13 May, 2006
Greece's prime minister Costas Karamanlis met Friday morning with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Vienna, on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the EU, Latin American and Caribbean countries, and discussed mainly economic and business issues, particularly in view of the imminent commencement of the tourism season.
Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and Turkish minister of State Ali Babacan were also present at the 45-minute meeting.
No statements were made to the press after the talks.
The discussion, which came on the heels of a Karamanlis-Erdogan meeting on May 4 on the sidelines of the South East Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit in Thessaloniki, was held within the framework of the two PMs' new policy of frequent bilateral contacts, and was requested by the Turkish prime minister two days earlier.
Commenting on the meeting to reporters later on Friday, Karamanlis said that everyone would have to get used to the idea that such meetings and contacts would take place regularly and would not be major news.
He said that the main focus of his talks with Erdogan on Friday had been economic, particularly on tourism and cooperation in the tourism sector.
Regarding tourism, a moratorium on avoiding tension during the summer months that was agreed in 1988 between then Greek and Turkish foreign ministers Karolos Papoulias -- currently President of the Hellenic Republic -- and Mesut Yilmaz, is still in effect, although the issue was not broached during the Karamanlis-Erdogan meeting.
Karamanlis called for the repeal of a 50-dollar duty imposed by the Turkish authorities on tourists traveling to Greece -- even on a brief visit -- from Turkey, and Erdogan replied that it was an "administrative matter" that concerned the state services, and promised to look into a solution.
The two men also discussed the problem of long delays arising at the Evros River bridge on the frontier between the two countries, which are mainly due to bureaucracy, and mulled the possibility of establishing a second bridge.
Discussions also encompassed Greek-Turkish cooperation in the energy sector.
Turkish minister of state Ali Babacan, who also attended the meeting, presented a briefing on progress in Turkey's EU accession course, but the Customs Union protocol issue was not broached.
Greek government sources, on condition of anonymity, told ANA-MPA that "Turkey is very much interested in showing that it is doing everything possible to fulfill the criteria set out by the EU. And let's not forget that all these are also linked with the domestic political front".
The two sides further reiterated their volition for improvement of Greek-Turkish relations.
Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis is scheduled to visit Istanbul on June 10 for a Greek-Turkish journalists' conference, and will meet with her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul on the sidelines of the conference.
Source: Athens News Agency