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Greece, Turkey pledge to focus on new chapter during Turkish president's visit

Xinhua,December 08, 2017 Adjust font size:

ATHENS, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras invited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday to open a new chapter on their bilateral relations during a joint press conference at Maximos Mansion in Athens.

"We undergo a critical period in our neighborhood. A period of tension in European-Turkish relations, a period of worrying developments in our region, in the Middle East and in Europe," Tsipras told the media after their meeting.

So, it is crucial to enhance channels of communication between the two countries by respecting international law and the Lausanne Treaty which is "the cornerstone of Greek-Turkish relations," said the Greek prime minister.

On the agenda of discussions on Thursday were bilateral ties, Turkey's relations with the EU, the Cyprus issue, developments in the region, counter-terrorism and the refugee-migration crisis.

Regarding the tension over the Aegean Sea, Tsipras said "I stressed that Turkish air violations need to end. The increasing violations of Greek airspace and especially the dogfights in the Aegean Sea are dangerous to our relations and, above all, are dangerous to our pilots."

For his part, Erdogan said that differences in the Aegean Sea "are difficult but can be solved."

On Cyprus issue, both leaders agreed that they want a fair and viable solution, with Turkish president blaming the Greek Cypriot side for withdrawing from talks. "We hope negotiations will soon restart," Tsipras stressed.

Regarding the refugee crisis, the two sides had constructive talks on the issue, according to Tsipras.

Erdogan though said that the EU had not lived up to its pledges. "Turkey hosts 3 million Mideast refugees and has allocated 30 billion U.S. dollars from its budget for this crisis. The EU gives us 850 million euros through the Red Crescent," he pointed out.

Referring to EU-Turkey relations, Tsipras stressed that Athens will constantly support a democratic Turkey that looks to Europe. "After coup attempt, we hope Turkey soon returns to the path of democratic reforms," Tsipras said.

On the issue of the extradition of eight Turkish military servicemen, who 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.

Erdogan repeated Turkey's position for their extradition, underlining that the "Greek justice should hear our request."

Speaking on domestic terrorism, Erdogan said that Turkey was giving a big battle against blood-thirsty organizations.

The Turkish president repeated that there are "matters" with the Muslim minority in Greece's northeast border province of Thrace that should be resolved.

Tsipras responded that Muslim minority in Thrace and Greek community in Turkey must serve as a lever to bring the two nations closer together.

On the controversial U.S. decision a day earlier regarding Jerusalem, Erdogan said "Israel and the United States are the only countries that speak of Jerusalem as a capital of Israel. Jerusalem is the spiritual center of the three major monotheistic religions."

Tsipras noted that the decision of the United States on Jerusalem "does not contribute to peace in a fragile region."

On Friday, the Turkish president will visit the northeast border province of Thrace, which hosts a large Muslim minority. Enditem