Greek, Turkish FMs forge ties

Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu yesterday agreed to boost bilateral contacts at government and military level in a bid to settle longstanding disputes and scale back defense spending. Meanwhile the diplomats confirmed press reports that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Athens in mid-May, two weeks earlier than scheduled. During talks in Ankara, Droutsas and Davutoglu agreed to set up a «high level cooperation platform» – headed by each country’s prime minister and including 10 ministers from each side – that would convene at least once a year. They also outlined a series of new confidence-building measures between their armed forces whose relationship has been strained chiefly due to an unresolved dispute over the delineation of the continental shelf. «These measures will help bring our countries, peoples and armies closer,» Droutsas said. Davutoglu went further, referring to «a brand-new concept» of cooperation. «This new vision is based not on a perception of mutual threat but an understanding of common interest,» Davutoglu said following talks with Droutsas in Ankara. «When we succeed in building this common future together, defense requirements will mutually cease to exist,» he said, adding that both countries should aim to allocate their budgets «not to arms but health, education and welfare.» The two diplomats also discussed Cyprus where a new round of peace talks is under way. Droutsas did not endorse Turkish suggestions that Greece take a more active role in efforts to reach a settlement, noting that the island’s Greek and Turkish communities should «be left on their own to find a solution for a common future.»

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