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‘Time to get back to business of politics’

The way out of the current ailing political climate in Greece, according to Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, is to focus on reforms and speed up the government’s work as a way of getting back to the business of politics. In this interview with Kathimerini, she said that exploratory talks with Turkey would be speeded up, and that the two countries together should seek a way to resolve the question of the continental shelf without any fixed deadline, but in the visible future. In view of her visit to Washington and with talks with Skopje at a crucial phase, she said it was a mistake for the US to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic The week before last you were in Turkey with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, the first visit by a Greek prime minister in half a century. What took place there? It was indeed an historic visit in the sense that it was the first by a Greek prime minister to Turkey after 49 years. A page was turned. Both sides expressed their sincere will – I would like to believe – to move forward toward a complete normalization of relations between our countries. After all, that is the strategic goal of our foreign policy and for many reasons, including the fact that we have to realize, as the prime minister pointed out, what is being lost by perpetuating the tension. We have to live with Turkey. Can the decision to start intensive exploratory contacts be interpreted as moving to a higher level or more frequent talks? In the same format but more frequently, and with the active supervision of the foreign ministers. You said that we cannot solve the question of the continental shelf alone, that we should take it to the International Court at The Hague. Is that a jointly held view? The exploratory talks are aimed at specifying each side’s positions to allow for a resolution of the continental shelf issue. From that point, the goal is to arrive at some common ground and that is what we should be focusing on. Within this context, recourse to The Hague is one possibility. I do not want to pre-empt Turkey’s stance or any outcome. The intention, however, is to try to move ahead. Soon? Speeding things up means that we will be having meetings at regular intervals. At the moment there are no schedules, but certainly we are talking about the visible future. Was there any discussion of reopening the Halki Orthodox Seminary on the basis of giving something in return? No, nor can there be. Issues concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate are of particular interest to Greece but are viewed within the European framework, the European concept of religious rights, of religious freedom. What we in all sincerity told the Turkey side, and which the prime minister said publicly, is that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has its seat in Istanbul, is a huge advantage for Turkey. With regard to Greece’s Muslim minority, did Turkey ask for something specific, for example the right to elect the religious leader (mufti)? Turkey has raised the question of the election of muftis. Greece’s position is clear. As long as Muslim family law is applicable in Greece, and the mufti is at the same time a judge, i.e. with jurisdiction in family law…, he cannot be elected.