The Greek and Turkish foreign ministers, Dimitris Droutsas and Ahmet Davutoglu, vowed on Tuesday (March 8th) continued improvement in bilateral ties despite their differences on various issues.
“Our common goal is to further promote Greek-Turkish co-operation,” Droutsas said at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart following a 45-minute “very constructive” meeting in Athens.
The talks, held at the start of Davutoglu’s three-day visit to Greece, focused on a range of issues regarding bilateral relations, Turkey’s EU bid and recent developments in Libya and the wider Middle East region. They were part of preparations for the July meeting of the Greek-Turkish High-Level Co-operation Council, hosted by Turkey.
As a result of the improved economic relations over the past year, bilateral trade has surpassed the 2.16 billion-euro mark, Davutoglu said. He and Droutsas both agreed that there is room for a further enhancement of ties in this field.
“Today, the message that comes out of our talks is that of friendship, brotherhood and shared destiny,” Turkish media quoted Davutoglu as saying on Tuesday. The “extremely positive momentum” of the past months should be sustained, as it would benefit both countries, he added.
A dispute over a series of issues, including the delimitation of the national airspace and the delineation of territorial waters in the Aegean Sea, as well as the divided island of Cyprus are among the most contentious problems.
Droutsas, whose country insists on a comprehensive package settlement to the Aegean dispute, stressed that Turkey must show respect for international law, as well as Greece’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“There are practices on the part of Turkey that do not contribute towards this effort, and what is worse, if you will, is that they engender distrust in public opinion. And we have said that these practices need to stop,” he stressed.
He also called for genuine efforts towards reaching a solution to end Cyprus’s nearly four-decade ethnic division, one of the reasons for Turkey’s stalled EU accession progress.
“We now have to work boldly and decisively for progress in the negotiations under the UN; substantial progress rather than PR progress,” Droutsas said.
But he also reiterated Greece’s support for Turkey’s bid to join the EU as a full-fledged member, provided it fulfils its obligations to the 27-nation bloc.
“Our vision is to see Turkey a full member of the EU; to see Greece, Turkey and Cyprus co-operating in Brussels for their common interests within the framework of an enlarged Europe,” Droutsas said.
The Turkish minister, who also met with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on the first day of his visit, was due to travel to Thessaloniki, Xanthi and Komotini on Wednesday.