PM’s Turkey visit off

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s visit to Ankara, unofficially planned for the end of November, has been indefinitely postponed, government sources said yesterday. The visit had never been officially scheduled. According to the government sources, Greece’s concern was for the visit to take place «under the best possible circumstances» and to confirm good bilateral relations. This is not possible right now, the sources say, because of three reasons: recent «counterproductive statements by Turkish officials,» the activity of the extreme nationalist Gray Wolves organization and especially their recent demonstration against the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, and the leak of a document by Turkey’s National Security Council reaffirming that any attempt by Greece to extend its territorial waters would be a cause for war. Turkish diplomatic sources, however, have told Kathimerini that they still expect Karamanlis’s visit to take place by the end of the year and that there have been assurances given to that effect by the Greek government. Their statement implied that Turkey would be extremely displeased by an indefinite postponement. Karamanlis had initially planned to visit Turkey in August – essentially during the weeks leading up to October 3, when the European Union agreed to start accession talks with Turkey. However, Turkey’s stubborn refusal to recognize Cyprus or even allow Cypriot ships and planes to use its ports and airports had intensified EU member states’ skepticism about Turkey’s membership, and Karamanlis, a proponent of membership talks, had chosen to postpone the trip rather than give the impression he supported Turkey’s conduct. Recent developments in Turkey – the leak of the National Security Council policy document, the demonstrations by the Gray Wolves, and aggressive positions toward its neighbors to the west and east – appear to confirm the skeptics’ viewpoint that, having secured the start of EU accession talks, Turkey’s government would revert to its old ways and not act to please Europe, if only to appease nationalist elements within the country. The Turkish government denies this is so, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his indignation over the leaked document.

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