NEWS

A Greek-Turkish draw

ISTANBUL (AP) – The Turkish and Greek foreign ministers yesterday attended the first-ever competitive game between their countries’ soccer teams, an event meant to improve relations but which was marred by tension and some violence even before it started. Two Greek fans were slightly injured by flying objects before the Panathinaikos-Fenerbahce UEFA match when they unfurled a banner of Fenerbahce’s archrival, Galatasaray. Fenerbahce fans threw plastic bottles and other objects at them. One Greek fan took off his shirt to show that he had «No 2008» written on his chest. Greece and Turkey have proposed co-hosting the 2008 European championships. Later, Fenerbahce fans unfurled a giant banner with the picture of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, the Ottoman ruler who captured Constantinople in 1453, ending the Byzantine Greek Orthodox Empire, which ruled from the city for 11 centuries. «Istanbul since 1453,» the banner read. But there were also banners of peace. «We can work it out,» read one. As tensions ran high, Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart, Sukru Sina Gurel, walked in smiling and started waving at the fans from near the pitch. But angry Greek fans started throwing pieces of plastic chairs and bottles of ayran, a yogurt drink, at the ministers, other officials and policemen. [Turkey’s Anatolia news agency said that around 1,500 Greek fans were responsible for the assault on the officials, Agence France-Presse reported. Papandreou’s wife, Ada, was hit by a plastic milk carton with the drink spilling over her as well as other dignitaries, the agency added. Papandreou commented to a reporter of Athens’s Mega Channel that this was an «isolated incident.»] Earlier, Fenerbahce and Panathinaikos signed an Olympic Truce, promoting peace during the 2004 Games. Papandreou said that Greece supported Turkey’s efforts to join the EU and Turkey’s goal to get a date for negotiations at the EU’s December summit. «We will continue to work with our partners in the EU… and of course in cooperation with Turkey to see that we get the best possible answer in Copenhagen,» he said.The game ended in a 1-1 draw.