Turkey wants to make a “fresh start” with the European Union under a new vision, in the wake of soured relations over recent months, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım stated on June 19.
“Unfortunately, the EU adopted a negative attitude in the aftermath of the [July 15, 2016] coup attempt and during the constitutional change process … But all of that has been left behind. The EU and Turkey now want to make a fresh start with a new vision,” Yıldırım said at a joint press conference with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras in Athens.
Yıldırım also thanked Greece for its “constructive” role in Turkey’s EU accession process and the implementation of a migrant deal with the bloc.
“The signing of the deal last year on March 18 was exciting, but unfortunately problems surfaced in a very short time,” said the prime minister.
“Despite these problems, we substantially curbed the flow of migrants to the Greek islands, knowing that it was a major problem for the EU and Greece. Our wish and expectation is that the remaining points agreed on are implemented by the EU as soon as possible. I want to convey my dear friend Tsipras’s contributions in this issue,” Yıldırım added.
According to the deal, Turkey agreed to stop the flow of migrants to the EU via the Aegean and take back migrants who traveled via Turkey, while the EU in return promised to allow visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the Schengen zone and allocate 3 billion euros to be used for the Syrian migrants in Turkey.
While some funds were allocated, no steps were taken in the visa regime, with Brussels tying it to a change in Turkey’s draconian anti-terror law.
Another item on the two prime ministers’ agenda was Turkey’s extradition request for coup suspect soldiers who fled to Greece at the failed putsch last July.
A court ruling to not extradite eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece in a helicopter following the failed coup attempt last year must be respected, Greek Prime Minister Tsipras said.
“The Greek justice system has ruled on this issue … and this decision must be fully respected,” Tsipras said in response to a question.
Greek courts have blocked two extradition requests by Ankara, drawing an angry rebuke from Turkey, which says the men were involved in efforts to overthrow the government on July 15, 2016.
“We would like Greece to extradite those who clearly staged a coup against our nation,” Yıldırım said.
“We respect the judiciary’s decision, but we do not want these putschists to strike a blow to Turkish-Greek relations,” he added.
The June 19 meeting was held against the backdrop of a fresh reunification bid in Cyprus, divided since a Turkish military intervention following a Greek-inspired coup.
The two countries and Britain will participate in peace talks along with the two Cypriot sides in Switzerland on June 28.
Mediators are seeking an accord on security arrangements in a post-settlement Cyprus, if the sides agree on a peace deal.
Turkey has some 30,000 troops in Turkish Cyprus, a contentious point for Greek Cypriots who want their withdrawal.
Yıldırım said Athens and Ankara had decided to “contribute in every positive way” to a Cyprus settlement.
“A solution of the Cyprus issue should guarantee the security and future of both the Turkish and Greek people living on the island,” he said.
Under a 1960 treaty, Britain, Turkey and Greece can intervene in Cyprus in the event of a breakdown of constitutional order. The Greek Cypriots want the system dismantled and a withdrawal of troops, while the Turkish Cypriots want some Turkish guarantees to continue.