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Simitis urges Turkey to resolve bilateral differences to boost EU
2003-09-08 17:43:41

Agence France Presse, Salonica, September 7, 2003

Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Sunday the Turkish government was dragging its feet in resolving disputes with Athens, warning this undermined Ankara's efforts to join the European Union.

"We expect Turkey to proceed in practice with such steps so that we can achieve an agreement on all pending issues... so far, I have no tangible proof that things are really changing," Simitis told a press conference in this northern port city.

"The Turkish government (under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan) is absolutely aware that if it wants to start accession negotiations to the EU it must settle pending issues regarding Cyprus, the seabed and generally Greek-Turkish relations," Simitis said.

"Good intentions... are not enough," Simitis said, who complained there was an imperial element in Turkish foreign policy.

Simitis said some Turkish policymakers saw Ankara as superior to its neighbours, in the tradition of the Ottoman Empire -- the Turkish-ruled state that controlled large parts of the Balkans and western Asia up to the early 20th century.

"The Turkish government also moves within a framework... that sees Turkey as a continuation of the Ottoman Empire," Simitis said.

Turkey has passed recently legislation enacting a raft of domestic reforms to improve its EU credentials. The country is the only one of 13 EU candidates yet to begin accession negotiations.

NATO allies Greece and Turkey are at loggerheads over the divided island of Cyprus as well as over air control and territorial rights in the Aegean, the sea that separates them.

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