Monday, September 6, 1999 Published at 05:34 GMT 06:34 UK
Greece warms to Turkey
EU aid will provide prefab housing for the homeless
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou has said his government is in favour of one day allowing old enemy Turkey to join the European Union.
But speaking at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Finland, Mr Papandreou said he supported giving Turkey candidate status for the European Union and eventual membership.
"We want to become the steam engine inside the EU to help Turkey's European course," the foreign minister said.
He spoke of a "substantial improvement" in relations between the two neighbours, attributing it to the quake which claimed nearly 15,000 lives in north-west Turkey.
"Because out of this tragedy there was a human warmth that came out between the two peoples.
"I just hope that this climate can remain."
He warned that problems remained in relations between the two countries, mentioning Cyprus - where Ankara supports the breakaway government in northern Cypus which was established after the 1974 Turkish invasion - and conflicting territorial claims to certain Aegean islands.
"I don't think that all of a sudden everything has been solved," Mr Papandreou said.
"But a climate exists that could allow for a breakthrough on these issues."
Greece is not alone in retaining some reservations regarding Turkish EU membership.
The Swedish government is also understood to have voiced unease at the ministers' meeting about allowing Turkey onto the list, saying Ankara's human rights record was still unsatisfactory.
PM defends change
In the Greek city of Thessalonki, Prime Minister Costas Simitis defended his government's change of heart over Turkey.
"Our policy is one of peace and co-operation," Mr Simitis told a news conference.
"Turkey can now re-examine things, to look at its own position and views," the prime minister said.
EU officials say the Greek Government's move has enabled the union to begin forging closer ties and to release significant sums of money.
The emergency assistance includes a 30m euros ($31.8m) in aid for prefabricated housing, and 150m euros ($160m) over three years in economic aid.
The ministers have also
Turkey has told the United Nations that quake damage could total about $10bn.
Foreign countries have pledged more than $100m so far. The International Monetary Fund is to visit Ankara next week to discuss a $330m emergency loan and the World Bank has earmarked $300m.
Slow progress on other candidates
But the progress made on the question of Turkey was not matched in the case of the other countries hoping to join the European Union.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer pressed at the meeting for five Eastern European countries and Cyprus to be given dates for their eventual membership.
But France backed the European Commission's position that not enough progress had been made to allow the setting of dates for the countries' accession to the union.