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Greek Ambassador: Greece supports Turkey\'s EU membership

InternationalGreek Ambassador in Ankara Michael Christides has indicated today (Monday) that Greece supports Turkey\'s European Union (EU) membership.

Participating in a conference sponsored by the Izmir Economy University Department of International Relations and EU and titled \"Turkish-Greek Ties in the EU Negotiations Process\", Christides remarked that things were much different in 1995. The point we have reached today is pleasing, said ambassador Christides.

Christides mentioned that the Aegean has for many years been associated with arguments, differences and problems. \"With a little bit of effort, the Aegean could become a sea of friendship and peace,\" told Christides.

Christides commented that as of 1999 an era of positive relations began, under the leadership of the then foreign ministers Ismail Cem and George Papandreou.

\"We are at a point that only incapable and incompetent leaders can take us back,\" noted Christides.

Referring to the development in cultural relations, Christides said that the single that sold the most last year in Greece was Sertap Erener\'s \"Every Way That I Can\" with which she had won the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ambassador Christides pointed out that the economic ties are also developing. Christides told that the two countries are cooperating on the natural gas pipeline and electrical energy transfer projects.

Christides expressed that Turkey is Greece\'s door to the Caucasus and Middle East. \"Likewise, Greece is Turkey\'s door to the EU.\"

Christides indicated that Greece strongly supports Turkey\'s EU membership. \"This is nothing new. We have experiences in the negotiation process. We believe that Turkey can take advantage of our experiences in negotiations,\" remarked Christides.

According to Christides, it is natural for neighboring countries to have problems. \"However, what happened in the past remains in the past. Problems of the past are in the past. We can not have problems with Brazil or Peru. Turkey and Greece are neighbors. Of course, we may have problems. What is important is that we must spend efforts to find solutions,\" stated Christides.

Answering questions from the students, Christides said that Cyprus is a sensitive issue for both Turkey and Greece.

In reference to a question on \"12 miles\" in the Aegean, Christides mentioned that Greece does not want to implement such a rule in complex Aegean sea but expects the other party to accept international convention on the matter.

Referring to the Turks of Western Thrace, Christides expressed that Greece prefers to call this group of people Muslim minority on basis of the Lausanne Treaty.

\"There are Orthodox Greeks living in Istanbul. Re-opening of the Seminary on Heybeliada would be nice but it should not be done in response to a right given in Western Thrace. The expression of minorities and their freedom of religion is crucial. I am confident that the two countries can display a better performance on the matter,\" commented Christides.

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