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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-05-15

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Saturday, 15 May 2010 Issue No: 3493


  • [01] Papandreou praises historic visit by Erdogan, high-level Turkish delegation
  • [02] Turkish PM addresses press conference
  • [03] ‘urkish PM Erdogan holds talks with Greek leadership
  • [04] Greek president receives Erdogan
  • [05] ND leader meets visiting Turkish Prime Minister
  • [06] Greece and Turkey sign 21 agreements during Erdogan visit
  • [07] Agreements on energy, environment signed by Greece, Turkey
  • [08] PM Papandreou addresses Greek-Turkish Business Forum
  • [09] Turkish PM Erdogan addresses Greek-Turkish Business Forum
  • [10] Babacan: 'We want to be on same side; solve problems together'
  • [11] Katseli, Daskalopoulos address Greek-Turkish Business Forum
  • [12] Greece and Turkey sign agreement on culture and tourism
  • [13] Greek PM hosts dinner for Turkish counterpart
  • [14] Emine Erdogan visits museums in Athens
  • [15] Protest rally against Erdogan visit
  • [16] Synaspismos party, Turkey's ODP issue joint statement
  • [17] Tsipras addresses Athens rally
  • [18] Greece-Turkey joint declaration to promote bilateral cooperation
  • [19] Greek banks to expand activities in Turkey
  • [20] Developments regarding Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project
  • [21] Cross-checks reveal 712.9 million euros income undeclared by employees
  • [22] Private building activity down 42.8% in Feb.
  • [23] ASE members: Cut trading hours, fees
  • [24] Stocks drop 3.41% on Fri.
  • [25] Greek bond yields significantly up in April, report
  • [26] Greek bond market closing report
  • [27] ADEX closing report
  • [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday
  • [29] Thessaloniki court house explosion; building not fully evacuated, witnesses say
  • [30] 3 arrests in desecration of Jewish cemetery in Thessaloniki
  • [31] Police suspect Conspiracy of Cells of Fire for Korydallos bomb attack
  • [32] Lake Koronia restoration at 'marginal point'
  • [33] Technical Chamber calls for upgraded protection of Athens coastal zone
  • [34] Dep. Min. sues MIG president, counter-suit threatened
  • [35] Rail route temporarily interrupted between Thessaloniki, Istanbul
  • [36] Major heroin bust
  • [37] BALCINET summit in Tirana
  • [38] Rainy on Saturday
  • [39] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [40] President: Turkish troops obstacle for Greco-Turkish relations Politics

  • [01] Papandreou praises historic visit by Erdogan, high-level Turkish delegation

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday roundly praised the significance of the two-day visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a substantial Turkish delegation to Athens, emphasising the historic nature of the talks held in the Greek capital between the two country's leaderships.

    Speaking during a press conference at a downtown Athens hotel after the conclusion of an unprecedented Greece-Turkey High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, Papandreou said the signing of numerous bilateral agreements and memoranda constituted a landmark event.

    Papandreou said he ascertained volition and courage on the part of the Turkish side to take initiatives and to discuss issues that Ankara once considered as "solved". Amongst such issues, Papandreou cited the long-standing Cyprus problem.

    In recalling the 1999 "earthquake" rapprochement between the two countries, Papandreou said the period witnessed the commencement of "diplomacy amongst citizens".

    Along these lines, the Greek premier said both countries have a duty to seek out cooperation aimed at an absolute normalisation of relations "through respect of the principles of international law and good-neighbourliness".

    The Greek prime minister noted that in contacts held throughout the day, new ways to effectively promote bilateral cooperation was discussed.

    Papandreou referred directly to the issue of the Aegean's continental shelf delineation, stating that five new confidence building measures were agreed upon. The taking of joint initiatives was also decided at international and regional level, while the Greek prime minister praised the decision to create a bilateral supreme cooperation council, expressing a hope that it will be the main vehicle to promote understanding between the two sides on low-intensity issues which, as he said, are nevertheless of great importance.

    Papandreou said these issues concern bilateral political relations, citizens' protection, education, economic and trade relations, energy, the environment, culture, tourism, transports and communication and, lastly, European affairs.

    It was also agreed that twice a year meetings will be held at the foreign ministers' level and once at the prime ministers' level. Papandreou said that through such cooperation tangible results may soon arise in many sectors.


    Referring to the thorny issue of Cyprus, Papandreou requested the contribution of the Turkish side for a fair and viable solution to the problem within the framework of UN resolutions, and with respect for the principles and values of the European Union. He added that with a correct solution to the issue of Cyprus there shall be a better approach between the two countries.

    Papandreou further referred to a common future, the friendship and the cooperation that must exist in the two countries' relations, one which will lead to the settlement of every problem in a peaceful and just way, while also referring to the support provided by Greece for Turkey's effort to join the EU. He pointed out that the main elements of Turkey's course towards the EU are respect for international law, human rights and freedoms, as well as respect for the rules of good neighbourliness.

    On the question of tourist visas for Turkish citizens, echoing a standing demand by the Turkish side, Papandreou referred to an initiative by Athens towards its Schengen pact partners on the issue, adding that Greece will also examine the possibility of visa-less one-day excursions from the opposite Turkey coast to Greek islands, either by Turkish nationals or citizens of other European countries visiting Turkey.

    Responding to a relevant question, the Greek premier underlined that a federal solution should be found for the Cyprus issue, a solution which would not need "our guarantees, which at the end, instead of uniting the two communities on the island republic, merely divided them."

    Referring to issues of religious and minority rights, Papandreou underlined that "we must all respect the principles and internal functions of each religion." Regarding the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, Papandreou said it was not a bilateral issue between Greece and Turkey, emphasising that issues dealing with Greek citizens of the Muslim faith in western Thrace are also not a bilateral issue.

