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Cyprus Mail: Historic talks open in Athens

15 mai 2010

Long-time  rivals Greece and Turkey agreed yesterday to try and ease tensions and attempt to cut heavy defence budgets, seeking to gain something positive from the Greek debt crisis currently shaking the euro.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Athens with 10 ministers and some 100 businessmen for what both sides hailed as a new era in ties between two NATO members who have come to the brink of war on several occasions in the last 50 years.
Erdogan, in his first official visit to Greece since 2004, said issues under discussion with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou included cuts to arms spending as well as the Aegean, and the Cyprus problem.
We do not want to see the Aegean as a sea dividing us. We want to see the Aegean as a sea of peace,” Erdogan told a news conference alongside Papandreou.
The two sides signed 21 bilateral agreements on issues ranging from tourism, energy and environment, to curbing illegal migrants coming through Turkey, a major problem for Greece.
Greece and Turkey, despite the variations in our relations, and maybe because of this, have the duty and need to find roots of cooperation and understanding between us. That will lead to complete normalisation of relations,” Papandreou said.
Asked about the Cyprus issue, Erdogan said  “We must achieve the result as soon as we can, if we put  together our efforts we can have results by the end of the year.”
The Turkish Prime Minister suggested a meeting between Turkey, Greece, the Greek and Turkish sides of Cyprus, the European Union and the United Nations could make headway towards resolving the dispute.
Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots will continue to provide full support to a solution to the Cyprus problem,” said Erdogan.
He ruled out opening Turkish ports to Greek Cypriot traffic however. “We are ready to open ports, provided that ports open simultaneously.  » “This cannot be unilateral, it has to be mutual. If we had received a positive signal this would be done. If both parties are positive we could lift restrictions.”
Papandreou told reporters that Turkey had the ability to contribute “with determination” to finding a Cyprus solution.
With the correct solution to the problem of Cyprus, we will make even bigger steps to bring our countries closer,” he said.
He ruled out any guarantees from Turkey and Greece however. Papandreou said he had faith in President Demetris Christofias and would continue to support the Greek Cypriot side in its efforts to restore peace on the island.
To a question on occupying part of an EU member state Erdogan referred back to the 2004 Greek Cypriot rejection of the Annan plan that foresaw a huge reduction in Turkish troops on Cyprus.
All preparatory work was carried out, and in April 2004 we arrived where we arrived [in Burgenstock] At that point it was Karamanlis and Papadopoulos who suggested a delay to the referendum. Mr Annan was there as well. Annan asked me what I thought. I turned and said we would carry process forward and do the referendum,” said Erdogan.
He said negotiations between Christofias and newly-elected Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu should now pick up from where they ended with former leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
Erdogan called on his Greek counterpart to support these efforts.  “We are guaranteeing powers. We have a duty to succeed in these efforts and reach a conclusion”, said Erdogan, adding: “By the end of the year, I think we will achieve our goal, but efforts need to continue.”

Source: Cyprus Mail

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