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19 November, 1999
Prime Minister Costas Simitis told his Turkish counterpart Bulent Ecevit yesterday that Athens has made a series of goodwill gestures to improve relations with Turkey and that there should be a response.
Addressing reporters here after a 45-minute meeting with Mr. Ecevit on the sidelines of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit, Mr. Simitis said: "I clarified to Mr. Ecevit that Greece has made a series of moves for the improvement of relations with Turkey. There should be a response for this process to continue." He added that Athens supported Turkey's European vocation, as it believed EU-Turkish cooperation would benefit both sides.
"Greece supports Turkey's EU prospects because it believes that European Union cooperation with Turkey will benefit both the EU and Turkey-Besides, the Greek position is that, in the long term, all the countries of Europe must take part in the European Union," Mr. Simitis said.
"However," he added, "we want such a cooperation with the European Union to be effected under such terms and processes that will ensure cooperation and friendship so that there will be no problems".
Mr. Simitis said he and Mr. Ecevit had a "very friendly" discussion that focused on "the problems; the issues occupying both countries".
"Such issues and problems include those concerning the Aegean, Cyprus and implementation of the rules of international law in the region-The issue of the (Aegean) continental shelf, the questioning of International law's validity, was one of the central topics discussed," Mr. Simitis said.
He added that Greece proposes the initiation of a discussion on the continental shelf issue, within a specified timeframe, which if not met, will result to the issue being referred to the International Court at The Hague.
Mr. Simitis also noted the positive development in recent months between the two countries, particularly in cooperation related to the earthquakes.
The Greek premier said he pointed out that the two countries collaborated after the devastating earthquakes that recently hit in both countries, "and that was very positive".
Mr. Simitis said he also referred to the Greek government's decision to send an additional 150 prefabricated homes to help house the earthquake-stricken in Turkey.
"I also consider as very positive the (low-impact) discussion that has commenced on a series of issues, such as economic cooperation, tourism and combatting crime," he said, adding that another round of the consultations and discussions would be held so on, "and I hope there will be a positive result on common action related to those issues."
Mr. Simitis, who arrived in Istanbul on Wednesday, said that in the few hours he had been in Turkey "I ascertained that the Turkish people desire friendship and cooperation with the Greek people, precisely as the Greek people do".
"I believe that it is our duty to listen to this demand of the two peoples, to take it seriously into account and to respond in such a way so as to create a solid framework for peace and friendship," Mr. Simitis said.
Mr. Simitis also said that he had an unscheduled meeting with US President Bill Clinton and discussed several issues, including Turkey's possible candidacy to the European Union and the Cyprus problem, adding that discussions will continue in Athens.
Also speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr. Ecevit said he and the Greek premier had a very fruitful and warm discussion.
"The Greek assistance during the recent disastrous earthquakes that hit our country was very important for our country and people, and I expressed by gratitude to the prime minister," Mr. Ecevit said, adding that the earthquakes and the cooperation built on them with the mutual extension of assistance "showed that cooperation between the two peoples is destiny".
He also recalled a joint Greek-Turkish proposal to the UN for the establishment of a joint emergency action and rescue team for quake disasters, saying that a UN vote was due in the next few days "and we will have the first example of Greek-Turkish cooperation in this area".
Mr. Ecevit said the ongoing low-impact dialogue between Greek and Turkish foreign ministers "had commenced long before the earthquakes and gave rise to major hopes".
"This climate of cooperation created immediately after the destructive earthquakes has given impetus to the dialogue between the two foreign ministers," he added.
"As I have repeatedly stated, it is my view that there is no serious conflict of interests between Greece and Turkey. What is important is that there be continuity to the dialogue between our countries, between our nations, and that we have concrete and positive results," the Turkish premier said.
He said "there is no one in Turkey who has territorial designs against Greece. In addition, we must keep constantly in mind that we are both NATO member-countries".
"I have the feeling that it would be more proper to give priority to issues that concern the bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey," Mr. Ecevit said, adding however, that "there is also the Cyprus issue, which it would be good not to burden these relations with. Besides, that is in the field of authority of the United Nations secretary general." He also expressed belief that the work commenced jointly in the sectors of the economy, tourism, history and other areas "will soon have produced specific fruit".
"Having the hope that very soon we will have specific results in the sectors encompassed by the dialogue, I would like to express my gratitude to the Prime Minister for the time he devoted to me and visited me," Mr. Ecevit said.
Finally, according to a late evening dispatch by the Anadolu news agency from Ankara, several foreign leaders, with French President Jacques Chirac as the most prominent among them, called on Turkey to accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice at The Hague and the Copenhagen criteria concerning human rights.
On his part, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis said in Athens that Mr. Ecevit's statement, namely, that Turkey does harbor any territorial claims against Greece, is "deceptive".
"This is exactly what he said before he (Ecevit) fabricated the totally unfounded theory of 'grey zones' (in the Aegean), so it is not a good will gesture to give up on an unfounded fabrication," Mr. Karamanlis said.
The ND leader added that the US president should abandon the "equal distance policy between Athens and Ankara".
Source: Athens News Agency