Erdogan wants to boost ties, aide says

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, due to visit Athens on October 22 for a summit on the environment and sustainable development, is committed to improving Turkey’s bilateral relations with Greece and shares the global outlook of his Greek counterpart George Papandreou, a senior adviser to Erdogan has told Kathimerini. «Despite the serious domestic problems that he faces, George Papandreou remains a globalist, as does Erdogan,» Ibrahim Kalin told Kathimerini in an interview, adding that the two leaders had developed «a very good relationship.» «The political will is there – the next step is to prepare the public opinion in both our countries,» Kalin said. Questioned about Turkey’s longstanding threat against Greece against extending its territorial waters in the Aegean, Kalin noted, «We never use the expression casus belli in relation to our bilateral ties or the problems in the Aegean.» Erdogan’s adviser said that the threat was «a specific reaction [by Turkey] in June 1995 against a specific decision by the Greek Parliament» to express Greece’s right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles from 6. Ankara’s position, Kalin said, is that each side revoke these decisions and «allow the matter to be tackled in the broader context of Greek-Turkish problems.» He said these problems included the two countries’ coexistence in the Aegean and the fight to curb illegal immigration and trade. Erdogan’s adviser said that Turkey was in favor of the two countries scaling back their defense spending. «I think the climate [for such a change] is positive,» he said. «We do not see Greece as a threat. We did in the past, but not anymore. Now we see Greece as a neighbor and partner,» Kalin said, echoing similar comments made by Erdogan during a public address in Istanbul earlier this week. Today Kalin and Omer Celik, the vice chairman of Turkey’s ruling party, are to participate in a seminar on Greek-Turkish relations organized by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) at the Foreign Ministry in Athens.

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