Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R) welcomes Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Athens, Greece on June 19, 2017. Greece’s political leaders and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim pledged on Monday to focus on the things that unite the two countries rather than longstanding differences. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
By Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, June 19 (Xinhua) — Greece’s political leaders and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim pledged on Monday to focus on the things that unite the two countries rather than longstanding differences.
The Greeks always wanted and will always want relations of friendship and good neighborliness with Turkey, as there are “more things that unite us than divide us”, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said, when welcoming Yildirim in Athens, according to an e-mailed statement issued by the Greek Presidency.
“I consider that a positive approach on this positive agenda will prove beneficial to both peoples and both countries,” the Turkish Premier said on his part, expressing the willingness of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit Greece later this year.
The idea was warmly welcomed by Pavlopoulos who a few months ago became the first Greek President to visit Turkey in 65 years.
Despite the willingness expressed by both sides to overcome differences through dialogue, the wide gap separating them in many issues was obvious on Monday.
Greece has always viewed Turkey’s European course positively, Pavlopoulos said for instance, underlining however that a country wishing to join the EU must fully respect both international law and the laws of Europe.
On the agenda of discussions on Monday were bilateral ties, Turkey’s relations with the EU, the Cyprus issue, developments in the region, energy issues, counter-terrorism and the refugee-migration crisis, the Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras said during joint statements following his meeting with Yildirim.
“Turkey’s provocations and violations do not assist in a positive agenda … We are working so that ‘Geneva 2’ will be a step forward,” Tsipras said regarding the Cyprus issue ahead of the Geneva UN-mediated talks on June 28 aimed to achieve the best possible solution to put an end to the island’s division.
Turkey “has the political will for the solution of this issue”, if the other side was willing to find a way, Yildirim responded.
On the issue of the extradition of eight Turkish military servicemen that fled Turkey after the failed coup attempt last July and sought asylum in Greece, Tsipras stressed that it was an issue that only Greek justice could decide and the rulings of Greek justice must be fully respected.
Yildirim repeated Turkey’s position for their extradition, underlining that the “administration must do its own part”.