Erdogan arrives in Athens for historic visit
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived in Athens after promising a “new era” in relations with Greece, starting with his two-day trip to the country. Turkey has called for bilateral cuts in military spending, as Greece faces a severe financial crisis.
"This visit is of historic importance for Turkish-Greek ties," Erdogan said at the airport before leaving for Athens. "I believe ... the 21 accords and co-operation protocols that we will sign with our neighbour and friend Greece will mark the beginning of a new era in our relations."
Erdogan is accompanied by ten members of his cabinet on a visit which is expected to concentrate on economic questions.
He and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will co-chair the first meeting of a consultation platform made up of ten ministers from each side. It is planned to become an annual event which will ensure that closer political ties will follow the increase in economic ones that has already taken place.
The two countries’ relations have been tense since Greece won independence from the Ottoman empire in the 19th century but have improved since 1999.
They are still in dispute over territorial rights in the Aegean Sea and the divided island of Cyprus.
Before leaving for Greece, Erdogan said that he is now unlikely to go to Iran on Monday for joint talks with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is already there.
Tehran has failed to confirm a commitment to a proposal that it hand over low enriched uranium in return for processed fuel for a research reactor. Turkey was a possible venue for the swap.
Brazil and Turkey, who are both non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, have opposed fresh sanctions against Iran and have recently stepped up diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear row.
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