Cablegate: Greece/Turkey: Mfa Terms Karamanlis Visit

DE RUEHTH #0148/01 0311420
O 311420Z JAN 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ATHENS 000148




E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/30/2018


ATHENS 00000148 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: A/Political Counselor Jeff Hovenier for 1.4 (b) and (d)


1. (C) MFA officials termed PM Karamanlis' January 23 - 25
trip to Turkey "positive but not concrete." They were
pleased by statements by PM Erdogan that "could be seen as
positive openings" on the status of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate in Istanbul, on the Aegean "casus belli," and on
broader Aegean issues. Furthermore, the two sides had "frank
and positive" exchanges on Turkey's EU prospects (and Greek
support for it); illegal migration; freedom of religion
issues -- emphasizing the issues of the Patriarchate's status
and Halki Seminary; Aegean issues -- with an agreement to
give new impetus to the bilateral "exploratory talks; and
Cyprus. From the Greek MFA perspective, the major
deliverable was the visit itself -- with no major hiccups or
crises. As the MFA Deputy Director for Turkey put it, "Now
we can have more normal high-level exchanges." End Summary.

A Further Step Towards Normalcy

2. (C) A/Political Counselor met January 30 with MFA Turkey
Desk officials, led by A-4 Directorate for Turkey Deputy
Director Katerina Natsika. Natsika said the MFA saw the
Karamanlis visit as "positive but not concrete." The key
point was that the meeting took place, that there had been no
crises during the visit, and it was now much easier for
senior Greek and Turkish officials to have "dialogue" without
a prior requirement for deliverables.

Three "Openings"

3. (C) Natsika said the GoG saw three "positive signals" on
key issues from PM Erdogan during the trip. The Greeks see
all three signals as an "opening" for further discussions:

-- Ecumenical Patriarchate: PM Erdogan said publicly that
the question of the ecumenical nature of the Patriarchate was
"something that affects the Orthodox community" and not
something that concerns the Turkish state itself. The Greeks
will be pursuing with the Turks what this means in practice.

-- Casus Belli: Although PM Erdogan did not refer to
Greece's long-standing request that the Turkish National
Assembly rescind its 1996 resolution that any Greek decision
to extend maritime territorial waters from 6 to 12 nautical
miles would be a "casus belli," he did make a "vague" and
"positive" reference to this issue by stating both publicly
and privately that "resorting to the threat of the use of
force should not be the rule for international relations."
Natsika said Athens will "try to stretch this statement to
the extreme" in engaging with Turkey on its long-standing
request to withdraw the "casus belli."

-- Aegean Issues: PM Erdogan openly referred to the issue of
the delineation of the continental shelf, without referring
to the broader range of Aegean issues that Turkey usually
raises in that context. He also said that the question of
the continental shelf could be resolved by "resorting to
law." The Greeks have long held that the various disputed
issues in the Aegean are primarily based on questions related
to exploitation of resources, and that these disputes could
best be solved through an agreed delineation of the
continental shelf. The Greeks have also maintained that if
the question of the continental shelf cannot be solved
bilaterally, then the two sides should resort to
international law through requesting a ruling by the
International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. Until
now, Turkey has sought a political approach to these issues
by insisting that the agenda include a wider range of issues
than just the continental shelf and demurring on the question
of resorting to the ICJ. Natsika said senior Greek officials
saw PM Erdogan's comments as leaning slightly closer to
Greece's position, and said that this would be discussed
further in upcoming bilateral talks (more below).

The Agenda - No Surprises or Breakthroughs

4. (C) The MFA Turkey team identified the following items
has having been on the agenda:

-- Turkey's EU Prospects: PM Karamanlis reiterated Greek
support for Turkey's "full" accession to the EU. PM Erdogan
asked for this position to "continue and be more forceful."
Karamanlis underscored the need for a clear political
commitment on freedom of religion, minority rights, and good
neighborly relations. He also said that the additional
protocol must be fully implemented.

-- Illegal Migration: PM Karamanlis highlighted the
importance Greece attaches to this problem, and asked for
better implementation of the bilateral protocol on
readmission. He also asked that Turkey be "more forthcoming"
in its negotiations with the EU on a readmission agreement,
noting that Greece receives the bulk of illegal migrants
coming to the EU from/through Turkey. The two PMs agreed
that Greek and Turkish "experts" would meet in Athens in
mid-February to identify areaQ the
issue of the status of the Patriarchate in Istanbul. MFA
sources reiterated that Greece does not ask that Turkey
recognize the Patriarchate as ecumenical, but that it not
prohibit the Patriarchate from using this title and not
interfere in "what are solely religious matters." Karamanlis
also reiterated Greece's request that the Halki Seminary be
reopened. On Halki, the Greeks said that "no progress" was
achieved. Erdogan repeated previous assurances that Turkey
was carefully reviewing this issue and would come back to
Athens with "concrete proposals" at a later date. A Turkish
Embassy representative in Athens told us that the Turkish
proposal is and will continue to be to affiliate Halki with a
Turkish university, something the Greeks and the Patriarchate
have Ecumenical ostensibly ruled out.

-- Aegean Issues: Karamanlis made the point that he had not
visited the National Assembly because of the "casus belli"
decision. Karamanlis also requested that Turkey "end the
publication of erroneous and misleading information" on the
Turkish Ministry of Defense website about Aegean violations.
Erdogan did not respond on this point. However, the two PMs
did agree that the bilateral "exploratory talks" should be
assessed. There have been 37 rounds of the "exploratory
talks" with little concrete outcome. The two PMs agreed that
the negotiators should develop a joint assessment for the two
PMs of what the talks have achieved and how they can be given
further impetus.

-- Cyprus: Both sides repeated "known positions." The
Greeks felt no progress was made.

-- Economic Ties: The Turkish side raised interest in
greater use of air transport lanes (Athens - Istanbul/Ankara
and Thessaloniki - Istanbul/Ankara) and sea transport lanes
(Kavala to Izmir and Thessaloniki to Izmir). These issues
have been remanded to a bilateral "Steering Committee" that
meets every four months at the level of MFA Political
Directors. The Greeks also termed PM Karamanlis' Istanbul
event with Greek and Turkish businessmen a "great success."

-- Expo 2015: Apparently overruling advice from his own
Government, Karamanlis told Erdogan that Greece would support
Izmir's bid to host Expo 2015 (Note: MFA officials said the
GoG recommendation to Karamanlis had been to support Milan's
bid. End Note).

© Scoop Media

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