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Let's bury Cyprus problem in history, Erdoğan tells Samaras

Turkey wants to make the Cyprus issue a thing of the past, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said after talks with his Greek counterpart on Tuesday, emphasizing that Turkey and Greece are determined to overcome their differences on the decades-old problem through dialogue. “I believe that we and Samaras' administration, which has a strong will for a solution, will take steps and I hope that we will achieve important results for the stability, peace and security of the region,” said Erdoğan at a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in İstanbul. "We want to overcome difficulties regarding Cyprus and bury that problem in history." Samaras, who had talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Erdoğan earlier on Monday, said during the conference that the Cyprus problem should be solved and that its settlement in line with UN Security Council resolutions would be to benefit of the region's stability.
Samaras also added that a fair settlement in Cyprus would also open Turkey's path to the 27-member European Union and improve cooperation and friendship.
 
Stressing the need for mutual respect for international law and national sovereignty to advance relations, in an apparent reference to Aegean disputes with Turkey, Samaras added that his country and neighboring Turkey share a deep-rooted history and that the ties have gone through numerous crises and tensions but he said Turkey and Greece now wants to "write a new history of peace and progress."
 
Samaras hoped the agreements Turkey and Greece signed on Monday would develop ties and said that efforts are needed to strengthen cooperation for stability in the region. “The golden rule for these efforts to be successful is mutual respect for international law and the protection of national sovereignty,” Samaras added.
 
Turkey and Greece are at odds over the delimitation of the exclusive economic zones due to a dispute over to what extent the Greek islands off the Turkish coast should be taken into consideration while determining the borders.
 
Turkey argues that distances should be measured from the continental mainland, while Greece claims that all islands must be taken into account on an equal basis.
 
Samaras said it is important to have good neighborly relations and that it is always a positive development if the two countries are trying to solve issues of contention.
 
Samaras declined to comment on the exclusive economic zone Turkey and Greece are said to be preparing to establish, while Erdoğan said this agenda item had been a topic in talks. The prime minister said they discussed ways to establish the economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean with the win-win principle.
 
Samaras said Turkish-Greek relations are in a very important turning point and that Athens has always supported Turkey's vision to join the European Union, which he said will make Turkey a “better neighbor.”
 
Regarding a question about terrorism, Samaras stated that Greece wants to minimize this phenomenon. “Terrorist events do not only have negative consequences for Turkey and Greece, but also only have consequences that disturb the whole world. We must fight against it,” said Samaras.
 
Erdoğan, who also responded to the same question, stated that Greece was also a country that had suffered from terrorism. “The relevant ministries of both countries are in close contact with each other. We will take joint steps against terrorism,” said Erdoğan.
 
Erdoğan also stated that trade relations between Turkey and Greece were at record levels. “Although the trade balance is not in our favor, we don't regard it as a problem. Greece is the fifth-most-invested country in Turkey. We give importance to this,” said Erdoğan.
 
Prior to the joint press conference, Erdoğan and Samaras held a bilateral meeting, which was closed to press and lasted about an hour.
 
Following the meeting, both leaders participated in a meeting of the Turkey-Greece High Level Cooperation Council and attended the signing ceremony for a series of agreements.

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