Papandreou in Istanbul

first_imgGreek Prime Minister George Papandreou made an unexpected visit to Istanbul on Friday for talks with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, aimed at re-invigorating bilateral relations.Papandreou took the opportunity to reassure Turkish government officials of Greece’s backing for Ankara’s bid to join the European Union but also stressed that this support is not unconditional.The Greek premier described a meeting with his counterpart as “very friendly” and “significant,” noting that the Turkish leader had expressed his intention to work toward solving Greek-Turkish disputes in the Aegean as well as the Cyprus problem. Papandreou, who met his Turkish counterpart in Istanbul on the sidelines of an informal meeting of Balkan ministers, reassured Erdogan that Turkey had Greece’s support but noted that “it must take the steps being demanded by the EU if the accession process is to progress.”Asked whether Greece would make use of its veto at a scheduled EU summit in December when Turkey’s progress as a candidate state is due for assessment, the Greek premier noted that “all the tools of foreign policy are on the table.” Papandreou also had talks with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, who is based in Istanbul.The Greek Prime Minister stressed the “urgent” need for a settlement to the Cyprus problem.“We must free Cyprus of the walls which have no place in the European Union,” Papandreou told reporters, referring to a demarcation line dividing the island’s Turkish and Greek communities.“If we are successful, this will be a sign for the whole world, a sign for peace, said Papandreou who is due to travel to Nicosia on an official trip on October 19.The choice of Turkey for Mr Papandreou’s first visit abroad was made for both symbolic and practical reasons, according to Greek and Turkish officials.“There won’t be any need to break the ice. Papandreou is a well-known figure here,” said Burak Ozugergin, Turkish foreign ministry spokesman, adding, “It’s symbolic that he’s making the first trip of his tenure to Turkey – it’s a great honour.“Re-launching a substantive dialogue with Turkey is a priority for the government,” a Greek official said. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more