Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers held talks on the refugee crisis

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias on Friday received Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu and held talks on the refugee crisis, ahead of the EU-Turkey summit, on March 7th in Brussels.

After the meeting the ministers made the following statements:

N. KOTZIAS: “We and our government, as well as Greece as a whole, are in favor of the development, often in the midst of difficulties, of Greek-Turkish relations, based on good neighbourliness and international law. To the degree that they can, Greece and Turkey will resolve their problems, will constitute a strong stabilizing factor in the region.
Obviously, we discussed the upcoming meetings; that is, the Summit Meeting this Monday, in Brussels, at which the European Union and Turkey will discuss the refugee crisis, and of course the High-Level Cooperation Council between Greece and Turkey, which will take place in Izmir on 8 March – World Women’s Day, as you know, and I hope no one forgets to honor that day.

Mevlut and I discussed the issues in the relations between Turkey and the EU, the experiences we have from the European Union, the problems the European Union is facing, as well as the agreement on NATO assistance in dealing with the refugee issue.

We are talking with Turkey – especially to the degree that it concerns us, of course – about the external aspect of the Cyprus issue, which concerns the guarantors of the Zurich and London agreements, the guarantor powers. We want a solution to be found on the Cyprus issue that corresponds to the hopes, the tribulations and the prospects of both the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots, so that they can all feel at home and secure in a sovereign, independent, federal, bicommunal, bizonal state.

Together with the Cyprus issue – the solution of which problem will also bolster Greek-Turkish relations – we are talking about and talked about the course of the exploratory talks. As you know, this past Tuesday we had the 60th round of these talks, and we exchanged thoughts and proposals on issues that are the subject of the exploratory talks.

Naturally, the major problems of our region were discussed at this meeting. More specifically, the problems linked to the war in Syria, to the war in Iraq, and to the situation in Libya.

We hope and desire that countries with a different geographical position will stop the wars so there can be peace, and so the root of the new refugee problem we are facing can be dealt with. Naturally, we talked about the regions and countries with major negative repercussions from the war and the refugee crisis. I am referring in particular to Lebanon and Jordan, as well as the major issues our country and Turkey are facing due to the refugee crisis.

We agreed that the refugee crisis is not a Turkish issue, is not a Greek issue; nor can it be limited to Greek-Turkish relations. It is a global issue, in its European expression, that concerns the whole of Europe and, of course, has left its mark on Greece and Turkey.

We also talked about cooperation issues. That is, we also talked about the problems that exist in our relations and the way to solve those problems, but we talked much more about the positive aspects, the ways in which we can develop the relations between the two countries.

We talked about the cooperation that will be the subject of the Council in Izmir on Tuesday. We looked at the agreements there were in the past. Some of these have gone into implementation – from the previous three Councils – but some require that we do better work so they can be implemented.

Our cooperation concerns many, many sectors. First of all, we are aware of the major development in tourism, with a million Turks coming to Greece and 700,000 Greeks – proportionately more – going to Turkey.

We have the major plans of energy cooperation, which are expressed, first of all, in the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and the vertical corridor that we agreed on recently, with the competent Minister, Panos Skourletis, signing with Bulgaria and Romania.

We talked about how we can develop investments on both sides and the reverse the trend that, due to the economic crisis in Greece and the international problems, has limited trade between the two countries. That is, how we can collaborate in the manufacturing sector.

And there are issues that we will discuss in greater depth on Monday, like the refugee issue. And we made preparations that are not necessary for the press, but are necessary for our delegations on Monday.

And we also made preparations that will be expressed positively and, I hope, with success on Tuesday, with regard to our cooperation in the sectors of economic policy, joint economic plans. And of these I would like to mention two plans that I consider to be of extreme importance, as you know that I am a fan of developing the connectivity networks of the states in the region.

There is the plan for a high-speed train from Istanbul to Thessaloniki and, if we can, to Igoumenitsa. And there is the plan for linking Izmir with Thessaloniki by ferry, which will facilitate the transport of persons and merchandise.

Connectivity in general, with energy, trains, roads throughout the Balkans and throughout the region, and particularly with Turkey, is a network that facilitates stability and security, cooperation and mutual understanding in our region.

I must say that, on issues on which we have differences, as well as on issues on which we are working hard, jointly, to develop, our talks are always friendly, taking place within the framework of concern for seeking solutions. And that is why I think that Mevlut’s presence here today, at our Ministry and in Athens, assists the development of Greek-Turkish relations”.

