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Greek FM Travels to Turkey For Talks   04/15 06:11


   ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Greece's foreign minister travels to Ankara on 
Thursday for talks on the two NATO allies' fraught relationship, following a 
slight easing of tensions between the neighbors.

   In an indication of the meeting's importance, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos 
Dendias is to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as his 
counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu.

   The visit is the first between the two nations following a tumultuous year. 
Angered by what it perceived to be a lack of support for its policies in Syria, 
Turkey announced last year that it was opening its western borders, prompting 
thousands of migrants to gather at entry points to Greece, which promptly 
closed them down. This led to chaotic scenes at the frontier.

   Tension flared again in the summer over maritime boundaries and energy 
exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean, leading to a military buildup 
that featured warships from the two countries facing off. The dispute strained 
Ankara's relations with the whole European Union.

   Tensions eased after Turkey pulled back its energy research vessel and 
adopted a more conciliatory tone toward Greece and other EU nations.

   Turkish and Greek diplomats have since met in Istanbul and Athens, resuming 
a series of meetings designed to build trust between the historic regional 
rivals. The two NATO allies have been at odds over decades-old issues including 
the extent of air and maritime boundaries in the Aegean Sea and the future of 
ethnically split Cyprus. They have come to the brink of war three times since 
the 1970s.

   "We are prepared to discuss all of our issues with Greece," Cavusoglu told 
Turkey's NTV television on Thursday. "Of course it is not possible to resolve 
all of the issues in one meeting -- or in multiple meetings -- but at least a 
positive atmosphere (is being) created and we can work out the ways in which we 
can resolve the existing problems."

   In Athens, Greek government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni said Greece has 
frequently said it seeks the de-escalation of tension with Turkey and that this 
continues to be true.

   Peloni said that during Dendias's visit to Turkey, "we will put forward our 
positions on all issues, bilateral and Euro-Turkish. We are always in favor of 
maintaining open channels of communication."

   Turkey and Greece have also traded accusations over unauthorized migration. 
The Turkish coast guard, as well as numerous refugee rights organizations, have 
accused the Greek coast guard of conducting pushbacks -- illegal summary 
deportations -- by returning their boats to Turkey without allowing them to 
apply for asylum in Greece.

   Greece denies it carries out pushbacks and accuses Turkey of failing to 
crack down on migrant smugglers operating from its shores.

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