Greek, Turk PMs upbeat on ties

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday stressed their determination to boost Greek-Turkish ties on the sidelines of a summit of Black Sea countries focusing on EU relations and regional energy routes. «Our basic aim remains the full normalization of Greek-Turkish relations,» Karamanlis said after talks with Erdogan. Karamanlis also took the opportunity to reiterate Athens’s support for Ankara’s bid to join the EU which, he noted, was conditional on Turkey’s respect for European legislation and principles. The Greek premier expressed his optimism that a series of confidence-building measures agreed upon by Athens and Ankara would boost ties but stressed that «activities violating international law and causing tension should be avoided» – a clear reference to violations by Turkish jets over the Aegean. Karamanlis also wished Erdogan luck in Turkey’s forthcoming elections, scheduled for July 22. «Greece supports the continuation of the reform drive and the efforts being made by the Turkish government,» Karamanlis said. Asked by Erdogan when elections in Greece would be held, Karamanlis noted that «the end of the four-year term is March 2008» – as the Greek premier apparently made an effort to dispel speculation about the possibility of early elections this fall. Erdogan thanked Greece for its support of Turkey’s EU ambitions, in particular the two new policy chapters on which Brussels yesterday agreed to open talks with Ankara. The two leaders also discussed the Cyprus issue and agreed on the need for a «comprehensive, just and viable solution» that respects UN and EU decisions. Such a solution would «contribute greatly to stability and growth in the broader region,» Karamanlis said. Erdogan struck a positive note regarding attempts to revive stalled peace talks on the divided island, remarking, «The coming period will be more constructive.» The Turkish PM described his talks with Karamanlis as «exceptionally good.» Karamanlis was also due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin later yesterday.

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