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Thursday, September 2, 1999 Published at 22:54 GMT 23:54 UK


World: Europe

Turkey hails thaw with Greece

Greeks protest at Nato moves to strengthen cooperation with Turkey

The Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, has welcomed a recent improvement in relations with Greece, after years of tension between the two countries.


The BBC's Chris Morris in Ankara: "The response to the disaster has provided a real impetus for change"
He said high-level dialogue was now under way, and called for the two countries to embark on "multi-dimensional cooperation".

Greece and Turkey have been on the brink of war three times in the past 25 years.

But there has been a thaw in recent months, and there was evidence of this in the speed with which Greece sent rescue teams and aid to Turkey after last month's earthquake.

Door to dialogue


[ image: The Greek delegation to talks in July]
The Greek delegation to talks in July
"The beginning of a dialogue seems to have started between Greece and Turkey," Mr Ecevit said on Turkish TV.

"In recent years, especially after it joined the EU, Greece refused to engage in a dialogue for the solution of our problems.

"The door to a dialogue has been opened now. I hope that this will lead us to concrete results at the more advanced stages."

The Turkish Foreign Minister, Ismail Cem, said humanitarian links between the peoples of the two countries had prompted the politicians to think in more productive and creative terms.

Relations reached a low point in February, when Turkey discovered that Greece had given shelter to the Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

But since then things have been gradually improving.

Greek support


[ image: Rescuers are still looking for survivors of the quake]
Rescuers are still looking for survivors of the quake
Senior Turkish and Greek diplomats started holding meetings at the end of July.

They discussed subjects such as trade, crime and the environment, avoiding the sensitive issues of the divided island of Cyprus and territorial demarcation in the Aegean Sea.

Greece has now said it will support a European Union plan to grant Turkey massive financial aid to help it re-build after last month's disaster.

"The earthquake showed that there exists a dynamic, that there are possibilities for improvements in the climate between Greece and Turkey - something I think we should maintain and develop," Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yannos Kranidiotis said.

Improved ties with Greece would lift a major obstacle hindering Turkey's admission to the EU and would strengthen cooperation within Nato.



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