Greece-Turkey summit in January to boost ties
ATHENS - Agence France-Preszse
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses reporters during a news conference in Athens October 10, 2012. REUTERS/John KolesidisGreece and Turkey will hold a summit in January, restarting a confidence-building procedure that had effectively ground to a halt for more than two years, their foreign ministers said on Wednesday.
"We have agreed to hold the next meeting of the supreme council of cooperation early next year, in January," Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters after meeting his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.
"The supreme council will be another step forward for Greek-Turkish relations," Avramopoulos said.
"We agreed to have an open communication... so that incidents that could lead to tension can be dealt with immediately." The process to improve relations strained by decades of territorial rivalry was last launched by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his then counterpart George Papandreou in 2009, before the economic crisis engulfed Greece.
But there are still regular mock dogfights in Greek-controlled airspace over the Aegean Sea that is disputed by Turkey.
Athens also lodges complaints over occasional forays by Turkish navy vessels near Greek Aegean Sea islands.
In May 2010, Erdogan visited Athens at the head of a large delegation that signed about two dozen accords and declarations on sectors including finance, immigration, energy, tourism, culture and education.
Talks since have failed to make much progress.
But Avramopoulos on Wednesday noted that tourism exchanges between the two neighbours were flourishing.
Davutoglu also said two-way trade had reached 4.1 billion dollars (3.2 billion euros) and that a 10-billion-dollar target was feasible, without giving any timeframes.
Greek officials also raised the issue of illegal immigration with Davutoglu, given that the bulk of scores of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers that cross daily into the country come through Turkey.
"Some steps have been taken but more needs to be done... it is a problem that concerns all of Europe," Avramopoulos said.
Athens is acutely worried that the conflict in Syria will increase migration and refugee pressure on its borders at a time when its crisis-stricken services are struggling to handle hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants already in the country.