PM to troubleshoot in Turkey

Prime Minister George Papandreou is due in Turkey today for a visit that has been played down by both Athens and Ankara but which has raised hopes of talks on crucial issues including tensions in the Aegean and a flagging peace drive on the divided island of Cyprus. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Athens, Grigoris Delavekouras, said that an increase in transgressions of Greek air space by Turkish fighter jets in the Aegean was a serious concern for Athens and will be broached by Papandreou. «It is a practice that undermines the whole process of trying to bring the countries closer, this is why we want to see a change in the attitude of Turkey on this matter,» Reuters quoted Delavekouras as saying. But a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Ankara played down the political significance of the visit during which Papandreou is also due to attend the opening ceremony of the World Winter Student Games with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. «Every year we have foreign guests at our ambassadors’ conference,» the spokesman told Reuters. «Mr Papandreou was invited this year as a sign of improving Turkish-Greek relations. We are not expecting a sensational statement on the current situation of the ties. However… there may be announcements if any new agreements are reached,» he said. Papandreou’s visit comes during a time of mixed signals regarding Greek-Turkish relations. The past few weeks have seen a resurgence in violations of Greek air space by Turkish fighter jets. In the latest transgression on Wednesday, a formation of four Turkish F16s entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) between Lesvos and Chios. Meanwhile a recent opinion poll in Turkey, whose results were made public by the Athens News Agency yesterday, indicated that Turkish public opinion about Greeks is improving. Only 2.3 percent of Turks questioned regard Greece as a threat. Four in 10 (43 percent) see the United States as the biggest external threat for Turkey, according to the poll, while 24 percent regard Israel as their country’s largest foe.