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Closer ties with Turkey

Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis yesterday stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to resolve longstanding disputes between Greece and Turkey, during the second day of his landmark official visit to Ankara. Delivering a speech at Ankara’s Bilkent University, one of the leading research universities in Turkey, the premier said “I know very well that the road ahead of us is long and difficult. But the cost of not moving forward, and the lost benefit from not forging ahead, will be immense. And this, precisely, is the strongest incentive for keeping our eyes turned to the future,” Karamanlis continued.  “We have a lot to gain by moving ahead together. We have even more to lose by following the path of tension and enmity.” As for Greece, the prime minister said, “I can assure you that our commitment is to move forward.”  

On Cyprus, Karamanlis said: “The time has come to break down Nicosia’s last dividing wall in Europe. Greece and Turkey should work together with the people of Cyprus to restore its independence, sovereignty and unity.” He further emphasised Greece’s preparedness to help. “We are ready to contribute to this effort so that all citizens of Cyprus are able to enjoy the benefits of European integration,” he said, adding that “the way ahead will be long and difficult but the cost of not moving ahead will be immense.”

In a sign of good will, Karamanlis laid a wreath at the tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s national founder. Referring to the historical meeting between Ataturk and the Greek premier Eleftherios Venizelos who reached a peace pact in 1930, after the bitter fighting between the two countries in Asia Minor in the early 20s and the exchange of populations in 1923, Karamanlis wrote in the visitor’s book at the mausoleum the following: “Ataturk and Venizelos had the political courage … not to let conflicts of the past to become an obstacle to building a better future.”

Karamanlis met yesterday with President Abdulah Gul, as well as the main opposition leader Denis Baykal and then flew to Istanbul where later in the day he met the Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios (www.ec-patr.org) and discussed the problems of the Greek minority in Turkey. The Greek premier said that in the struggle to protect the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the active and lasting support of the Greek state must be taken for granted. Concluding his visit today, the premier is going to address a business forum together with Erdogan.

See also: Secretariat General of Information, World Media on Greece – Latest Reports; The Wall Street Journal, The Unorthodox Patriarch