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Karamanlis in Ankara: “Peace requires the strength to endure it”

(ANA-MPA) Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis continued his ground-breaking trip to Ankara on Thursday at the head of a high-ranking Greek delegation, which was received at the presidential mansion by Turkish President Abdullah Gul. Hours earlier the Greek premier laid a wreath at the Ataturk Mausoleum (Anitkabir) in the Turkish capital.In a dedication in the visitors’ book at the mausoleum, Karamanlis wrote: “Kemal Ataturk with Eleftherios Venizelos had the political courage, volition and foresight not to allow conflicts and tragedies of the past to become obstacles to efforts at building a better future of peace and cooperation, towards the benefit of both our peoples.”Karamanlis also met with Turkey’s main opposition leader (CHP) and veteran politician Deniz Baykal in the Turkish capital.At noon, Karamanlis delivered an address at Ankara’s Bilkent University, where he noted that the world is changing at an unprecedented speed, bringing a plethora of new opportunities and challenges, but also threats, the most worrisome of which was, perhaps, the blatant abuse of political power.Speaking during the second day of his official visit to the neighbouring country, Karamanlis said Greeks and Turks, as neighbours, are faced with similar challenges. “In this new world, Greeks and Turks, as neighbours, face common challenges. Issues, which geography and modern-day reality, demand that we face jointly. This requires frankness, confidence and commitment,” Karamanlis said, citing the EU as an example, and particularly France’s and Germany’s rapprochement after World War II.Karamanlis also referred to Turkey’s European prospect, reaffirming Greece’s support, and stressing that “the European family is defined by our collective desire for democracy and respect, and full adoption of the fundamental principles and values, which are: human rights, such as freedom of speech and religion; minority rights; peaceful resolution of differences, denouncement of the use, or threat of use of violence; respect of the territorial integrity of states, and devotion to International Law and International Treaties”. The Greek premier explained that the target was “to give Turkey the opportunity to prove its volition and preparedness to adopt and fully apply the European principles and values, the European way”, because “we are convinced that a European Turkey will prove to be to the benefit of its own people, first of all, of the region, and of the entire continent”. Greek-Turkish economic relations have improved, Karamanlis said, noting that the total volume of trade between the two countries was rising steadily, reaching 2.3 billion dollars in the first nine months of 2007 alone. Problems in the relations between the two countries, however, remain, he continued, “problems that we cannot underestimate”, but “which are up to us to resolve”. “In that direction, and wanting to believe that both countries manifest true volition to turn to the future, we have a powerful ally, which is the only means that the modern-day peaceful societies employ: International Law,” Karamanlis said. On the Cyprus issue, Karamanlis stressed that “the time has come to tear down, in Nicosia, the last remaining wall of division in Europe”. “Greece and Turkey have the duty to try, together with the people of Cyprus, to restore its (Cyprus’) independence, sovereignty and unity. To reach a solution that is just, viable and functional, founded on the Resolutions of the UN Security Council and the acquis of the European Union, of which Cyprus is a member,” the Greek premier stressed. “We have a difficult past behind us; a past known to all of us. History, however, cannot be rewritten. But what can be written from here on are the pages of the future; and inspired leadership is needed to draw lessons from the past and forge a brighter future,” he 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. “Greece and Turkey are at a strategic crossroad. We have much to gain from moving forward, together. But we have even more to lose by following the path of tension and enmity,” he said. As for Greece, the prime minister said, “I can assure you that our commitment is to move forward”. History, he concluded, “has taught us that everything depends on the choices. On our choices. Now is the time to turn the words into action … Peace requires the strength to endure it,” Karamanlis said, citing a verse by Greek Nobel laureate poet Odysseas Elytis from his celebrated “Axion Esti” collection. “This is the peace that is worth fighting for,” the Greek prime minister concluded. In answer to a handful of questions, Karamanlis said the best answer to obvious euro-sceptism over Turkey’s European course is complete fulfilment of criteria, prerequisites and reforms for full accession.“Trust your friends,” was Karamanlis’ laconic answer to a question on whether Athens’ support for Ankara’s EU prospects is merely a pretext in order to achieve Turkey’s compliance with Greece’s demands.Finally, asked whether he would consider visiting, along with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “both sides of Cyprus” — i.e. the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish-occupied northern third of the isle — Karamanlis emphasised that the Cyprus problem was not an issue of symbolism, but of substance. “We have expressed our political volition to find a fair and viable solution with a final goal of leading to the island’s reunification,” he said, adding that the basis for such a framework lies in international law, treaties and the July 8 agreement. 

