The Greek prime minister said on Friday that premiers of Turkey and Greece could make a radical change in relations between their countries.
Speaking at the Third Meeting of Turkish Ambassadors in eastern province of Erzurum, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said Greece went through a rebirth process nowadays and it desired to see Turkey as a close partner during such period.
Pointing to his close cooperation with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Papandreou said he believed Erdogan was also ready for a new relationship between Turkey and Greece that would be based on peace and cooperation.
Papandreou said the two countries might face certain difficulties during such process, however, they should establish their relations on mutual confidence.
The Greek prime minister noted that he believed in Turkish Premier Erdogan and described him as a valuable counterpart.
Commenting on the continental shelf issue between Turkey and Greece, Papandreou said failure to solve such problem caused great danger for both countries, adding talks on the matter, which had been initiated in 2002, had been intensified recently.
He said a solution that would be accepted by both parties was necessary.
Noting that tension poisoned Turkish-Greek relations, Papandreou said that Turkey, which did not want any problems with its neighbors, could do a lot to improve its ties with Greece.
The Greek prime minister also said that ties between Turkey and Greece could set an important example both for Europe and the rest of the world.
He said the two countries had seized a historic opportunity to solve their current problems.
Expressing his country's support for Turkey's EU bid, Papandreou said Turkey's EU process was delayed due to the internal developments in the country, several EU-member states' objections and the Cyprus issue.
Addressing Erdogan as a "dear friend", Papandreou also said Erdogan and himself had the capacity to change Turkish-Greek relations radically, adding he would always extend the necessary support to achieve such goal.
"Strong will to initiate new era"
The Greek premier said that prime ministers of Turkey and Greece had a strong will to initiate a new era in relations between their countries and it was now time for Turkey and Greece to leave their problems in the past.
Pointing to the serious steps taken to that end, Papandreou said the current atmosphere in relations was positive, moderate and warm.
Giving a message to Turkish Cypriots, the Greek premier said his country wanted the two Cypriot communities to live together peacefully within the framework of a fair and lasting solution.
"As Turkey and Greece, we will take new steps for the solution of the Cyprus issue and we will encourage the parties," he said.
The prime minister said Erdogan had expressed the necessity for liberalization of visas between Turkey and Greece during today's meeting, adding Greece would also support such an implementation for the improvement of economic ties between the two countries.
Peace in the Aegean.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that they would achieve peace in the Aegean.
Prime Minister Erdogan, who attended the Third Conference of Turkish Ambassadors together with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, said, "Turkey has been living through one of the most positive economic periods of its history. And it is impossible to separate those economic developments from the foreign policy. We have made a significant progress by setting up good neighborly relations, removing visa proceedings, developing cooperation ties and extending support to efforts of ensuring peace and tranquillity in the world. We have established high-level strategic cooperation councils with Greece, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan since 2008."
"I want to reiterate once again: citizens of many countries like Brazil, can travel to the EU countries without visa. There is no visa in the Balkans any longer. But the EU countries cannot let Turkish people to travel to the Balkans and Europe without visa," he said.
"Peace, not weapons of mass destruction"
Prime Minister Erdogan said, "Turkey has always been in favor of peace. All we want is peace, stability and prosperity in the world. We want to live in a world which invests in education, health and transportation instead of weapons of mass destruction. We shape our foreign policy in line with this intention. It is not a shift of axis. But we struggle for peace, in the Middle East, in the Balkans, the Caucasus."
"We have made a great progress in Turkey-Greece relations recently and signed 25 memorandums of understanding. We need to find a comprehensive solution to the problems in the Aegean. I believe that we ill achieve peace in the Aegean. This includes mutual flights," Prime Minister Erdogan added.
"Future cannot be based on history"
Erdogan said that Turkey and Greece could not build a future based on history.
Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan replied to questions of reporters at a joint press conference with his Greek counterpart George Papandreou in eastern province of Erzurum.
Upon a question from a Greek reporter asking whether the strong mutual trust between Turkish and Greek premiers could be established between Turkish and Greek nations as well, Erdogan said, "History had already made us friends, however, several negativities that had happened in the past gave rise to the problems we are facing today. We cannot build the future based on these".
"Therefore, we need to establish our future on different grounds and we should create a new language to do that," he also said.
Noting that both countries might face provocations along the way, Erdogan said Turkey and Greece should ignore such provocative attempts, adding prime ministers of the two countries had the necessary will to achieve that.
During the news conference, Erdogan said that they considered Turkey-Greece relations a partnership now.
"We signed a series of memorandums of understanding between Turkey and Greece in May. Those memorandums became a milestone in Turkey-Greece relations and paved the way for emergence of a serious institutional structure," he said.
"Today, Greek Prime Minister Papandreou and I had the chance to review what could be done to further improve bilateral and multilateral relations under the light of recent positive momentum in Turkey-Greece relations. We have taken some steps to determine a schedule to develop our cooperation in the coming period. We share a joint vision about the future of Turkey-Greece relations. We consider Turkey-Greece relations as a partnership now," he said.
Referring to the Cyprus issue, Prime Minister Erdogan said, "it is time to find a fair and comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue. We heard that Greek Cypriots are concerned whether Turkey would fulfil its commitments after an agreement. These are baseless concerns. I call on Greek Cypriots to take courageous steps and reach an agreement with Turkish Cypriots."
"We attach great importance to find peaceful solutions to problems between our countries. Besides political will of our governments, friendly relations between our peoples will play a significant role in this process," Prime Minister Erdogan added.
The prime ministers of Greece and Turkey voiced solidarity in their approach to tackling the growing problem of illegal immigration, after the Greek government announced plans to fence part of its border.
"We give great importance to working together with Turkey on the issue of illegal immigration," Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said in translated remarks at a joint news conference in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum.
Papandreou noted that illegal migration, regional issues and Turkey's EU membership process had been on the agenda of his meeting with Erdogan today.
Rplying to a question on Greece's plan to build a fence along its border with Turkey, Papandreou said slave trade was the main reason for such a plan.
He said people escaping from wars in their home countries tried to sneak into Europe via Turkey and Greece.
Papandreou noted that Turkey and Greece cooperated closely on the matter, adding he had held fruitful talks with Erdogan on such issue as well.
Describing the issue as a common problem for Turkey and Greece, Papandreou said Greece negotiated with Turkey every measure it took on the matter.
Pointing to the illegal migrants using the Maritsa river as a passage corridor, Papandreou said Greece wanted to build technical barriers in the region.
Erdogan said, Turkey and Greece had a 206 km border and the fence in question would be only 12.5 km long.
"This project is not an implementation against Turkey or Greece," he said.
Erdogan noted that there were currently 1 million illegal migrants in Greece and some of these people had crossed the border over the Maritsa river.
"It would be wrong to name this construction a wall. It is just a fence. We held our talks on the issue and we have full confidence towards each other," the prime minister said.
Erdogan also said that Maritsa river's overflow caused problems for all neighboring countries, adding environment ministers of Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria would soon get together to discuss this issue, and afterwards, prime ministers of the three countries would find a solution to the matter.
Papandreou went on to restate his desire to see Turkey become a member of the European Union, and said he would try to help remove obstacles stalling progress, notably over the divided island of Cyprus.