The Minister of National Defence Dimitris Avramopoulos met his Turkish counterpart Ismet Yilmaz in the context of the NATO Defence Ministers’ Meeting held in Brussels.
After the meeting the two ministers addressed the following statements:
D. AVRAMOPOULOS: I met today my friend and colleague Ismet Yilmaz, Turkey’s Minister of National Defence, and I thank him for his hospitality.
It was a short, but very important meeting, because we had the opportunity, first of all, to reaffirm our mutual will for cooperation.
And, of course, the most important, to put an end to a short period of tension which came up lately and which might potentially lead us off course, concerning the guidelines given by our governments and agreed upon in the last meeting which was held in Istanbul about a year ago.
One thing is sure: We want to work for the establishment of an environment of security and stability; both countries to cooperate and act in common as stability factors for the widen region within the instability line stretching from Tunisia to Ukraine.
We had the opportunity to refer also to other bilateral issues related to the Aegean and the continental shelf etc. We are not here, however, to solve them. It will take time for them and at a certain moment, I am sure that they will be settled according to the principles of the international law and international legitimacy.
What we can do, however, is to follow a policy of peaceful and good relations and, of course, both defence systems can contribute to this effort, avoiding situations that can lead us to a divergence or even to an escalation.
We are two neighbouring peoples, we have many things on which we can agree and also find a solution to everything we have decided that exist between us all these years in a civilized manner.
I want to believe that the future is very hopeful and cooperations like these, between the two ministries, as well as interpersonal cooperations characterized by a determination to work together for the creation of an environment of security and cooperation, will pave new ways for both our peoples who have already responded to this.
And, as you may know, financial, investment and commercial relations have been developed. And, definitely, the field in which this has been proven is the field of tourism; last year 1,500,000 Turks visited Greece and this year approximately 2,500,000 Greeks and Turks are expected to visit each other’s country.
So, this spirit must be preserved and reinforced in the name of our common goal which is to serve security and stability.
We, finally, wished, for a solution to be found for the Cyprus’ issue. And as I told Mr. Yilmaz, when Cyprus’ issue will be solved, then a huge amount of energy will be released to the benefit of our bilateral relations in all fields.
I thank him again for our today’s cooperation and, of course, I accepted his invitation to visit him soon in Turkey; and then Mr. Yilmaz too will visit Athens.
ISMET YILMAZ: At first, I would like to thank the Minister.
Greece is a neighbouring country and for years we have lived in a friendly and brotherly spirit. There are of course problems between the two countries, but the existing spirit shows that the time has come for them to be solved.
And in the north and south of both countries there is crisis. We must turn Greece and Turkey into an islet of peace and stability. The Aegean Sea must be turned into a sea of peace: it should not be a sea that creates problems, but a sea that ensures peace for both countries and contributes to the development of their economies and the attainment of prosperity.
The strongest relations are those between peoples and when these relations reach a high level, politicians are obliged to fulfil their wishes. Apart from that, last year more than 1.5 million Turks visited Greece and this year more than two million are expected to visit it. There are also tourists from Greece that visit Turkey. This means that differences between our peoples are small, that we have much more things in common and that we are responsible to demonstrate them.
We say: now it is the time for stability and peace. Today we have to reinforce this peaceful environment between us. There are problems between the two countries. We do not turn a blind eye to them.
We expressed our political will for the solution of the Cyprus’ issue in a very short while and we provide our support, like the Greek side does. As far as the Aegean problems are concerned, I believe that we can solve them according to the International Law, taking into account the interests of both countries.
In the past, countries that fought against each other for thirty-fifty years came closer and today they behave as if they were one state. Something like this didn’t happen between our countries. For this reason it is easier for them to come closer to each other and it is possible for the two peoples to work in common.
I invited the honourable Minister to Turkey and he accepted my invitation and I thank him for that.
We think that we bear the responsibility to promote even more our existent friendly relations. We want to leave a much better relation between Greece and Turkey as a legacy to next generations.
Thank you very much.