Honest talks from clear positions

No dramatic changes came from the meeting of premiers Costas Karamanlis and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday in Ankara. There was a good rapport between the two prime ministers and their conversation was honest. Both stuck to their positions and only occasionally pushed issues subtly. They spoke about a «window of opportunity» being presented but each seemed to expect the other to make the first move. But Costas Karamanlis had already made several first steps prior to the meeting. The steady support Greece has expressed for Turkey’s full accession to the European Union, as well as the decision to be the first Greek head of state to visit Ankara in almost half a century sent a clear message that could, and should, have been reciprocated. Karamanlis did not miss out on the opportunity to underscore that a country cannot use the threat of war against an ally when that country is simply, and in theory only, exercising a right granted to it by international law. The Greek prime minister insisted that some differences should be resolved peacefully and the continental shelf should be defined by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Even though no agreement has been reached on this issue after 37 rounds of exploratory talks, both sides appeared to want a solution, and soon. Karamanlis also said that he sees the July 8 agreement between Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and the leader of the breakaway state in northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat, as the cornerstone of a new initiative on the issue of the Mediterranean island. Erdogan, in turn, insisted on reviewing the Annan Plan, while he did not hide his displeasure at the neutral stance taken by Karamanlis in the 2004 talks on Cyprus held in Burgenstock, Switzerland, saying that this time around he expects «the help of my friend Costas.» Erdogan’s response to Karamanlis’s comment that Turkey’s endorsement of Istanbul-based Patriarch Vartholomaios I as the leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians would be a good step toward its European aspiration – to which Erdogan responded that the ecumenical title of Vartholomaios I was «a question for the Christian Orthodox community» – is open to many interpretations. The United States expressed its satisfaction with Karamanlis’s visit to Ankara, with State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey saying, «It’s very important for our two good friends and NATO allies, Greece and Turkey, to be able to work with one another and to be able to work through some of the differences, historical or otherwise, that they’ve had.» He also hailed Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis’s cooperation with the USA, saying that the two countries are enjoying the best relationship they have had in decades.