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Cablegate: Turkey: Karamanlis Visit Paves Way for Improved

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RR RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHAK #0173/01 0301459
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 301459Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5076
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC//USDP:PDUSDP/ISA:EUR/ISA:NESA/DSCA//
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
RUEUITH/TLO ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000173

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/24/2018
TAGS: PREL TU GR
SUBJECT: TURKEY: KARAMANLIS VISIT PAVES WAY FOR IMPROVED
BILATERAL RELATIONS

REF: A. ANKARA 102
B. ISTANBUL 43

Classified By: CDA Nancy McEldowney for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis' January
23-25 trip to Turkey symbolizes the improved state of
Turkish-Greek relations. During his meeting with PM Erdogan,
the two Prime Ministers focused on how to overcome the three
most contentious bilateral issues -- Cyprus, the Aegean, and
minority rights. Although no final agreements were reached,
Erdogan and Karamanlis agreed on several new channels of
dialogue to accelerate the process. Publicly, both leaders
praised the new era of good will. Karamanlis reiterated
Greek support for Turkey's EU bid and Erdogan made positive,
yet vague, statements regarding the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The Turkish media praised Karamanlis for his bravery in
making the domestically unpopular trip. The success of the
visit gives PM Erdogan space to take on several of the more
controversial aspects of the bilateral relationship in the
coming months. End Summary.

2. (C) While Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis' January 23-25
trip to Turkey did not result in any formal deliverables or
public commitments, the visit itself marks an historic step
forward for the bilateral relationship. During a
two-and-one-half hour meeting, January 23, Prime Ministers
Karamanlis and Erdogan discussed Cyprus, the Aegean, and
reciprocal minority rights. MFA Deputy U/S for the Americas
and NE Mediterranean Haydar Berk told us the two leaders
agreed that 2008 is a "window of opportunity" to seek
progress on all three issues. To do so, the GOG and GOT will
accelerate exploratory talks at the U/S level on the Aegean,
increase ministerial engagement on minority rights, and
enhance maritime and civil aviation cooperation (ref a).

3. (C) On Cyprus, Berk noted, the two sides still hold
differing opinions, but agreed on general principles
including the need to relaunch the UN process following the
Cyprus elections. MFA Deputy Director General for Greece
Kerin Uras reported Erdogan asked Karamanlis to increase
pressure on the Greek Cypriots to "constructively engage."
Karamanlis expressed hesitancy to do so, as previous attempts
to influence Nicosia had proven counterproductive.

4. (C) Overall, Berk characterized Karamanlis' visit as
successful, noting that both sides tried to focus on "the
full side of the glass." An informal agreement between the
Turkish and Greek General Staffs to avoid maritime or
airspace incidents one day prior until one day after the
talks allowed the leaders to maintain a positive tone. Berk
added that the soon-to-be-voted-on Foundations Law will lay
the groundwork for resolving many of the Greek minority
property disputes, including Halki.

5. (C) At a joint press conference, both leaders spoke of
increasing good will and cooperation. Erdogan stated that
political, military, economic, and cultural relations will
improve in the coming months. Turkey and Greece will tackle
"non-problematic" issues first and then progress to more
contentious ones. Karamanlis' comments reflected Erdogan's
positive tone and the potential for greatly improved
relations. He repeated his position on Turkey's EU
membership -- full compliance, full membership. In response
to press questions, Karamanlis said that, from the Greek
perspective, the only problem in the Aegean is the issue of
the continental shelf. He also urged the GOT to allow the
opening of the Halki seminary and to recognize the ecumenical
status of the Patriarch. Erdogan responded that the GOT was
"evaluating" the Halki seminary, and that the ecumenical
issue is an internal matter of the Orthodox Church.

6. (C) Before leaving for Istanbul on January 24, Karamanlis
also met with President Gul and opposition leader Deniz
Baykal. Baykal told the press that during his meeting with
Karamanlis, he expressed support for the Annan Plan and noted
it would be difficult for a secular state such as Turkey to
open the door to religious education being provided through
entities such as Halki seminary. During a speech to students
at Ankara's Bilkent University, Karamanlis said "The time has
come to solve the Cyprus issue. Nicosia is the last obstacle
for Turkey with the EU." In Istanbul, Karamanlis and his
delegation of 160 Greek businessmen met with representatives
of the Turkish-Greek businessmen's associations, Economic
Policy Research Forum of Turkey (TEPAV), and Turkish Union of
Chambers of Commodities and Commerce (TOBB) to discuss how to
improve bilateral trade.

7. (SBU) The Turkish press warmly received the Greek Prime
Minister's visit and focused on its symbolism. One
journalist optimistically wrote, "the friendship and
cooperation has begun." Most major media outlets praised
Karamanlis for his courage in traveling to Turkey and
highlighted the gentlemen's agreement to avoid maritime or
aviation incidents that might have sullied the visit.
Karamanlis' January 24 meeting with Greek Orthodox Patriarch
Bartholomew in Istanbul was largely ignored by the press (ref
b).

8. (C) Comment: Although a few naysayers highlighted
Karamanlis' public mention of minority issues and the Aegean
dispute, the vast majority of Turks welcomed the new era in
bilateral relations. Erdogan escaped criticism; many
portrayed him as the consummate statesman. The success of
the visit, the absence of incident, and the promise of Greek
support for Turkey's EU bid should strengthen Erdogan's hand
domestically, and perhaps allow him to take on in coming
months some of the more controversial issues that have vexed
Turkish-Greek relations for years. End Comment.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turk ey

MCELDOWNEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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