Greek PM divides opposition parties in Turkey

Remarks made by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou criticizing Turkey over its polices in the Aegean and Cyprus have set into motion a political debate at home.

Greek PM divides opposition parties in Turkey

World Bulletin / News Desk

Remarks made by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou criticizing Turkey over its polices in the Aegean and Cyprus have set into motion a political debate at home.

The government, which played down the Greek leader's criticism as expression once again of Athens' well-known views, came under attack from main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu who described what he called Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's mild reaction to Papandreou as “weakness.”

Papandreou leveled his criticism during an address to senior Turkish diplomats on Friday, asking what Turkey was “trying to prove” by what he termed violations of Greek airspace by Turkish jets days prior to his visit and calling Turkey an “occupying force” on Cyprus. Erdoğan, who was also in the audience, said when it was his turn to speak that Turkey and Greece have to find solutions to problems in the Aegean and asserted that “there is no reason why we cannot solve this” once a spirit of consensus is found.

On Saturday, Kılıçdaroğlu defended Turkey's Cyprus policy and lashed out at Erdoğan for not giving a proper response to Papandreou.

“This is how Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration have been characterizing the situation in Cyprus,” said the Republican People's Party (CHP) leader when asked to comment on Papandreou's reference to Turkey as an occupying force in Cyprus. “We have our own arguments, too. We sent troops to Cyprus to establish peace on the basis of international agreements. Our troops are not an occupying force; they serve there on a mandate given by international agreements.”

Kılıçdaroğlu said this should have been Erdoğan's response to Papandreou. “If the prime minister cannot say that Turkey intervened on the basis of international agreements, this shows the weakness of the prime minister.” According to the CHP leader, Erdoğan could not say what he should have said because he was reading the text of his speech from a prompter. “Since the answer was not in the prompter, he could not respond properly. It seems he does not have the capacity to answer [such accusations] by himself,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.

Turkey sent troops to Cyprus in 1974 to stop an ethnic-cleansing campaign against the island's Turkish population by supporters of the unification of Cyprus with Greece. Turkey says it has guarantor privileges on the island, meaning it has the right to take military measures to guarantee security on Cyprus. However, the Turkish position is not internationally accepted, and the Greek Cypriot administration running the southern part of the island is recognized as the official representative of the entire island.

Devlet Bahçeli, whose Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is a fierce critic of the government's foreign policy, also rebuffed Papandreou's remarks on Cyprus but contrary to Kılıçdaroğlu, he said Erdoğan's response was sufficient.

Bahçeli told reporters on Saturday that Papandreou's comment was “completely wrong” and added: “I find the prime minister's response to the Greek prime minister's assessments to be appropriate.”

The government, which is pursuing a policy of zero problems with neighbors, wants to solve deep-rooted problems with Greece, and the two countries have held several rounds of exploratory talks to discuss Aegean problems. Papandreou, one of the architects of rapprochement with Turkey in Greece, was invited to the Turkish diplomats' gathering as a good will gesture meant to underscore close contacts between leaders of the two countries.

Last Mod: 10 Ocak 2011, 10:50
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