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Greek Premier to start historic Turkish visit today

Ankara – (IINA) January 23– Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is set to arrive here today in the first official visit to Turkey by leader of Greece for almost five decades. The landmark three-day visit is being seen by both sides as an important step towards improving relations. The trip’s symbolic importance is clear; the last official visit to Turkey by a Greek prime minister was made in 1959. Despite its symbolism, there is little expectation in either Athens or Ankara that this visit will bring any speedy resolution to the many longstanding disputes between the two nations. Those include the status of the divided island of Cyprus, and territorial disputes in, and over, the Aegean which brought the two countries to the brink of war just over a decade ago.

After years of mutual suspicion, at times turning into outright hostility, relations between Greece and Turkey have improved immensely in the past decade, according to BBC. The two nations have opened a joint gas pipeline, trade relations have boomed, and “safe topics” such as economic ties are likely to feature high on the agenda of this visit. However, serious political problems remain to be addressed, too, such as near-daily sorties by Turkish warplanes into disputed airspace over the Aegean and disputed sovereignty claims over dozens of rocky outcrops.

The divided island of Cyprus, where Turkey still stations its troops, remains a key sticking point for bilateral relations. While in theory, the two countries have established a dialogue on these matters, in practice, that dialogue is frozen. There is some hope Karamanlis’s visit may breathe life into that process. But with the core issues being so sensitive, and the two sides’ positions on them still so far apart, any concrete results from this week’s visit look unlikely.