Turkish PM Davutoğlu calls for closer cooperation during Athens visit

Turkish PM Davutoğlu calls for closer cooperation during Athens visit

Turkish PM Davutoğlu calls for closer cooperation during Athens visit

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (R) meets his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has called for closer cooperation with Greece during his visit to Athens as part of the third High Level Strategic Council between both countries, while playing down differences, particularly on the Cyprus issue.

"The more economic dependence and interdependence increases, the less conflicts and tensions we have," Davutoğlu said, addressing the Greek-Turkish Business Forum after meeting his counterpart Antonis Samaras late Dec. 5.

"Turkey wants a strong Greece so that together we can strengthen the future of our two countries and our positions in Europe," he added.

Samaras joined Davutoğlu in stressing the benefits of improved economic ties.

"It is important for neighboring countries to cultivate political stability and trust. Then new paths of financial and commercial contacts can arise for the benefit of both nations," Samaras said.

Despite the messages of goodwill, Davutoğlu's visit to Greece comes at a time of increased tension over the contested share of energy resources in eastern Mediterranean.

Reunification talks between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot governments recently stalled once again after no common ground was found regarding exploration of hydrocarbon resources off the island's eastern coast.

Ankara opposes the Greek Cypriot government’s unilateral exploitation of offshore energy reserves before an agreement is reached on solving the decades-long division of the Mediterranean island.

Turkey eventually sent a research vessel to the zone, considered by Greek Cyprus as its exclusive maritime zone, prompting Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to abandon the talks.

“We do not want tension in the Aegean or the Eastern Mediterranean,” Davutoğlu said, expressing optimism for a compromise. “Let’s solve the Cyprus problem so we can exploit its energy resources together and connect the possible sources of energy with Greece through Turkey.”

The recent announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the South Stream pipeline carrying gas to Europe through Bulgaria will be scrapped in favor of creating a gas hub on the Turkish-Greek border is also one of the top issues on the agenda during Davutoğlu’s visit.

The two-day talks between Turkey and Greece are part of confidence-building measures launched in 2010 to improve relations between the Aegean neighbors.

So far, the talks have resulted in the signing of around 50 accords on immigration, disaster response, tourism, health, transport, agriculture, immigration, culture and sport.

The Greek Foreign Ministry had stated on Dec. 3 that several of these accords will be “re-evaluated” during Davutoğlu’s visit.