Friday, October 9, 2009

New Greek Prime Minister Arrives in Turkey

The newly elected Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou of the Greek Socialist party (PASOK), arrived in Turkey today on his first foreign visit. Mr. Papandreou also has the role of Foreign Minister and was greeted by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the airport. He is scheduled to meet with his other counterpart, Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan, later in the day.

"This is a very significant visit" said Davutoglu. "It shows the significance that [Mr. Papandreou] attributes to relations with Turkey."

Mr. Davutoglu said that Mr. Papandreou reiterated his support for Turkey's EU accession and that he is hopeful that there will be progress towards finding a solution to the Cyprus issue. He notes that the visit reinforces that this is a "period of peace" for Turkey. However, he hinted at possible conflict with his Greek counterpart when he noted that despite Turkey's commitment to finding a solution for the divided island, "we do not see the same commitment on the Greek side."

The Ministers attended a nearly three hour long meeting of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), of which Turkey currently holds the chair. The SEECP seeks to improve regional integration, particularly on energy, infrastructure, trade liberalization and the promotion of investments.

Both the Turkish Foreign Minister and the next-in-line chair of the SEECP, Milan Rocen, stressed that regional cooperation was, in the words of Rocen, "the fastest way to European and Atlantic integration."

While Turkey is set to sign a set of protocol with Armenia tomorrow that will attempt to normalize relations between the two countries, Mr. Davutoglu gave no new comments on the matter. He said rather, that he will focusing on the Balkans next week after he returns from trips to Damascus and Baghdad.

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