    "For Orthodox Christians, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not just a mere parish but the centre of Orthodoxy," the Greek prime minister stressed, noting that it would be to Turkey's benefit to highlight the religious liberties vis-ŗ-vis the Patriarchate.

    In response to press questions over repeated violations of the Greek airspace and infringements of the Athens FIR by Turkish warplanes, Papandreou said "we should leave the past behind us and pass to the future," adding that rules of good neighbourly relations mandate that flight plans should be filed with Greek civil aviation authorities by the Turkish air force. "If this happens then no interceptions by the Hellenic Air force would be necessary."

    In conclusion, Papandreou paid homage to the "proud, hard working and hospitable Turkish people."

    [02] Turkish PM addresses press conference

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking during a joint press conference with his Greek counterpart on Friday evening, after the conclusion of a Greece-Turkey High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, reassured under conditions that the problem of the Halki school of theology will be resolved and expressed salidarity for Greece in the economic crisis conjuncture.

    Erdogan stressed that the Supreme Greece-Turkey Cooperation Council "will change the optical angle from which we view the future. It is a turning point. The happy moments that have been experienced in the past by inhabitants of Greek and Turkish cities will come again," adding that "the work must not stay with words. We demand from the ministers to proceed with actions, because cooperation is of great importance."

    On the visa issue, the Turkish prime minister called on the EU to reserve for his country the special treatment that it had predicted for Serbia.

    As regards the issue of Cyprus, Erdogan said "we are obliged to continue the negotiations from the point that the talks had been left by Christofias and Talat" and proposed the simultaneous contribution of the Guarantor Powers, UN and EU representatives and noted that "there can be an outcome by the end of the year."

    Referring to the Aegean, Erdogan stressed that "it can become a symbol of peace and we shall achieve it," while calling for the disarming of aircraft flying over the Aegean, even during military exercises which, however, must be restricted.

    Focusing on the reopening of the Halki School, the Turkish prime minister related the granting of Turkish citizenship to candidate Patriarchs to the confirmation by the Greek state of the elected muftis of Thrace, noting that according to the relevant ministers "positive results will be ultimately achieved."

    Lastly, on the "casus belli" issue, Erdogan said that "you must consider why the (Turkish) National Assembly voted for the casus belli" and pointed out that "these things are not lifted unilaterally," referring (a) to the exploratory talks and (b) to his proposal on the disarming of military aircraft.

    [03] ‘urkish PM Erdogan holds talks with Greek leadership

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Athens on Friday on a two-day official visit, meeting the country's top leadership during several closely watched meetings earlier in the day.

    Erdogan, who leads a delegation of 10 Turkish ministers and more than 100 top business leaders, was received at Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport by Greek government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos and an air force honor guard in an official ceremony

    Erdogan left the airport headed for the Presidential Mansion and was received by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.

    Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister George Papandreou subsequently hosted a working lunch for the Turkish prime minister at the Maximos Mansion government house, which is located next to the presidential mansion.

    In the afternoon, Erdogan and Papandreou chaired the inaugural session of the Greece-Turkey High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, while 21 agreements of cooperation were signed between the two countries in a variety of sectors, including the economy, energy and culture.

    Speaking at the forum, Erdogan emphasised: " There are always problems, however, if we are determined, then there are no insurmountable problems."

    "Moreover, we are politicians, and we know also that in the economy and in politics there are risks. In life, also, there are risks; we overcome these with our determination," he stressed.

    On his part, Papandreou warmly welcomed the Turkish prime minister and the ministers accompanying him, since "they came together, not only for us to exchange views, but for us to decide and agree on very important issues for our two countries, that strengthen cooperation and open a new perspective in this historical meeting for the two countries."

    In addressing the Turkish prime minister, Papandreou stressed that "I also feel this will that you have shown, for determination in the efforts of Greek-Turkish cooperation. You must know that this determination also exists on our side as well."

    He added that "and for this I think that this meeting is a start indeed of a historical significance, that is proved by the number, as you very correctly mentioned, 21+1 agreements and with the creation of the Supreme Organ of the Inter-ministerial. It is a historic day."

    Papandreou congratulated all "who worked hard for us to reach this positive result and of course all the associates as well of the ministers who are with us today in this meeting. A big thank you for the effective, laborious but so substantive work that you are doing for cooperation and peace."

    Earlier, during a brief airport statement, Erdogan said the two countries are setting a good example for cooperation, marking a new beginning for the Balkans and the wider region.

    He also noted that he has visited Greece five times in the past.

    The 10 ministers accompanying Erdogan are: Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, Minister of State Zafer Caglayan, Minister of State and chief EU negotiator Egemen Bagis, Interior Minister Besir Atalay, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Education Minister Nimet Cubukcu, Energy & Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz, Culture & Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay, Transport Minister Binali Yildirim, as well as Environment & Forestry Mnister Veysel Eroglu.

    [04] Greek president receives Erdogan

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Friday expressed hope that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Athens will have positive results and reinforce the climate of cooperation and good neighbourliness, in greeting the Turkish premier at the presidential mansion for a meeting shortly after the latter's arrival Greece.

    Erdogan, in turn, thanked Papoulias, and noted that this was his third visit to the presidential mansion, stressing his belief that this visit will be a springboard for an even greater development of Greek-Turkish relations.

    The Turkish prime minister noted that he heads a delegation of 320 people, including 10 ministers and a large business delegation and journalists, stressing that his visit is "extremely important and historic".

    Erdogan, accompanied by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, was briefly greeted by Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas a few minutes before being received by Papoulias.

    Parliament visit

    Following the Maximos Mansion talks with Papandreou, Erdogan was received by Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos at the Greek legislature, where the former reiterated that he considers his current visit as "historic".

    Erdogan emphasised the 21 bilateral agreements to be signed over the two-day Greek-Turkish forum.

