17022019Headline:

Tsipras, the first Greek Prime Minister to officially visit Halki Theological School

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is the first Greek Prime Minister to formally visit the Halki Theological School since 1933, when Eleftherios Venizelos had visited the School as a former prime minister.

Tsipras will visit Hagia Sophia and meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. He will also meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and raise the issue of reducing tension in the Aegean. He is additionally expected to refer to the Cyprus problem, the economy, energy, migration, regional developments, security and Euro-Turkish relations.

Government sources pointed out that, given the developments in Turkey, this meeting is necessary for the following reasons:

– Keep the channels of communication with the neighbouring country open on a number of issues

– Make the positions on both sides clear and avoid misunderstandings,

– Maintain dialogue where there is dispute

– Promote cooperation.

Regarding the de-escalation of tension in the Aegean, the same government sources pointed out that Greece has made it clear, both in defence and diplomatic terms, that it is protecting its sovereign rights while specifying that respect for international law is necessary to promote Greek-Turkish relations on a sound basis. These criteria have been set for Euro-Turkish relations both in the context of the European Council conclusions of March 2018 and at the recent South European Summit in Nicosia. The two leaders will also discuss the prospects of re-launching confidence building and tension reduction measures.

On the Cyprus issue, Greece will make it clear that the only solution for the Cyprus issue is the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of UN Decisions and the European acquis. It will emphasise that a just and viable solution can only exist by removing the guarantees and withdrawing the occupation troops. In this context, they will discuss the promotion of preparatory contacts at the level of the foreign ministries, in order to investigate the conditions for the resumption of talks on the Cyprus issue.

As regards the economy, following Greece’s exit from the crisis, the rapid growth of tourism and the upgrading of its role as a trade and transport node in the region, conditions are created for strengthening economic cooperation and tourism between Greece and Turkey. The two economy ministries will receive instructions for upgrading the relevant cooperation with emphasis, among others, on the completion of the Thessaloniki-Izmir ferry connection, the promotion of the Istanbul-Thessaloniki railway interconnection, the upgrading of the Kipi-Ipsala customs checkpoint and the strengthening of investments.

In the field of energy, they will stress the importance of energy cooperation in the wider region and the need to respect international law and the sovereign rights of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean. They will also discuss the cooperation of the two countries on the TAP pipeline, as well as the prospects for cooperation for the expansion of the Turkish Stream pipeline.

With regard to migration, they will discuss regional developments and security, the importance of continued cooperation between the two countries in the context of the EU-Turkey Statement on Responding to the Refugee / Migration Crisis, as well as the possibilities for further reducing flows and Turkey’s important role in hosting four million refugees, mainly from Syria and Afghanistan. Instructions will be given on how to strengthen the channels of communication between the migration ministers, who are to meet soon, while discussing developments in relation to Syria and counter-terrorism cooperation.

On the issue of Euro-Turkish relations, they will discuss the prospects for the accession of the neighbouring country, its cooperation with the EU in a number of areas and the revision of the EU-Turkey customs union.

On Wednesday afternoon, Tsipras will meet with representatives of the Greek community in Istanbul.

The schedule of the prime minister’s visit using Turkish time (+1 hour) is as follows:

Tuesday, February 5 in Ankara

16:00 Arrival at the Presidential Mansion and meeting with the Vice President of the Republic of Turkey, Fuat Oktay.

16:45 Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet with the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, followed by extended talks of the Greek delegation with the Turkish government.

18:50 Statements by the Prime Minister and President of the Republic of Turkey to the press.

19:30 Dinner given by the President of the Republic of Turkey in honour of the Greek Prime Minister.

Wednesday, February 6 in Istanbul

09:15 Visit and tour of the Prime Minister in Hagia Sophia.

11:30 Visit of the Prime Minister to the Theological School of Halki, where he will have a meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew.

18:30 Meeting of the Prime Minister with representatives of the Greek community of Istanbul at the Sismanoglio Megaron, where the General Consulate of Greece is housed.