Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, joined by his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, on Tuesday inaugurated the recently renovated Kapetanaki building in Izmir, where Greece’s General Consulate will be reinstalled.
Kotzias emphasised that the inauguration was a happy event for Greek diplomacy and for himself, especially since it was attended by Cavusoglu. “In spite of the problems that exist between the two countries, we have found with Mr. Cavusoglu a path of cooperation, friendly relations and joint action wherever possible,” he noted.
Referring to the building itself, Kotzias said it was one of a series of buildings with historic significance for Greek diplomacy that the Greek foreign ministry had had repaired and refurbished, in spite of the crisis, while referring to plans for a new Greek embassy in Ankara.
Kotzias said this was his second meeting in Izmir with his Turkish counterpart, “with whom we cooperate for more creative and productive relations between the two countries and to support Turkey’s European course.”
“Today, our two countries are led by two great personalities and leaders, who on the basis of international law can resolve any pending problems for a common future, with stability in the region. For a stable and growing Turkey and a stable and growing Greece,” he added.
Cavusoglu expressed his pleasure to attend the inauguration and said that Greece and Turkey were two countries joined by their history and geography. He stressed the importance of dialogue and cooperation, noting that these must be the foundation of relations between the two countries.
Referring to the Turkish president’s visit to Greece in 2017, he said this marked a new phase in Greek-Turkish relations since it was the first visit by a Turkish president to the country in 65 years.
In an indirect criticism of Greece, however, Cavusoglu noted that Turkey “would never give permission to people that are considered by you to be traitors to remain in Turkey, nor provide hospitality to aspiring terrorists and coup-plotters.”
Kotzias immediately replied by thanking Cavusoglu for his hospitality but clarifying that “Greece does not harbour terrorists. What we have always had in our country are the proper processes of law and international law. It is this that forms the basis of our relations, friendship and our common course toward Europe, I think.”
He expressed Athens’ full support for a “European Turkey” that was a member-state of the EU, noting that this would profit Greece to the greatest extent.
“I cannot imagine the future of the EU without a special connection with Turkey. But we must not wait for that day. The requirement for a visa for Turkish citizens must be abolished much sooner so that our consulate has one less job to do. Turkey has a right to implement the agreements with the EU. Everything that is agreed must be implemented by both sides,” he said.
After the ceremony, Kotzias and Cavusoglu took a stroll along the seafront and spoke with members of the public, before sitting down to a working lunch.