Reconciliation via trade

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for more trade across their common border to further improve often difficult bilateral relations, as talks between the two leaders shifted to business. Karamanlis, on the last day of a three-day visit to Turkey, discussed with Turkish officials longstanding disputes between the two nations in the first visit by a Greek premier in nearly half a century. The visit has been high on symbolism but did not yield any concrete agreements to end disputes over issues including Cyprus and air space and territorial waters in the Aegean. «Cooperation in the economic field opens the way for further rapprochement between our two countries and helps repair damage caused by friction and tension,» Karamanlis told a gathering of Turkish and Greek businessmen. Karamanlis also added that Greece would support Turkey’s bid to host the prestigious International Expo in 2015 in the western city of Izmir on the Aegean coast. «I am convinced that Greek businessmen will be there in force,» said Karamanlis. Business ties between the two nations have been improving with Greek businesses buying into Turkish peers in a bid to tap strong growth in the neighboring country. The biggest foreign acquisition by a Greek lender was completed when Greece’s National Bank bought a majority stake in Turkey’s Finansbank in 2006. Erdogan for his part said, «The peoples of our two nations will benefit from the process that we launched in order to ensure stability in the Mediterranean, in the Balkans and also in Europe.» He stressed that the two countries were also working for the security of Europe in the field of energy. Trade volume rose to 1.93 billion euros in 2007 from 592.9 million dollars in 2000, according to official statistics. Of that amount, 1.39 billion dollars were Turkish exports to Greece. In November, Karamanlis and Erdogan inaugurated a pipeline to carry gas from Azerbaijan to Greece via Turkey, hailed as a symbol of a new era of economic cooperation.