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25 February, 1998
Athens response to a five-point proposal by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem on the improvement of bilateral relations was submitted to Ankara by Greece's ambassador, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday. The response, said Mr. Reppas, includes Greece's long-established positions, as put forward by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos.
The spokesman said the cornerstone of any improvement in bilateral relations would be recognition by Turkey of the International Court of Justice at The Hague's jurisdiction.
The question of the continental shelf, he said, could be dealt with in a step-by-step approach, with recourse to the International Court. He reiterated Greece's position regarding the Imia islets, namely, that Turkey could, if it wished, to take recourse to the Court unilaterally.
Mr. Reppas also suggested that a climate of trust between the two countries could emerge from procedures such as talks within a NATO framework on confidence-building measures.
On his part, Foreign Deputy Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis yesterday invited the ambassadors of European Union member-states and the US to brief them on the details of Greece's response to the five-point plan.
In an announcement later, the foreign ministry called on Turkey to accept Greece's proposals as "sincere and well-intentioned", as they were the "only way to bring about a steady and substantial improvement in Greek-Turkish relations".
Athens's response to Ankara's proposals, the announcement stated, pointed to international law as the means to resolve bilateral problems.
In reply to Mr. Cem's five-point plan, the foreign ministry noted Greece's repeated suggestions to refer the issue of the continental shelf to the International Court of Justice.
The announcement also stresses the importance of the Madrid communique, signed last July by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, as a political commitment by both countries to respect the principles of international law and good-neighborly relations.
Nevertheless, the statement adds, the Madrid communique could not be interpreted in order to restrict rights governed by international law. This particular reference is an apparent reminder to Ankara that its position regarding the 12-nautical mile limit for territorial waters in the Aegean has no foundation in international law.
Therefore, it adds, Turkey cannot attempt to block rights accorded to Greece under international law.
Additionally, Athens replied that the Greek government was working closely with NATO's general secretary for the creation of a framework for confidence-building measures in the Aegean, an issue also covered by Mr. Cem's proposal, therefore, no other procedure is necessary.
The Greek government, it adds, supports the EU-brokered committee of experts on Greek-Turkish relations, although Turkey had unilaterally distanced itself from this process, aiming for these talks to be held solely at a bilateral level.
This development, notes the foreign ministry, occurred following the European Union's Luxembourg summit last December, when Ankara decided to halt talks concerning Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue within the EU framework, but to continue to discuss these issues with EU member states on a bilateral level.
It also mentions Mr. Pangalos' invitation to his Turkish counterpart to meet on the sidelines of a Western European Union meeting in Rhodes this May.
The announcement urges Turkey to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Court and reiterates Greece's desire for progress in its relations with Turkey.
Source: Athens News Agency