    "Our visit to Greece is considered by us as historic and of particular significance. It is an opportunity to discuss political, military, economic, tourism and cultural issues that interest both countries ... As two friendly and neighbouring countries, we are building a future that is peaceful and better," he added.

    On his part, Petsalnikos expressed his hope that the Turkish delegation's contacts and talks are productive, and to the benefit to both peoples.

    "We are neighbours, and in Greece we say that the first you see is your neighbour," he said.

    [05] ND leader meets visiting Turkish Prime Minister

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Friday said his talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been "useful, interesting and very friendly," after meeting the Turkish premier in Athens. Erdogan is currently carrying out a working issue in Athens.

    It was the first meeting between Samaras and Erdogan, lasting approximately 50 minutes. According to Samaras, it had focused on a programme of "bold reforms being carried out within Turkey and the need for cooperation and good neighbour relations with Greece".

    ND's leader said that he had underlined the need for a mutual relationship of trust in order to bring about a new era in Greek-Turkish relations and named two conditions for establishing such a trust:

    "I explained that we believe it must be based, firstly, on the fact that we consider the issue of the continental shelf the only bilateral problem with Turkey and, secondly, that there must be a stable solution to the Cyprus issue, based on UN resolutions and the European acquis," Samaras said.

    They also touched on matters relating to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Fanar, Istanbul and the School of Theology on Halki, illegal migration and Turkey's European orientation.

    Samaras accepted Erdogan's invitation to visit Turkey in the near future, noting that the visit will be combined with a speech he is to deliver on Turkey's relations with Greece and the European Union.

    [06] Greece and Turkey sign 21 agreements during Erdogan visit

    Greece and Turkey signed a raft of 21 agreements, memo-randums and declarations of bilateral cooperation during the first day of a visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Athens on Friday, sealing the inaugural meeting of the Greece-Turkey High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council. Among these was the founding declaration for the Council itself, which was signed by Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

    The deals struck by the 17 Greek and Turkish ministers that participated in the Council concerned a range of issues, from foreign policy and economic cooperation to organising joint package holidays to third countries and tributes to Greek and Turkish cinema. They included:

    On foreign relations, signed by Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu:

    1) A joint Political Declaration on creating the High-Level Cooperation Council

    2) A Protocol for regular political consultation between the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries

    3) An Agreement on paid employment by dependent members of diplomatic missions

    4) A Joint Declaration lifting restrictions at the Kastanies-Pazarkule border crossing.

    On economic and trade issues, signed by Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, as well as Katseli with Turkish Minister of State Mehmet Zafer Caglayan:

    1) A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on promoting cooperation in investment issues between Invest in Greece and Turkey's investment promotion body ISPAT.

    2) A Joint Declaration on promoting economic and business cooperation.

    On environmental issues, signed by Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili with Turkish Environment and Forestry Minister Veysel Eroglu:

    1) A Joint Declaration of Cooperation on protecting forests

    2) An MoU on forest protection issues

    On energy and natural resources management issues, signed by Birbili and Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz:

    1) An MoU on cooperation in the energy sector

    On education, research and technology, signed by Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou and Turkish Minister of State Egemen Bagis, as well as Diamantopoulou and Turkey's National Education Minister Nimet Cubukcu:

    1) An MoU between the two ministries and the officials in charge of cooperation on science and technology issues at the Greek ministry and Turkey's Scientific and Technological Research Council (TUBITAK).

    2) A Joint Declaration on cooperation between Greece and Turkey in the education sector

    On transport, information technology and communications, signed by Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas with Turkey's Transport Minister Binali Yildirim:

    1) A Memorandum of Intent (MOI) for the development of railway and combined transport between Greece and Turkey

    2) A Joint Declaration in the areas of IT, Communications and Postal Services

    3) A Joint Declaration on developing cooperation in the road transport sector

    On internal affairs and civil protection, signed by Citizens' Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis and Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay:

    1) A Joint Declaration on issues of illegal migration, asylum, organised crime, drug trafficking and protection of citizens

    2) A Joint Declaration on the abolition of the visa requirement for holders of Turkish special passports

    On culture and tourism cooperation, signed by Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos and his Turkish counterpart Ertugrul Gunay:

    1) A Joint Declaration on cooperation in culture

    2) A Joint Declaration on cooperation in tourism

    In addition to the various agreements signed by ministers, a number of agreements were signed by Greek and Turkish organisations and agencies.

    They included cooperation protocol signed by the semi-official state news agencies of the two countries, the ANA-MPA and Turkey's Anadolu, signed by ANA-MPA Managing Director Nikolas Voulelis and Anadolu Chairman Hilmi Bengi, an MoU between the Hellenic Organisation for Standardisation (ELOT) and the Turkish Standards Institution (TSE) and an MoU between the Hellenic Bank Association and the Banks Association of Turkey.

    [07] Agreements on energy, environment signed by Greece, Turkey

    A Memorandum of Understanding in the sector of energy signed on Friday by Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili and Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz provided for accelerated procedures in the construction and operation of the Turkey-Greece-Italy (TGI) natural gas pipeline. The memorandum was signed in the presence of Prime Minister George Papandreou and visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    The memorandum also provides for the establishment of a joint working group to examine the project's progress and undertake initiatives before the end of the year for the acceleration of procedures. Both governments encouraged the dialogue between all interested parties as regards the transit transport of natural gas via Turkey to Greece and Italy.

    Cooperation on Renewable Energy Sources (RES) and energy efficiency is also being promoted by the memorandum signed.

    Meanwhile, a number of agreements on environmental and forest protection and flood and water resources management were signed by Birbili and Environment and Forestry Minister Veysel Eroglu in the presence of the two prime ministers.

    A joint statement issued mentioned that the two parties decided to set up a system of permanent cooperation for viable development of the basin of Evros (at the Greek-Turkish borders); consider the drawing up and implementation of measures for the management of water resources benefiting both countries; adopt the necessary measures to tackle the flood problem in the basin of Evros and work for the preservation of the local ecosystem.

