Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has visited Greece this week, meeting with Government officials, while the EU has criticised his country’s efforts to progress good bilateral relations with Greece.

Davutoglu held talks with both Prime Minister George Papandreou and Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas in preparation for the next High-Level Cooperation Council in Turkey in July. In a statement to the press, both Droutsas and Davutoglu underscored positive developments in Greece-Turkey economic cooperation. “The volume of our bilateral trade has surpassed $3 billion, and I think that we have room to try to increase this volume of trade transactions even further,” said Davutoglu. However Droutsas said that “much remains to be done” to improve bilateral relations between the two countries, which he said is unquestionably intertwined with the framework for Turkey’s relations with the EU.

He said Greece supports Turkey’s full accession, “without half-measures or special relationships”. But he underscored that this presupposes Turkey’s meeting its obligations to the European Union and its member states and making progress on its reform efforts. “The Cyprus issue remains an open wound and has obvious repercussions for Turkey’s accession course,” said Droutsas. “We now have to work boldly and decisively for progress in the negotiations under the UN; substantial progress rather than PR progress,” Droutsas said As the Turkish Foreign Minister was in Greece, the European Parliament adopted a resolution criticising Turkey’s accession progress, including its delay in adopting the Copenhagen criteria and ensuring good neighbour relations with Greece and Cyprus, Athens News reports.

The EU resolution criticises Turkey for failing to lift the Turkish Parliament’s ‘casus belli’ threat against Greece and the European Parliament stressed that it expects the Turkish government to stop continuous violations of Greek air space, including flights by Turkish fighter jets over Greek islands. It also urges Turkey to immediately sign the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, pointing out that this has been signed by the EU, its 27 member-states and all candidate countries bar Turkey and forms a part of the community. “We remain devoted to this effort [improving relations] – a difficult effort,” said Droutsas adding that it is well known that the two nation’s positions differ.

“That is why we are discussing things. But the framework is clear and well known: respect for international law, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country. There are practices on the part of Turkey that do not contribute towards this effort, and what is worse, if you will, is that they engender distrust in public opinion. And we have said that these practices need to stop,” he told journalists in a press briefing. Davutoglu said he envisaged a “new and peaceful status quo as the basis for a settlement” to a bilateral dispute over rights in the Aegean Sea and suggested that Athens and Ankara reformulate long-established stances. “Greece should get over the idea that Turkey has claims to islands in the Aegean and Turkey should stop being afraid of being excluded from the Aegean,” Davutoglu reportedly told journalists.

Davutoglu also addressed members of the Muslim minority at a Komotini hotel, in the region of Thrace, while in Greece. He called on his audience to stay “united” and preserve their “religion and language” while asking them to participate as “Greek citizens in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the entire country and not only of the region.” He also noted that the Muslim minority “is a bridge of friendship between the two peoples”, adding that Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and his government have shown positive signs.

Source: ANA-MPA, Kathimerini, Athens News