 PM Karamanlis holds talks with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos

 ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Panagopoulos) Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, currently on an official three-day visit to Turkey, held talks with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Thursday, stressing that the reopening of the Halki School of Theology is a top priority.“In the struggle to defend the just causes of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the values that it stands for, in the struggle that is taking place with the weapons of logic and persuasion as well as of common interest I assure you that we shall not waver and we shall not back down. You can consider as a foregone conclusion the active and continuous support of the Greek state in this effort. In this spirit, the reopening of the Halki School of Theology is a top priority for us. We shall work with determination and consistency, together with all those who share our values in Greece, Turkey, and all over the world, to enable you to continue unimpeded the work that you are carrying out, and which is liked by God, for the fulfillment of the major mission of the Patriarchate,” the prime minister said, addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch.Karamanlis said he was deeply moved to be visiting the Fanar, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, an institution that, as he said, has constituted the religious craddle of the nation for 17 centuries.The prime minister praised the role played by the Ecumenical Patriarch, stressing that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with the inspired guidance of Vartholomeos has assumed a substantive role in the face of international challenges.“You have been the first international leader to embrace the message of saving the environment and you have proclaimed its importance. Your initiatives have met with international acceptance and they highlight the modern-day role of the Patriarchal throne in absolute agreement with your theological mission. There is no doubt that through such initiatives the universality of the institution is underlined in the strongest of ways and its international presence is boosted,” the prime minister said.He also referred to the defending of human rights and institutions through the initiatives assumed by Vartholomeos, noting that the Ecumenical Patriarch’s views have a universal appeal.Karamanlis further pointed out that Vartholomeos is the voice of eastern Christianity, being the first among equals on the firmament of Orthodox Churches, in the effort to defend these values, adding that the western Church has also been mobilised in this effort.Lastly, the prime minister said that Vartholomeos remains in a longstanding sense the firm European voice in Turkey, despite whatever adversities and disappointments.Welcoming Karamanlis, the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed his satisfaction for his visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s seat, terming his visit to Turkey and to Istanbul as being of historic significance, since hopes are being created for the promotion of relations of friendship and cooperation between the neighbouring countries.He also expressed satisfaction because the prime ministers of Greece and Turkey are stuggling with all their strength for greater rapprochement between the two peoples and for their closer cooperation on the basis of all elements that unite them.“We congratulate you wholeheartedly for this effort of yours since the Ecumenical Patriarchate always aims at the building of harmonious and peaceful relations between those living in the same geopolitical area, the peoples of Turkey and of Greece and believes that both can always live peacefully and fraternally under the same sky which we hope will never be overshadowed by clouds of conflicts,” he said.The Patriarch further said that the Patriarchate is working for unity and peaceful cooperation among all Christians and people regardless of gender, race and religion.“Therefore, strengthening the role and the work of the Patriarchate is in the interests of all, which is a source of blessing for Turkey, as well as for the whole world,” Vartholomeos said.The prime minister and his wife Natasha were to attend a private dinner later on in the evening with his Turkish counterpart and his wife Emine. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos and the rest of the official Greek delegation were to attend a dinner hosted by Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.On Friday morning, the prime minister will be addressing a business forum in Istanbul, together with his Turkish counterpart, and he will be concluding his visit with a meeting with expatriates at the High School.