NEWS

No talks with Turkey soon, minister says

There can be no long-lasting improvement in Greek-Turkish relations while the Cyprus issue is still unresolved and the Turks keep raising issues over the Aegean Sea, Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told Kathimerini in an interview published yesterday. Papantoniou believes this year and the next will be crucial for the resolution of several of these conflicts, but warns that Turkey seeks to raise tensions. «Experience has shown that when Turkey faces pressure or believes that various disputes it has with Greece are entering a crucial phase, it creates artificial tensions,» said Papantoniou, citing increased incursions of Turkish fighter planes into Greek air space, hawkish statements by Turkish premier Bulent Ecevit and renewed claims involving the countries’ joint participation in NATO exercises. Despite these statements, Papantoniou believes that Greece’s more conciliatory policy toward Turkey, initiated in 1999 and championed by both Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou, was correct. «I’ve always believed that it was wrong for us to say, ‘We won’t talk with the Turks.’ The (current) policy has achieved a great success: it has improved relations between Greece and Turkey,» said Papantoniou. Turkey indicated yesterday that it would be ready to resolve its disputes with Greece at the International Court of Justice, as Greece has insisted it should. «There can be developments in the Aegean,» Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said yesterday in an interview to TV channel CNN-Turk. «Be it dialogue, mediation, arbitration or even the international court, we’re open to all.» Turkey has previously insisted on dialogue between the countries. Greece, which recognizes only one legitimate dispute with Turkey in the Aegean – the delimitation of the continental shelf – rejects any dialogue on Turkey’s territorial claims, refusing to legitimize them.