26 September, 2003
NEW YORK, 26/09/2003 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)
Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul agreed here on Thursday that a solution to the protracted Cyprus problem must be found by December 2004 when the European Union will examine Turkey's request to be given a date for the beginning of accession negotiations.
Papandreou and Gul held talks on the sidelines of the 58th UN General Assembly focusing also on issues to be discussed in Athens during the Turkish foreign minister's official visit on October 21.
In statements after their meeting, the two ministers said they agreed on the need for strengthening Confidence-Building Measures, as discussions have been shaped both within the framework of the NATO alliance and between the political directors of the two countries' foreign ministries.
Replying to questions by the press, Papandreou said what is desired is to see how agreements made to date have progressed and how others can be achieved.
Apart from the framework of Greek-Turkish relations, they discussed the Cyprus issue and Turkey's European prospects in relation to the evaluation of the report at the Council of Ministers, due to be tabled in early November.
Other issues also examined were regional issues, such as Iraq and the situation in the Middle East.
Yet another issue probed by the two ministers was finding ways of cooperation on the issues of security, culture and tourism in light of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Papandreou stressed the importance of the prospect of a decrease in the two countries' armaments to enable large amounts of money to be spent on development and social programs and hailed as an ''important event'' the signing of the Ottawa agreement by Greece and Turkey, on the removal of mines on the border of the two countries, and by Canada, as an overseer for the agreement's implementation.''
The transfer of the Olympic Flame to Turkey and the promotion of the Olympic ideal, through the holding of various cultural events, was also discussed and agreed.
The Greek foreign minister said a review was made of the continuing 14 exploratory talks ''with the purpose of defining the continental shelf in the Aegean.''
Replying to a questioner on the Cyprus issue and on whether his government accepts the Annan plan as a basis for negotiations, Gul replied affirmatively on condition, however, amendments are made which are acceptable by both sides to enable dialogue to go ahead.
Gul also said he agreed with all that his Greek counterpart had stated beforehand.
Source: Athens News Agency