    Also, they agreed to set up a joint committee to draw up a joint management plan for the region of Evros, take the necessary measures for the protection of the marine environment and biodiversity and work together to limit the consequences of the climate change.

    In the sector of forest protection it was agreed that the two sides will use an online information system for forest fires to cooperate in the restoration of burned areas and downgraded forest areas and in the protection of biodiversity.

    [08] PM Papandreou addresses Greek-Turkish Business Forum

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking to Greek and Turkish businessmen at the Greek-Turkish Business Forum in Athens on Friday, reassured that the Greek government was making every effort to achieve the lifting of obstacles and to facilitate business activities in Greece.

    "You are going much further ahead than politics. You are paving paths and these paths contribute to the cultivation of the political climate, so that we can tackle the thorns in relations," the prime minister stressed.

    Papandreou said that during the 2001-2008 period exchanges between Greece and Turkey exceeded 3.3 billion dollars, but 2009 was a difficult year.

    "However, your presence here is an ominous fact for even greater development in the entire region. There are great possibilities for the further development of activities in the eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea and despite the economic monetary conjuncture we shall proceed more dynamically. This appears from the figures," the prime minister underlined.

    Papandreou also noted that Greece ranks among the top investors in Turkey and about 76 Greek businesses are already active in the country that have created 56 subsidiaries and many of them are listed in the Turkish stock exchange. However, Papandreou added that investments on the part of Turkey are fewer.

    [09] Turkish PM Erdogan addresses Greek-Turkish Business Forum

    Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, addressing the Greek-Turkish Business Forum on Friday and referring to the 7.5 years that he has been heading the Turkish government, said that "we are following the policy of zero problems with the neighbours, we found problems and we are seeking solutions. Despite of whatever we have gone through we must see to the future with a common vision."

    The Turkish prime minister further said that the Aegean must pass into history as a sea of peace, while also mentioning certain figures that show the approach achieved between Greece and Turkey in past years.

    Bilateral trade taransactions increased from 900 million dollars in 2002 to 3.6 billion in 2008, while the decrease taking place in 2009, due to the global crisis, is appearing to retreat according to data concerning the first quarter of 2010.

    Referring to Friday's private meetings between Turkish and Greek businessmen, in the framework of the Forum, he said that over 200 were held, with particular interest being placed on construction, tourism and foodstuffs and termed his current visit a new starting point, during which he is being accompanied by 10 ministers and over 100 businessmen.

    [10] Babacan: 'We want to be on same side; solve problems together'

    Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said here on Friday that a new era in relations of the two neighbouring countries was commencing with the inaugural session of a Greece-Turkey High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, which was chaired by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and visiting Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Addressing a Greek-Turkish business forum in Athens, Babacan said rapprochement of the two countries and the building of mutual trust began in 1999, while bilateral ties were warmed even further with Papandreou's coming into office.

    The Turkish official further said that trade exchanges between the two countries amounted to 3.8 billion dollars in 2008, while more than 400 Greek businesses are active in the Turkey and direct investments amount to 6 billion dollars.

    "We do not want confrontation (between the two countries) ... we want to be on the same side and solve problems together," Babacan noted. "Both the Cyprus and the Aegean issues can be solved in this way. What is needed is political will and a positive climate," he added.

    Babacan also referred to what he called a "major step" taken by his government through a revision of the Turkish constitution, adding: "We still have a lot to do, such as reinforcing political stability, further securing human rights, freedoms and the state of law."

    On his part, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister in charge of economic diplomacy Spyros Kouvelis termed Friday's talks "an extremely important day" and referred to the major possibilities of cooperation in the sectors of tourism, transport, energy.

    [11] Katseli, Daskalopoulos address Greek-Turkish Business Forum

    Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli, addressing the Greek-Turkish Business Forum on Friday evening, stressed that the sectors of trade, investments and shipping are the three axes on which we are building our cooperation with Turkey.

    The Economy minister pointed out that the enlargement of the "portfolio" of exports to the Turkish market contitutes a strategic option for our country, with an expansion to products and services of a high added value, while underlining that the economic crisis "is not a brake, but an opportunity for us to make radical changes and to strengthen cooperation."

    According to data that she provided, Turkey ranked 9th as an import country for Greek exports in 2008, covering 3.6 percent of total Greek exports.

    "The strengthening of our trade relations, in the framework of European institutions and EU trade policy, as well as Turkey's accession process to the EU consitutes a priority," Katseli said.

    Also addressing the Greek-Turkish Business Forum, Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEB) president Dimitris Daskalopoulos said that Turkey's experience from the International Monetary Fund is useful in a multiple way for Greece in the present conjuncture.

    "I note, in particular, that you succeeded in benefitting from the assistance of the IMF to provide for the Turkish economy a new development momentum, that strengthens your leadership's will for Turkey to acquire a more active, more distinct role on the international scene. Your experience is useful in a multiple way for my country in the present conjuncture," Daskalopoulos said.

    [12] Greece and Turkey sign agreement on culture and tourism

    Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos on Friday signed a Joint Declaration on Culture and Tourism with his Turkish counterpart Ertugrul Gunay. The agreement was signed during the inaugural meeting of the Greece-Turkey High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, in the presence of the Greek and Turkish prime ministers.

    Among others, the agreement envisages joint Greek-Turkish package holidays to third countries, especially China, exploring the potential for cooperation in cultural tourism through 'cultural routes' (e.g. Wine Road, Olive Road, etc), holding the 8th Greek-Turkish forum on tourism in Athens in the fourth trimester of 2010 and boosting cooperation between the Greek travel agency union HATTA and its Turkish counterpart TURSAB.

    It also envisages cooperation between the Greek and Turkish ministries, with exchange of knowhow in preserving cultural heritage and activities to promote contemporary culture.

