Turkey firm on Aegean

Turkey and Greece both have «legitimate and vital interests in the Aegean,» Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told Kathimerini in an interview published yesterday. «Both countries are bound by the Treaty of Madrid in 1997 to… settle their differences by peaceful means on the basis of mutual agreement,» Gul said, referring to a pact signed by former premiers Costas Simitis and Suleyman Demirel. Gul said Turkey «is determined to have good-neighborly relations with Greece» but avoided explaining why Turkish authorities refuse to annul the threat of war, or casus belli, over the possibility of Greece extending its territorial waters in the Aegean. Gul’s comments came ahead of today’s scheduled meeting in Istanbul between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On the issue of Cyprus, Gul called for «a new partnership state» and accused the Greek Cypriots of obstructing attempts to reunify the island by «moving the basis of the Cyprus issue from the UN to the EU in order to get unilateral concessions from Turkey.» «If that intransigent policy continues, I fear that there will be no margin for optimism,» Gul added. As regards Turkey’s EU prospects, Gul was positive, insisting on full membership as the only option and dismissing the reluctance of certain EU members to embrace Turkey. Ankara is counting on Athens’s «clear support» in this area, Gul said, adding that he welcomed recent statements by his Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyannis regarding Athens’s support. Gul also reiterated an earlier pledge to consider reopening the Orthodox seminary on Halki, off Istanbul. Finally, Turkey’s FM discussed his country’s stance on Iraq. He said Turkey was in favor of «preserving Iraq’s territorial integrity and political unity» but was also «determined to take all the necessary measures to curb the threat of terrorism from northern Iraq.» Gul declined to answer a question about whether Turkish forces would enter Iraq to fight Kurdish rebel forces.

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