NEWS

Athens calls Ankara

Prime Minister Costas Simitis was the first foreign leader to call Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday to congratulate him on his party’s landslide victory in the Turkish national elections. The leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK) in turn said he planned to visit Athens within the next week or so. «This visit must be soon, in about a week, 10 days. Because time is short,» Erdogan told a news conference. Officials in Athens also expressed satisfaction at Erdogan’s comment that he considered Turkey’s ties with the EU a priority. But in private, senior government officials said they were waiting to see how viable the new Turkish government would be, what policy it would follow and how much it would work toward improving Greek-Turkish relations. Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that in a meeting with Simitis, they had «stressed that we are ready to cooperate with the new government, to continue the policy of rapprochement and the effort to make a leap forward in our efforts to solve the Cyprus issue.» He said Simitis’s call to Erdogan was held in «a very friendly atmosphere.» «In his conversation with Mr Erdogan, the prime minister stressed the desire to continue cooperation. Mr Erdogan immediately replied that he would like to see even more fruitful cooperation between the two countries,» Papandreou said, adding that Simitis had invited Erdogan to Athens. Papandreou sent a telegram of congratulations to Erdogan, as well as to Deniz Baykal, the leader of the Republican People’s Party, the only other party to enter Parliament in the elections that overturned the Turkish political system. He also congratulated former economy czar Kemal Dervis on getting into Parliament with Baykal’s party. Opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis sent a message congratulating Erdogan. «Turkey’s electorate has chosen change. A change which may lead to even greater well-being of the Turkish people,» he wrote. Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Cassoulides called the Turkish election result «positive,» adding that «we have to wait and see the policy of Mr Erdogan’s party on the Cyprus issue.» In Athens, US Assistant Secretary of State Marc Grossman discussed Greek-Turkish relations, Cyprus and Iraq with Foreign Minister Papandreou, Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and ND leader Karamanlis.