    [13] Greek PM hosts dinner for Turkish counterpart

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou hosted late on Friday evening an official dinner for his visiting Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the delegation accompanying him at a central Athens restaurant under the Acropolis.

    Papandreou said that Erdogan's visit proved very fruitful, resulting to the signing of 21 agreements between the two countries.

    Before the dinner, the two prime ministers paid a visit to composer Mikis Theodorakis at his home.

    [14] Emine Erdogan visits museums in Athens

    Emine Erdogan, the wife of Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is on an official visit to Greece, on Friday was given a tour of the Lalaounis Jewellery Museum in central Athens, accompanied by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou's wife Ada.

    Emine Erdogan had asked to visit the museum, saying she had been impressed when a friend brought her a Lalaounis jewellery piece as a gift together with the catalogue of Lalaounis' creations.

    The two women were given a tour of the museum by its director, Ioanna Lalaouni, after which they left for a visit to the Benaki Museum.

    Afterwards, the wives of the Greek and Turkish prime ministers, were welcomed at the Lyceum Club of Greek Women in central Athens by young women in traditional costumes from the Ionian island of Corfu and Thessaly in central Greece.

    Mrs. Erdogan was briefed on the goals and cultural activities of the volunteer organisation, which was founded 99 years ago to defend the women's rights and preserve Hellenic traditions.

    [15] Protest rally against Erdogan visit

    A protest rally against the visit to Athens by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was held in Athens on Friday by the National Armenian Committee, Kurd, Pontian, Cypriot, Ecologists and other organisations.

    [16] Synaspismos party, Turkey's ODP issue joint statement

    The Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party and Turkey's Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP) issued a joint statement on Friday on the occasion of the Turkish prime minister's visit to Athens.

    In the joint statement the two parties declared that "peace is the only option for the peoples of Greece and Turkey and the problems in the Greek-Turkish relations should and can be solved peacefully, through dialogue and based on international law."

    The statement also includes an earlier proposal for "mutual and balanced reduction of armaments and defence spending for Greece and Turkey", characterising such a move as a "meaningful step toward real peace, mutual confidence and good neighbourly relations between the two countries."

    Referring to the Cyprus issue, Synaspismos and ODP shared the position that it should be resolved through bi-communal talks within the framework of the UN and based on the international organization's decisions.

    [17] Tsipras addresses Athens rally

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group president Alexis Tsipras, addressing a rally in Athens on Friday, said that "this policy of extreme options in the economy will unaivoidably bring social uprisings."

    Tsipras added that those counting on the defeatism and fear of working people to promote the demolition of society are mistaken and assessed that "they shall be defeated by a gigantic mass movement that will flood the streets, the workplaces, the neigbourhoods."

    Financial News

    [18] Greece-Turkey joint declaration to promote bilateral cooperation

    Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli and Turkish Minister of State Zafer Caglayan on Friday signed a joint declaration to promote bilateral economic and business cooperation.

    The joint declaration focuses on commerce, investments and cooperation in shipping, while special mention was made of the sectors of constructions, communications, energy, fish farming, banking and tourism, paving the way for potential joint projects and programmes in third countries.

    "It is a fundamental step towards deepening, expanding and specializing cooperation between Greece and Turkey in the fields of commerce and investments. The joint declaration also signals the intention to cooperate in third countries with joint business interest," the Greek minister said.

    Katseli also signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Turkish Deputy PM Ali Babacan to promote cooperation between Invest in Greece and Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey, aimed at cooperation and identifying business opportunities in constructions and technology.

    The two sides also signed a memorandum of cooperation aimed at expanding cooperation in the standardisation field.

    [19] Greek banks to expand activities in Turkey

    National Bank of Greece's (NBG) presence in Turkey, through its subsidiary Finansbank, continues developing without any problems, despite an international crisis that affected the neighbouring country as well, Agis Leopoulos, NBG director general responsible for International Activities, told a Greek-Turkish Business Forum on Friday.

    In its address, Leopoulos said Finansbank was currently the fifth largest private bank in Turkey and continues growing, operating a branch network of 460 units and almost fully covering the country geographically, while it contributed 46 pct of National Bank's profitability.

    Eurobank clearly intends to further expand activities in Turkey through its subsidiary Eurobank Tefken, by exploiting new opportunities in the country, George Marinos, Eurobank's director general, told the business forum.

    Marinos said the bank planned to raise its branch network with the addition of 25-30 new units annually and to actively support Greek businesses investing in Turkey.

    Ziraat Bank is satisfied with its business activity in Greece and plans new investments and expansion in Thessaloniki and Xanthi, the bank's director general in Greece, Oznur Ozenis, told the forum. He urged Turkish business people to invest in Greece.

    [20] Developments regarding Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project

    Merging future operations of two Russian-supplied oil pipelines, the planned Samsun-Ceyhan and Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipelines, is reportedly being studied by the Russian side, although no final decisions have been taken, according to officials of the Trans-Balkan Pipeline, a participating corporate entity on Greek side.

    Both projects, projected to carry Russian crude oil, aim to bypass transport via the congested Bosporus straits.

    Burgas-Alexandroupolis will have a length of 336 kilometres and carries a price tag of 2.5 billion euros, whereas Samsun-Ceyhan extends for roughly 600 and costs upwards of five billion euros.

    Turning to current developments, a preliminary environmental impact study on the Greek portion of the pipeline project was submitted for approval to Greece's environment ministry last summer, with approval pending. A final decision, meanwhile, is expected by the Bulgarian government on the project's environmental aspects.

    Additionally, construction of the project requires Parliament approval of a draft bill regarding land expropriations and ratification of a transit agreement between the pipeline consortium and the Greek government.

    Trans-Balkan Pipeline officials made the comments on Thursday.

