Joint programs for Turkey and Greece
Turkey and Greece on Thursday announced a series of measures to build confidence between the two countries, including joint military training designed in part to ease years of tension over airspace and sea boundaries and a local arms race.
Turkey’s Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the new moves ultimately could help limit arms spending.
As well, 10 key ministers, including those in charge of foreign and European Union affairs, and energy and economy would meet at least twice a year, Davutoglu and Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas announced.
The ministers said their armies would increase cooperation through joint training and conferences. The move is designed to encourage Turkish and Greek officers, who have for decades regarded each other as potential enemies, to work with each other.
The countries have been at odds for years over flight procedures over the Aegean Sea border.
“The measures will boost confidence between the two peoples and armies,” Droutsas told a joint news conference with Davutoglu.
Greece is suffering from a severe economic crisis and plans to cut defence spending in 2011 and 2012. Responding to a question over whether Turkey would follow Greece’s lead, Davutoglu said that there would be no need for arms spending if the neighbours could build a “common future.”
“We have a vision and it is not based on mutual threat but on mutual interests,” Davutoglu said. “If we manage to build a common future, there will be no need for defence spending.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas began his two-day visit to Turkey on Wednesday by meeting in Istanbul with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Droutsas reassured the Ecumenical Patriarch that Greece and the Greek Government are always by the side of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the difficult task that it is carrying out.
He stressed that he would raise the issues of the Patriarchate’s rights, which also constitute “obligations of Turkey that emanate from the fact that Turkey is a candidate country for accession to the EU.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch referred to the special importance attributed by the Patriarchate to the course of Greek-Turkish relations “both for its own existence and the stability and balance in the relations of the two neighbours and allied peoples.”
Droutsas then went to Ankara where he has a meeting with Davutoglu and was received by Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
It was announced that Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Athens in mid-May for meetings with the Greek Prime Minsiter, George Papandreou.
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