NEWS

Erdogan’s visit played down

Greek government sources yesterday sought to play down a scheduled meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Thessaloniki tomorrow amid a climate of disappointment with Ankara’s failure to fulfill European Union obligations affecting Greek and Cypriot interests. «The two prime ministers will not have an agenda for their talks and we are simply hoping for a useful political discussion,» a top government source told Kathimerini yesterday ahead of today’s launch of a two-day Balkan summit in the city. The same source said Karamanlis would not be making his customary comments after talks with Erdogan, consolidating reports of a cooling off in Greek-Turkish ties. Spirits were further dampened by a Turkish press report yesterday that cited Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as saying that a contested Orthodox seminary near Istanbul would not reopen. According to the daily Hurriyet, Gul said the seminary could only reopen as a faculty of Istanbul University – a condition rejected by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios. Grilled about the report, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis gave a diplomatic response: «In the European Union, the issue of religious freedom is one of the first that Turkey will have to answer.» The Thessaloniki forum will, however, set the stage for talks between Karamanlis and his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Branko Crvenkovski – the first meeting between Greek and FYROM heads of state for a year-and-a-half following a fallout over FYROM’s insistence on adopting the name «Macedonia» – a region in northern Greece. Tomorrow’s talks are to focus on bilateral trade rather than the name dispute.