    [21] Cross-checks reveal 712.9 million euros income undeclared by employees

    Hundreds of thousands of salaried employees had failed to declare their full income to the tax office in 2009. This was revealed by cross-checks carried out at the finance ministry's General Secretariat of Information Systems between the tax statements submitted by salaried employees and pensioners and salary payments declared by businesses in the same year, the results of which were unveiled on Friday.

    The figures showed that 149,323 employees were declaring salaries smaller than those declared by their employers, with the discrepancy of undeclared income amounting to 205.9 million euros.

    A further 28,177 that according to their employers were earning more than 10,000 euros a year in salaries were not declaring anything at all. The total undeclared income in this case was 507 million euros.

    The figures have been sent to local tax offices for further investigation.

    [22] Private building activity down 42.8% in Feb.

    Private building activity fell by 42.8 pct (in volume) in February compared with the same month last year, the Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Friday, while the number of building permits fell 22.9 pct over the same period.

    The statistics service, in a report, said the volume of private building activity fell 10.6 pct in the January-February period, compared with the corresponding period in 2009, while the number of permits eased 6.4 pct over the same period.

    [23] ASE members: Cut trading hours, fees

    The members' union of the Athens Stock Exchange (SMEHA) on Friday called for a two-hour cut in trading hours at the market and requested lower charges by Hellenic Exchanges, the operator of Greece's capital markets.

    In a letter sent to I. Georganas, chairman of Hellenic Exchanges, and Spyros Kapralos, the president of ASE, SMEHA said it was imperative to cut trading hours by two hours each day as a way to boost transactions and recommended that the market should begin operations two hours later.

    SMEHA also said that adverse economic conditions prevailing in the country should cause market authorities to cut fixed charges on ASE's members by 50 pct.

    SMEHA said that certain charges are excessively unfair and should be abolished immediately.

    [24] Stocks drop 3.41% on Fri.

    Stocks plunged in the last trading session of a negative week at the Athens Stock Exchange, in line with sharp losses in other European markets and a significant decline in the euro, as fiscal problems in the Eurozone's regional members resurfaced again.

    The composite index of the market fell 3.41 pct to end at 1,658.29 points, with turnover at 113.3 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index dropped 4.10 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.07 pct down and the FTSE 80 index ended 2.0 pct off. The Food sector (0.51 pct) was the only one to move higher, while Telecommunications (7.22 pct) and Financial Services (5.63 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 126 to 46 with another 50 issues unchanged. Klonatex (16.67 pct), Alsinco (9.72 pct) and Nexans (8.93 pct) were top gainers, while Neorio (20 pct), Hellenic Fish Farming (12.5 pct) and Tegopoulos (11.76 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -2.98%

    Industrials: -3.56%

    Commercial: -3.50%

    Construction: -3.21%

    Media: -4.35%

    Oil & Gas: -3.36%

    Personal & Household: -1.79%

    Raw Materials: -4.30%

    Travel & Leisure: -3.97

    Technology: -1.87%

    Telecoms: -7.32%

    Banks: -4.10%

    Food & Beverages: +0.51%

    Health: -3.97%

    Utilities: -3.55%

    Chemicals: -3.01%

    Financial Services: -5.63%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and Eurobank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 4.81

    ATEbank: 1.29

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.47

    HBC Coca Cola: 18.60

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.41

    National Bank of Greece: 10.62

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.80

    Intralot: 3.14

    OPAP: 13.10

    OTE: 7.20

    Bank of Piraeus: 4.90

    Titan: 16.84

    [25] Greek bond yields significantly up in April, report

    Greek state securities' yields rose significantly in April in the Greek electronic secondary bond market, following a similar trend in other regional Eurozone markets, the Bank of Greece announced on Friday.

    The central bank, in a monthly report on the domestic bond market, said short-term maturity bonds recorded the biggest percentage increases, with the three-year benchmark bond (May 20, 2013) recording a 406 basis points rise to 9.84 pct at the end of April, followed by the five-year bond (325 bps higher at 9.27 pct).

    In the longer end of the yield curve, the 10-year benchmark bond's yield rose by 245 bps to 8.93 pct and the 30-year bond rose by 36 bps to 7.01 pct.

    The yield spread between the 30- and the three-year benchmark bonds was -283 basis points at the end of April, from 87 bps a month earlier, while the average monthly yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 474 bps from 311 bps over the same period, respectively.

    The three-year benchmark bond price fell to 86.72 at the end of April, from 96.70 a month earlier, while the 10-year bond price fell to 82.5 from 98.25 and the 30-year bond price eased to 70 from 73.53 over the same periods, respectively.

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market was 10.6 billion euros in April, from 34.6 billion euros in March and 12.3 billion euros in April 2009. Average daily turnover was 529 million euros, from 1.57 billion euros last year, with the 10-year benchmark bond being the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.95 billion euros. Sellers took the upper hand in the market in April, with 73.8 pct of transactions.

    [26] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 100 million euros on Friday, of which 79 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 21 million were buy orders. The five-year benchmark bond (August 20, 2015) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 31 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 500 basis points from 440 bps the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 7.85 pct and the German Bund 2.85 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.95 pct, the three-month rate 0.64 pct and the one-month rate 0.40 pct.

    [27] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.45 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover at 60.245 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 12,335 contracts worth 49.535 million euros, with 25,195 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,890 contracts worth 10.710 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,121), followed by Eurobank (544), MIG (421), OTE (1,171), PPC (1,530), Piraeus Bank (802), Alpha Bank (1,344), Cyprus Bank (334) and ATEbank (127).

