dimension of our partnership. On the other hand, it is true that there are some unresolved problems between Turkey and Greece. There is no single magic key to resolve bilateral disputes. What is needed is a genuine determination by both sides to address the disputed issues through patience, perseverance and good faith. In this vein, I can assure you that we sincerely wish to reach a just, lasting, and equitable settlement to all issues by observing the mutual interests of both countries. If our Greek partners chose to address these issues in the same manner, I think we can leave them behind. The Greek prime minister recently told journalists that in his meetings with you, one of the issues he raises is that the activity of Turkish fighter planes in the Athens FIR or Greek national air space causes tension in the Aegean and in bilateral relations. What reply do you give him? At the very outset, I would like to point out that Turkey is committed to good-neighborly relations with Greece and we look forward to further improving our relations in every field. However, I must underline that I disagree with the suggestion that the activities of the Turkish military aircraft are the cause of tension in the Aegean. As you are aware, the core aspects of the outstanding Aegean air space disagreements are the persistent abuse of «Flight Information Region» (FIR) responsibility by Greece and the unique Greek claim to 10 nautical miles of national air space while the breadth of its territorial waters is 6 NM, both of which are contrary to international law. Secondly, Turkey already exercises maximum extent of unreciprocated self-restraint concerning the military activities in the Aegean. A brief comparison of the Turkish and Greek military activities in the Aegean will reveal the huge gap, which stands at 10 to 1. Thirdly, Turkey continues to unilaterally implement several code-of-conduct measures since November 2001 to ensure flight safety and to avoid confrontational flights over the Aegean. Accordingly, we submit daily flight schedules to Greek authorities through NATO channels, the Turkish military aircraft fly unarmed in the Aegean unless they are harassed by Greek fighters, and they activate their Identification of Friend or Foe (IFF) systems during their entire flight. It is unfortunate that these measures, apart from being reciprocated, are being used by the Greek military aircraft to intercept and harass Turkish military aircraft flying in the Aegean international air space. Thus, if there is tension in the Aegean, we must set the record straight that the interception and harassment of the Turkish military aircraft in the Aegean international air space is the main source of such tension. Last but not least, Turkey has the right and freedom to conduct flights over the international air space of the Aegean. Therefore, Turkey should not be expected to compromise on the freedom and the right to use the high seas and international air space of the Aegean as appropriate in accordance with international law. Yet, if we can achieve a just, durable and acceptable settlement to all Aegean problems by taking into account our legitimate and vital interests in accordance with international law, all potential issues that are likely to undermine our relations will cease to exist. In your view, what are the greatest obstacles for the Turkish state and society as they move toward the European Union? We do not see any major obstacle stemming from our state or society in the road to EU membership. The overwhelming majority of the Turkish public is supporting Turkey’s EU accession. The state organs with all their available resources are at the service of Turkish society to help realize our goal of achieving modern standards in every area. Turkey, with its society and the state as a whole, has only one objective, that is to fulfill the necessary prerequisites and eventually accede to the EU. We are determined to overcome any obstacle that may arise in this process of joining the EU.

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