Μ. CAVUSOGLU: “I want to say that it is a pleasure and a success for me to have the opportunity to talk with my friend Nikos. Normally, this visit would have started this morning, but due to the trip we took with the Turkish President, to African countries, we returned to Turkey this morning, and this delayed our arrival in Greece.

Subsequently, we will have talks and a meeting with the President of the Hellenic Republic and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Before we get to the refugee issue, I would also like to say that our visit to Africa was not just for opening up new fields of activity for Turkish construction firms, for construction firms. We have a broad framework and field of activity in Africa, including the humanitarian aid we can provide to these countries.

I will also say that, in the talks with the Greek Foreign Minister, we discussed various bilateral and international issues. We reexamined the agenda for this Tuesday’s High-Level Council in Izmir, but before that we will also meet again in Brussels, on Monday, 7 March.

Regarding bilateral cooperation, let me say that we talked about and agreed that it does not suffice to sign various agreements at the High-level Councils – these agreements have to be implemented.

We also talked about projects that will further boost the economic, trade and real connection of the peoples of the two countries, like the high-speed rail line linking Istanbul with Thessaloniki, like the line that will link Izmir and Thessaloniki by ferry and will be serviced with freight-type vessels.

On the energy level, each has his vision, his dream. We concluded that the most realistic of these are the TAP and the TANAP, and we agreed that the acceleration of the TANAP project will also help in the development and acceleration of the TAP. We believe that the various issues that exist on both sides should be settled.

Regarding the Cyprus issue and the energy deposits that will be exploited by Cyprus, Israel and, potentially, Egypt, Turkey proposes that it be the transit territory for these energy deposits, natural gas, etc.

Naturally we know, and we said this again in our one-on-one meeting, that there are differences and problems that need to be resolved in Greek-Turkish relations. However, it is very, very positive that the proceedings of the committees are continuing for the exploratory talks, a round of which took place this past Tuesday. Both sides believe that we need to avoid any intervention, any statement that will cause the climate that exists between Greece and Turkey to deteriorate.

The two sides also agreed that on the issue of the settlement of the Cyprus problem there are matters on which Great Britain, Greece, and Turkey have a say, as guarantor powers. But the first say goes to the Cypriot people, the two communities. And I think that the solution to the Cyprus issue must be an acceptable and viable solution, because this solution will be put to a referendum that needs to have a positive result. Both Greece and Turkey, but mainly the two sides in Cyprus, should conclude on solutions that can be accepted by the two communities. I know that my friend Nikos, representing Greece, is making a huge effort in this area.

We also talked in detail about – and we will continue to discuss – the issues being faced in the wider region, like those of Syria and Iraq. We believe that these issues concern not only Turkey and Greece. They are issues of global, and not just European, scope.

However, the repercussions on a humanitarian level are huge, and they are being experience by Greece and Turkey. We need to look at what we, as Turkey, and you, as Greece, can do, and at what we can do in cooperation with the European union.

There is a joint action plan that was decided on at the end of November. As Nikos said earlier, the refugee issue is not Turkish or Greek. Our issue is how we will resolve it, how this huge influx, this refugee and humanitarian crisis, will be resolved.

Each side must take its measures. We have taken specific measures on the issue of visas from third countries, and we saw that the results of this new legislation are very, very positive with regard to the flow of refugees through Turkey.

Of course, we support and will always support the NATO forces operating in the Aegean to assist with this refugee crisis.

We also assess our bilateral relations on a regular basis, especially in the context of the exploratory talks. We are aware, and we reiterate once again, that Greece is the neighbour of Turkey with which Turkey wants to cooperate, and we must capitalize on every opportunity to deepen the existing cooperation framework.

We have to make this framework even more effective. Of course, there are also issues that directly concern the European Union. The European Union, too, is facing its own internal problems.

My friend Nikos is a politician whom I truly value. He is a politician and a thinker who questions assumptions and presents issues from another perspective, and this is a stance that I very much value.

As such, I had the opportunity and the good fortune to hear him analyze, if only briefly, the issue of the European Union and the issue of the global state of affairs. I think that Monday’s meeting in Brussels and our meeting on Tuesday, in Izmir, will further contribute to bilateral relations”.

SOURCE: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Greece