Greece pushes for Turkish reforms

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday congratulated Turkey’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party for its impressive victory in general elections and encouraged Ankara to press ahead with European Union-oriented reforms. «I hope (the victory) will contribute to Turkey fulfilling its obligations toward the EU,» Karamanlis said from Sarajevo, where he was on an official visit. «A democratic Turkey is in everyone’s interest,» he added. The PM also appealed to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to «cooperate to create conditions that lead to the improvement of bilateral ties.» Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, in Brussels for a summit with her EU counterparts, also congratulated Erdogan but expressed concern about the situation regarding Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios in view of the strong return of Turkey’s nationalists to parliament. The need to protect the Patriarchate «is a non-negotiable issue of human and religious rights,» Bakoyannis said. «Turkey must realize that respect for the Patriarchate can be used positively in its course toward Europe,» she added. Bakoyannis’s message was backed in a joint statement issued with Wilfried Martens, president of the European People’s Party. «We call on Turkey to acknowledge the international and legal status of the Patriarchate and its right to train clerics,» the statement said. It also requested the reopening of the Orthodox seminary on Halki. Karamanlis yesterday cut short his trip to Bosnia following the death of two firefighter pilots in Greece. He had signed pacts with his Bosnian counterpart to avoid double taxation and boost economic cooperation.

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