No need for disputes between Greece, Turkey: minister

ANKARA - There is no need for a new dispute between Greece and Turkey, Turkey’s European Union Minister Volkan Bozkir said Tuesday.

In comments made to the media before leaving for the U.S., Bozkir said Greece's economic slump would affect Turkey. He also said that Greece had "a lot on its table" right now.

About how elections in Greece that brought Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras to power would affect bilateral relations, the Turkish minister said, "We consider Tsipras' move to meet Turkish non-governmental organization officials during the Greek-Cypriot administration’s visit (Monday) as a positive sign."

He hoped for an end to the dispute over the island during Tsipras' term.

Bozkir also mentioned Tsipras' promises to Greeks before getting elected as prime minister, including about not paying debts to the EU.

"I don't see these moves happening when you are not in the opposition anymore," he said. "I hope Greece and EU find a logical way," he added.

Tsipras sent a message to the EU Monday that Greece and Cyprus were pillars of stability in the region and that fact must be understood by Europe who thought only in terms of economy.

Bozkir said it was "mature and necessary" to have discussions with the "troika" -- comprised of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and the European Commission -- over Greece's debt liabilities and such talks would prove a positive step for Europe.

The Cyprus dispute dates back to 1960, when a Treaty of Guarantee was signed between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, along with the British government, over the island.

The treaty banned the island of Cyprus from participating in any political or economic union with any other state, as well as making other parties guarantee its independence, territorial integrity and security.

However, in 1963, only three years after the treaty was signed, Turkish Cypriots were ousted by force from all organs of the new republic by their Greek-Cypriot partners, which violated the founding agreements and the constitution. The Greek Cypriots, thereafter, claimed to represent the "Republic of Cyprus," which was considered illegal and not recognized by Turkey.

Between 1964 and 1974, the international community made several peacemaking efforts that all ended in failure. In 1974, an attempt by Greece to annex the island through a coup was made, which was resisted by a Turkish peace mission in accordance with the 1960 treaty. Consequently, the Turkish Cypriots set up their own republic in 1983, while continuing the search for reconciliation.

While the European Union recognizes the Greek-Cypriot administration in the island, Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus diplomatically.

Negotiations between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots resumed after a two-year pause in February 2013. The previous round of talks had collapsed amid of the Eurozone debt crisis as the Greek Cypriot side took its turn to occupy the EU presidency in 2012. However, the Greek-Cypriot administration suspended the talks over the divided island on Oct. 7, 2014 after Turkey sent a ship to monitor an oil-and-gas exploration mission off the coast of Cyprus.

- U.S. visit

Bozkir's visit to the U.S. capital is scheduled between Feb. 3 and 6, where he will attend the "National Prayer Breakfast," which is organized each year by members of U.S. Congress with participation of the U.S. president since 1953.

Bozkir will have official meetings with the U.S. administration and Congress to discuss potential impacts on Turkey of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement with the European Union, an official statement said.

The transatlantic trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU is part of the Customs Union, which Turkey signed with the EU in 1995. But since Turkey is not an EU member yet, it remains excluded from the negotiations.

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