    [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/Monday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.259

    Pound sterling 0.863

    Danish kroner 7.498

    Swedish kroner 9.651

    Japanese yen 116.47

    Swiss franc 1.413

    Norwegian kroner 7.787

    Canadian dollar 1.293

    Australian dollar 1.412

    General News

    [29] Thessaloniki court house explosion; building not fully evacuated, witnesses say

    The Thessaloniki Appeals Court building had not been fully evacuated at the time when a powerful bomb in the basement of the building went off at 13:26 on Friday, witnesses asserted in statements to the media. One man with deep cuts caused by shards in his leg had to be admitted to Aghios Dimitrios hospital in order to stop him haemorrhaging.

    "The blast was terrifying. The entire building was shaken. People were shouting in panic. At the time of the explosion the building had not been fully evacuated," said lawyer Haralambos Apostolidis as he described the moment of the explosion.

    Apostolidis had also assisted the 60-year-old court clerk injured in the blast, helping to get him to a nearby IKA clinic for first aid.

    "The employee was in a cloud of dust. He was shocked and his leg was bleeding. I carried him to the IKA offices," the lawyer told reporters. Doctors at the IKA clinic had then called an ambulance to take the injured court clerk to hospital, where the bleeding could be dealt with.

    Other witnesses on the scene, court clerks and lawyers, said that people had been slow to evacuate the building because they initially considered the bomb scare a hoax, similar to a hoax call that had been made three months earlier.

    On that occasion, the building had been evacuated and extensively searched but nothing was found.

    Friday's attack had been preceded by two warning calls made shortly before 1:00 to a newspaper and television station, which said a bomb had been planted in toilets in the basement of the building. The blast occurred at 1:26 and caused extensive damage to the interior of the courthouse.

    Police said they had immediately ordered an evacuation of the building, cordoning off surrounding roads and calling in ambulances and fire engines. In spite of this, there was panic and confusion when the blast occurred and traffic on Thessaloniki's central roads was interrupted until 15:00 in the afternoon.

    After the explosion the building was thoroughly searched by bomb disposal experts fearing the existence of a second device, while a team of counter-terrorism officers arrived on the scene to launch an investigation. Authorities are currently looking into possible links between the blast in Thessaloniki and that outside the prison of Korydallos in Athens on Friday night.

    Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis also visited the courthouse and was briefed by investigating officers and the head of the bar association Manolis Lamtzidis.

    [30] 3 arrests in desecration of Jewish cemetery in Thessaloniki

    Three suspects, two men and a woman, 21, 18 and 17, were arrested in the early morning hours on Friday as suspects in the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, hours earlier on Thursday evening.

    The trio was picked up by a police patrol after being spotted acting suspiciously outside the cemetery. A knife was found in the possession of one of the suspects, and according to police, the likelihood of their being associated with extremist groups is being investigated.

    Anti-Semitic graffiti was sprayed on gravestones and on the cemetery's wall, while a can with flammable liquid was found inside the cemetery but there were no signs of arson, police said.

    Stern condemnation

    Earlier, the Central Jewish Council of Greece (KIS) and the Jewish community of Thessaloniki condemned the desecration of the northern port city's Jewish cemetery.

    "Three suspects have been questioned by police, and we are convinced that the state will condemn this heinous act and take all necessary measures to bring the culprits to justice. Phenomena of anti-Semitism and similar views must be eradicated, guaranteeing the people's right to exercise their religious beliefs," according to a statement issued by the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki.

    [31] Police suspect Conspiracy of Cells of Fire for Korydallos bomb attack

    No group has yet claimed responsibility for last night's bomb explosion outside Korydallos Prison in Athens, Greece's counter-terrorism squad said on Friday.

    Police said the evidence points to an operation by the "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire", though they are not ruling out other possibilities and are also investigating possible links with the explosion outside the Thessaloniki court house on Friday.

    Investigating officers consider that the aim of the bomb attack was symbolic, since among those held in Korydallos at present are suspected members of the terror group "Revolutionary Struggle". They say the hit may have been intended as a message of solidarity and to show that the urban guerrilla movement in Athens is still active.

    The warning call about the bomb had been made to the television station 'Alter' and the newspaper "Eleftherotypia" - two media usually selected by the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire - and had given specific instructions for cordoning off the area and evacuating buildings. The same detailed instructions had also been given for the bomb attacks on the offices of the nationalist 'Chrysi Avgi' party on Sokratous Street and that outside the Attica Aliens Department building on Petrou Ralli street, both of which were later claimed by Conspiracy of Cells of Fire.

    Thursday night's explosion outside the women's wing of Korydallos was exceptionally powerful, using some 10 kilos of explosives. The blast was heard as far north as Liosia and the northern suburbs, while it blew out windows over a very large radius and resulted in minor injuries to a 22-year-old woman in a nearby apartment, who was showered by broken glass.

    Police forensic laboratories are now testing to determine what type of explosive was used.

    [32] Lake Koronia restoration at 'marginal point'

    Delays in work for the environmental restoration of Lake Koronia may once again land Greece in hot water with the European Commission and lead to another referral to the European Court of Justice, project coordinators warned on Friday.

    They said the work was at a "marginal point", with services waiting for the Commission's approval to continue the programme.

    The Greek side must quickly supply the Commission with convincing explanations concerning the project's progress and the deadlines for completing it successfully and on time. If these are considered unsatisfactory, however, the College of Commissioners will convene and may refer Greece to the EU court.

    According to the head of the Cohesion Fund's special service Lefteris Psaroudakis, if the Court finds against Greece there is a risk that the 24 million euros in EU funding for the project will be lost and Greece will also face heavy fines. He was speaking at a meeting of the committee for the supervision of the stratetic plan for restoring Lake Koronia held in the Central Macedonia region.

    Psaroudakis urged all the bodies involved in the project to brief him on their progress every fortnight.

    The work to restore the lake is currently focusing on persuading surrounding farmers to close some 2,200 illegal bore-wells that were lowering the water level and the excavation of two areas to create a wetland in order to develop the area's ecosystem. Experts, meanwhile, have reported that the new water system has resulted in an improvement in the qualitative characteristics of the lake's water.

