06 May, 2004
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives in Athens shortly on Thursday on an official visit to Greece.
Shortly after his 8:45 p.m. arrival at Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos international airport, Erdogan will be the guest at a private dinner at the home of Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis in the east Attica harbor town of Rafina.
The two prime ministers will hold talks at the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) on Friday morning, after which he will be received by President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos.
At noon on Friday, Erdogan will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in central Syntagma Square in front of the parliament building, after which he will call on parliament president Anna Psarouda-Benaki, followed by an official lunch hosted by the Greek-Turkish Business Forum.
At 4:30 in the afternoon, Erdogan will meet with main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, followed by separate meetings with Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga and Coalition of the Radical Left (SYN) leader Nikos Constantopoulos, and a call on Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni at 6:00 p.m.
Erdogan will attend a dinner in his honor at the Maximos Mansion at 9:00 p.m., while the rest of the Turkish delegation will attend a dinner in their honor at Zappeion.
The official leg of Erdogan's visit concludes on Saturday morning at 9:30 at a departure ceremony at the Maximos Mansion, after which he will leave for the airport to head on to Kavala for a private visit to Thrace, in northern Greece.
Replying to press questions, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos clarified that the itinerary for the private leg of Erdogan's visit was known to the government, adding that "no negotiation was made on its content".
Greek foreign minister Petros Molyviatis on Wednesday reiterated Athens’ decision to maintain its support for neighboring Turkey’s European orientation and to continue efforts at improving bilateral relations, in statements just twenty four hours before an official visit here by Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The veteran diplomat, who assumed the foreign ministry portfolio two months ago after the election victory of New Democracy party, said it would be a mistake for Athens to try and block Turkey’s European prospects. He, nevertheless, said the Cyprus issue remained at the core of Greece’s foreign policy concerns, although this problem should not impede Greek-Turkish relations.
Molyviatis’ latter comment came in response to a question on the Cyprus issue during the opening session of the 8th «Economist» Round Table with the government of Greece, and in light of last month’s rejection of the Annan peace plan by a large majority of Greek-Cypriots.
He added that this policy of normalization with Ankara will benefit both the Greek and Turkish peoples, as well as the entire region, while lobbying Turkey’s recent efforts towards meeting Copenhagen criteria and expressing a hope that Turkey will fully implement reforms. Moreover, he noted that this policy of rapprochement is shared by the current and previous Greek governments.
Turning to the issue of Greece’s foreign policy priorities, Molyviatis directly pointed to Cyprus and the upcoming 2004 Olympics.
In terms of Cyprus, he reiterated that the island republic’s EU accession is a historic milestone and a new beginning for all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
«There are no last opportunities in life,» he said in relation to last month’s referendum.
Additionally, he said the Greek/Cypriot community should not vilified because of its ‘No’ note, «as peoples’ decisions should be respected by all».
«The reunification of the island remains as the goal,» he said.
Finally, asked about Erdogan’s visit to the Thrace region of northeastern Greece, the home to a Moslem minority, Molyviatis said «Greece is a free and democratic country and that it would be inconceivable in this day and age to tell a visitor, no less an official one, where he could or could not travel.»
Source: Athens News Agency