Erdogan Makes Historic Visit to Greece to Improve Relations

Erdogan Makes Historic Visit to Greece to Improve Relations

Thursday, 7 December, 2017 - 09:00
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to hold a news conference at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo
Istanbul - Athens - Asharq Al-Awsat and Abdel Sattar Barakat
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will start on Thursday a two-day official visit to Greece aimed at improving ties between the two neighbors in a move closely monitored by EU leaders, who are counting on Ankara's cooperation on immigration.
 
During the visit, the first of a Turkish president since 1952, Erdogan will meet with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and then will visit the Muslim minority in Thrace, in the north of the country, AFP reported.
 
Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, spokesman for the Greek government, said his country hoped the visit of the Turkish president to Athens would be fruitful in improving bilateral relations.
 
“Issues of mutual interest will be on the agenda of the talks; they include tensions in the Aegean Sea, the refugee crisis and economic relations, with an emphasis on energy, trade and transport. All we expect is a real development of our relationship with Turkey, because this can play a catalytic role for development and we expect very constructive talks,” he stated.
 
The European Union hopes that Turkey would cooperate in preventing the passage of migrants and refugees to the Aegean islands near Turkey. Athens and Istanbul are major players in the migration files and in the talks on Cyprus, where Turkey occupies the northern territories.
 
Erdogan visited Greece twice as prime minister in 2004 and 2010, but his visit as president has a symbolic meaning, as Mahmut Celal Bayar was the last Turkish president to land in Athens 65 years ago.
 
For his part, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades underlined the need to create the favorable conditions for the establishment of a state in Cyprus that guarantees security and peace and is not under the control of another state, referring to the occupation by Turkey of about 37 percent of the island.
 
The Cypriot president also called on all sides to join forces and work together for the reunification of the island. He stressed the strong desire of the Greek Cypriot side to reach a settlement after the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974, pointing out that the only reason for not finding an acceptable solution so far was the “Turkish intransigence.”

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