NEWS

Greek-Turkish talks

Greece and Turkey yesterday agreed to the start of exploratory talks between their foreign ministries in an effort to create a framework for «a broader dialogue» on differences between the two countries. Foreign Minister George Papandreou sought to ease fears that Greece would be drawn into discussing its sovereign rights and also warned against expectations of a «magic» solution. He said that questions raised by Ankara over sovereignty of some islets in the Aegean would not be discussed. Papandreou met for an hour with his Turkish counterpart, Ismail Cem, in Istanbul on the fringes of a meeting of EU members and candidates and Islamic countries. They agreed to appoint diplomats to conduct the discussions. «I think it was a positive discussion that we had and I think we should further contribute to the relationship between our two countries,» Cem said. The political directors of the two foreign ministries will decide the date and place of the talks. «We have decided that. .. it will be useful after a dialogue of quite a long time to move ahead and to discuss some other issues,» Papandreou said. «We hope that this way we will further our relationship. .. and further solve some problems.» Papandreou insisted he «cannot guarantee» that the exploratory talks will lead to a resolution of Greek-Turkish problems. «The only thing I can say is that conditions are better now than they were before. Nothing else,» Papandreou said. «Let’s not create great expectations, let’s not create the feeling that these problems will be solved as if by magic. «The talks will examine «the further continuation of a broader dialogue. A dialogue we must not be afraid of,» Papandreou said, seeking to calm fears that discussions could threaten Greece’s sovereign rights. Athens has long insisted the only dispute it recognizes in the Aegean is that of the continental shelf. Discussions will also include other issues, such as Greek complaints of an increase in violations by Turkish fighter jets of Greek airspace over the Aegean, Papandreou said. Turkey has submitted a proposal relating to filing flight plans in the Aegean, which Greece considers to be «at least a first, positive step,» he added. Other issues to be broached include problems faced by the Ecumenical Patriarch. Meanwhile, also in Istanbul, Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Cassoulides denied Turkish newspaper reports that his government was planning to buy 40 attack helicopters from Russia. «I don’t know of any helicopters. These are rumours,» he told reporters. (AP, Reuters, Kathimerini)