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Cablegate: Turkey's Letter to Greece: Dear George

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001637

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU GR
SUBJECT: TURKEY'S LETTER TO GREECE: DEAR GEORGE

REF: ANKARA 1626

Classified By: DCM Doug Silliman, reasons 1.4 (b,d)

1. (C) Summary: The Turkish MFA proudly points to Prime
Minister Erdogan's October 30 letter to Greece as a positive
step for the future of bilateral relations between the two
countries, but admits that much depends on Greece's response
-- and the ongoing Cyprus negotiations. In the letter,
Erdogan touched on almost every major bilateral issue, from
the minority rights to illegal immigration. MFA officials
insist that Turkey has the political will to move relations
forward. However, the resumption of Turkish overflights of
Greek islands in the Aegean could complicate things. End
Summary.

2. (C) PM Erdogan sent a three-page letter to Greek Prime
Minister George Papandreou on October 30 in response to
Papandreou's visit to Istanbul on October 9 (scanned copy of
letter sent to EUR/SE 11/12). During a November 10 meeting
with the DCM, MFA Deputy Under Secretary Halit Cevik passed
us a copy of the missive. It listed Cyprus, Aegean matters,
minority issues, and illegal immigration as key bilateral
priorities for Turkey. According to Cevik, the inclusion of
illegal migration, for example, is significant because of the
importance Athens places on the issue. He said Greece has
not yet responded to the letter, but noted that Ankara
understands a reply is underway. The Greek Embassy here has
also told us that it expects a response soon.

3. (C) The sending of the letter received widespread press
coverage. Excerpts on key topics include:

-- Cyprus: Ankara is encouraging the Turkish Cypriots to seek
settlement and Athens should do the same with the Greek
Cypriots. Turkey suggests a meeting of four international
players on Cyprus when the talks reach an appropriate level
(Note: The level was not specified. End Note)
-- Aegean matters: Turkey offers to accelerate exploratory
talks, adopt new Confidence Building Measures, and agree to a
"Code of Conduct" between the two countries for the safe
conduct of military flights in the Aegean. The Code of
Conduct would be "non-prejudicial"; that is, it could not be
cited as precedent in any future process that might seek to
define respective sovereign rights in the Aegean.
-- EU accession: Erdogan said he is aware of the positive
attitudes of Papandreou regarding Turkey's EU bid, and
offered to boost cooperation. U/S Cevik personally commented
that Greece's EU veto power is pivotal and should not be used
to negate negotiations.
-- Minority issues: Erdogan recognized that the situation of
minorities in both countries needs to be addressed.
-- Illegal immigration: the PM noted that this problem
impacts both Turkey and Greece, and offered cooperation in
the fight against criminal networks involved in smuggling
refugees.

4. (SBU) Both the Turkish MFA and the Greek Embassy agreed
that Cyprus is the key issue that continues to adversely
affect bilateral relations. Cevik said that Turkey gives all
the support it can to "TRNC President" Mehmet Ali Talat.
Cevik and other MFA officials contend that Turkey has the
political will to realize a Cyprus solution, but argue that
the Greek Cypriots seem to want to buy time. He suggested
that the "TRNC Presidential" elections in April are a
"natural deadline:" every second year, elections on one side
or the other of the island bring about the suspension of
talks, but also an opportunity to push progress forward. The
DCM said that the US is encouraged that both sides leaders
remain publicly and privately committed to the process. The
Greek Embassy, however, told us that Turkey's actions in
December regarding the Ankara Additional Protocol will be
crucial for both bilateral relations and the Cyprus
negotiations. (Comment: The Greek Embassy's talking points
may be dated. End Comment) Our Greek colleagues emphasized
that Greece has been waiting for roughly three years for
movement from Ankara on the Additional Ankara Protocol.
Moreover, EU accession cannot progress without movement on
Cyprus and Athens needs concrete proposals for action, not a
restatement of the issues.

ANKARA 00001637 002 OF 002

5. (C) The positive direction of the bilateral relationship
also could be stalled with Turkey's resumption of Aegean
overflights. The DCM noted positively Turkey's suspension of
overflights of Greek islands during the election and
government formation periods in Greece, but reiterated strong
USG objections to such overflights, particularly over
Farmakonisi and Agathonisi islands, which the US considers to
be sovereign Greek territory per the 1947 Treaty of Paris.
(Note: The Ambassador made the same points to Under Secretary
Sinirlioglu (REFTEL). End Note) Cevik responded the
suspension was only temporary, due to the Greek Parliamentary
elections, and that Turkey had resumed its overflights on 6
November. He would not comment over which islands were
involved. Cevik argued that it was not a sovereignty issue,
but rather mere "flight formations."

6. (SBU) Looking ahead, Cevik suggested that Greece's
response to the letter and a Turkish reciprocal visit by FM
Davutoglu- probably before the December EU summit, could help
set the tone for future relations.

-------
COMMENT
-------

7. (C) PM Papandreou's journey to Istanbul in October and his
visit to former FM Cem's gravesite drew prominent press
coverage and a positive emotional response from most Turks.
Papandreou is held in high regard here. That set a promising
tone as prelude for the Erdogan overture. However, the path
ahead is hardly clear. The apparent resumption of Turkish
overflights of Greek islands will be a complicating factor.
Turkish MFA officials take comfort that Papandreou knows the
deep-seated issues that serve as tripwires for the bilateral
relationship.

JEFFREY

"Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.s
gov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turkey"

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