    [33] Technical Chamber calls for upgraded protection of Athens coastal zone

    The demolition of a burned out nightclub on the southeast Athens coastline constitutes proof of the intention to hand over Athens' coastal metropolitan area to the citizens, according to a statement by the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE) on Friday.

    The move made by the government is characterized as symbolic considering that the nightclub in question has been closed for years.

    TEE underlined that the implementation of the law, specifically, the presidential decree on the protection of the coastal zone, which remains inactive for the past six years, is a precondition necessary to ensure that the coasts of Saronikos Bay will open to public use.

    [34] Dep. Min. sues MIG president, counter-suit threatened

    A feud between Deputy Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Minister Nikos Sifounakis and MIG President Andreas Vgenopoulos, as regards the latter's donation of 50 million drachmas some 10 years ago for the restoration of the burned areas on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, is apparently headed to court.

    Sifounakis filed a lawsuit against Vgenopoulos accusing him of false allegations, made repeatedly and knowingly to defame him.

    Conversely, in a subsequent statement, Vgenopoulos charged that "Sifounakis filed a lawsuit after being informed that certain cases that concern him will be brought before justice."

    Vgenopoulos called on the deputy minister to file a suit against him in the criminal courts, adding that he intends to do so, expressing a hope that Parliament deputies' immunity from prosecution will no longer stand by the time the cases reach the courts.

    "At last, the tricks for communication purposes have ended and now the time has come for the Greek justice system to speak," Vgenopoulos stressed in his statement.

    [35] Rail route temporarily interrupted between Thessaloniki, Istanbul

    Railway service between Thessaloniki and Istanbul was temporarily interrupted due to landslides recorded on the Turkish side. The passenger trains 444 and 445 will not service the specific route until restoration works are completed, according to TRAINOSE S.A., the company operating the national rail network in Greece.

    [36] Major heroin bust

    Police on Friday arrested a 20-year-old Albanian man in northern Athens on charges of attempting to sell 408 grams of heroin and 106 grams of cocaine to an undercover police officer posing as a buyer.

    The suspect will be sent before a prosecutor in the NW city of Arta, as the investigation and police unit originated in that municipality.

    [37] BALCINET summit in Tirana

    The 11th Summit of Balkan Cities Network (BALCINET) will be held from Sept. 23-25 in Tirana.

    The BALCINET executive secretariat convened on Friday in Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos announced that the three issues to be discussed in Tirana include urban development, Balkan cities' business cooperation and local societies' involvement with public parks and creation of green spaces.

    Weather Forecast

    [38] Rainy on Saturday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 10C and 31C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with southerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 14C to 30C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 12C to 23C.

    [39] The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The government's battle against tax evasion and the list of major tax evaders released Thursday, the skyrocketing unemployment rate and Turkish Prime Minister's Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Greece, dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Finance Ministry released the names of over 150 well-known doctors in tax evasion crackdown".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Government abandons former New Democracy government's policy on Greek-Turkish relations".

    AVGHI: "Family men the new unemployed - The new unemployment wave now affects the productive ages".

    AVRIANI: "Former Public Order Minister Christos Markoyannakis preannounced '30 Richter' quake if the parliamentary fact-finding commission on the Siemens slush funds does not function objectively".

    ELEFTHEROS: "The Turks celebrate Erdogan's 'landing' - Erdogan's visit to Greece in the midst of the Greece's bankruptcy is a boon for them".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "New Turkish provocations in the Aegean a few hours before Erdogan's arrival in Athens".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Surgeons specialising evasion - Finance Ministry lists of tax evading doctors-".

    ESTIA: "The recovery will be quicker if the state's intervention is restricted".

    ETHNOS: "The 'poor' doctors of Kolonaki (one of the most expensive districts and commercial centres in Athens) - The first tax evasion list brought to light".

    IMERISSIA: "Major agreement with Cosco - Greece becomes China's gateway to EU".

    KATHIMERINI: "20,000 tourists' reservations were cancelled after the murder of the 3 bank employees during a demonstration in downtown Athens".

    LOGOS: "Unemployment jumps to 12.1 percent (in February) - The highest percentage in the last six years and.....the worst is yet to come".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Tax Bureaus accelerate auctions and bank deposits' seizure".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist Party of Greece nationwide rally on Saturday".

    TA NEA: "Black lists for 'white blouses' (doctors)".

    TO VIMA: "Tax evading doctors humiliated - The first lists released".

    VRADYNI: "Skyrocketing of unemployment - Young unemployed have reached 32 percent".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [40] President: Turkish troops obstacle for Greco-Turkish relations


    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has stressed that a real improvement of the relations between Greece and Turkey will be achieved when the Cyprus problem is solved.

    In statements on Friday, the Cypriot President pointed out that Turkey's stance so far has been an obstacle to the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem and stressed that the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus is a serious obstacle to the full and real improvement of the Greco-Turkish relations.

    Asked what he expects from the Turkish Prime Minister's visit to Athens, which began Friday, the Cypriot President noted that there are continuous efforts to improve relations between Greece and Turkey, adding ''so far some steps have been made but I believe that the great differences remain".

    He expressed hope that the way is paved for a real improvement of the Greco-Turkish relations, "under the condition, which was already outlined by (Greek) Premier (George) Papandreou, that the real improvement of their relations can be achieved with the solution of the Cyprus problem".

    President Christofias added "as long as there are Turkish troops and occupation in Cyprus, this is a serious obstacle to the full and real improvement of the relations".

    "I hope and wish that soon we have good results that will have an effect over the Turkish leadership regarding its positions on the Cyprus problem", he said.

    The Cypriot President noted that "Turkey's positions so far have been an obstacle for the solution of the Cyprus problem, the real improvement of its relations with Greece and the promotion of Turkey's EU course".

    Cyprus, an EU member state since 2004, has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

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