NEWS

Athens poised for Erdogan visit

Greek diplomats yesterday played down a scheduled visit to Athens today by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, indicating that Greece wants to see progress before it commits to scaling back on defense spending and to a consensus on longstanding disputes such as the delineation of the continental shelf. «The aim is to create a basis for closer cooperation,» a Foreign Ministry source told Kathimerini. «But this does not mean that all issues will be discussed or solved,» the source added. «There will have to be a change in the Turkish practice of stoking tension in the Aegean,» he said, referring to the frequent violations of Greek air space by Turkish fighter jets. Last night Greek and Turkish diplomats finished drafting the text of a memorandum of cooperation expected to be signed tomorrow by Erdogan after his talks with Prime Minister George Papandreou. The document reportedly foresees increased bilateral cooperation in the economic sector, tourism, energy and culture. However, the same sources said that the two premiers will tackle thornier issues, including exploratory talks regarding the delineation of the continental shelf, illegal immigration, the Cyprus problem and Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. The two men are also expected to discuss the creation of a joint council of ministers that will meet once a year to discuss progress in bilateral cooperation. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the aim of the annual meeting would be to achieve «economic integration.» Davutoglu was distinctly more upbeat about the outcome of Erdogan’s visit to Athens. «The prime minister’s visit will be of a revolutionary nature,» Davutoglu told Haber Turk Television. «We are trying to eliminate the perception that the two countries are rivals,» he said. In comments to Kathimerini, Turkish President Abdullah Gul also appeared optimistic, referring to Papandreou as «a friend.» Gul said bilateral ties «have acquired a new dynamic,» adding that «we can do even better.»