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Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos (L) shakes hands with Greek Patriarch Bartholomew I in the Fener Patriarchate in a meeting in Istanbul on June 25.

Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos (L) shakes hands with Greek Patriarch Bartholomew I in the Fener Patriarchate in a meeting in Istanbul on June 25.

Erdem Güneş Erdem Güneş erdem.gunes@hdn.com.tr

Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who was appointed by the new government’s prime minister, Antonis Samaras, on June 21, came to Turkey in his first official visit abroad after taking office. He met Greek Patriarch Bartholomew I in the Fener Patriarchate.

“We want to maintain good relations with our neighbor, Turkey, and after the recent talks between Greek Prime Minister Samaras and his Turkish counterpart [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan we will continue improving our relationship always within an environment of mutual respect. I believe [in] our mutual desire and will to move forward, with relations that allow us to open a new chapter between the two countries,” Avramopoulos said after the meeting on June 26.

Patriarchate sources told the Hürriyet Daily News that the Greek Foreign Minister Avramopoulos emphasized his country’s faith in the patriarchate, while Bartholomew said they were in the heart of the patriarchate.

The controversial issue of re-opening the Halki Seminary in Istanbul, which was closed down in 1971 by Turkey, was another topic covered in the closed-to-press meeting. Avramopoulos understands the problem well and in-depth as his friendship with Erdoğan goes back many years, sources also said. 

Avramopoulos tried to visit Erdoğan in prison when he was sentenced to a prison term because of a poem he recited in a public address in 1997, and he is also known as a keen admirer of Istanbul. “Erdoğan is a very good friend of mine. I believe in the convergence of Greek and Turkish societies,” he was quoted as saying by daily Hürriyet during his election tour of Western Thrace.

Bartholomew I also said he believed that Avramopoulos would act in the best interest of Greece, world peace and lastly for better relations between Greece and Turkey as neighbors and partners. 

“He is highly appreciated among the political people here in Turkey, a thing that was shown by the statements of politicians and the press who express public opinion,” Bartholomew said. 

Avramopoulos also said Greece was still an important factor that moves dynamically in the wide geopolitical environment of the area, always showing a central, stable and stabilizing role.

The Greek foreign minister also met with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu yesterday morning at the Istanbul Hilton hotel. They did not make any statements after the meeting, which was closed to the press.

June/27/2012

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