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Greece-Turkey-Cyprus Relations

Greece and Turkey have unresolved disagreements regarding the Aegean maritime boundary, the treatment of the Orthodox Church and Greek minority in Istanbul, the Muslim (primarily ethnic Turkish) minority in western Thrace, and the expanding flows of undocumented migrants, many from zones of conflict in South Asia and the Middle East, across the Aegean into Greece.

At times over the past three decades, tensions between Greece and Turkey have almost reached the point of armed confrontation. In 1996, President Bill Clinton intervened to help avert a possible armed exchange after a dispute over ownership of a tiny, uninhabited Aegean islet called Imia (Kardak in Turkish). A significant breakthrough in relations took place when major earthquakes hit Turkey and Greece in 1999. Both countries and peoples responded generously to the other's need, helping turn around official perceptions that rapprochement was too risky politically. Since that time, Greek and Turkish foreign ministers have increased the quantity and quality of bilateral exchanges, both official and unofficial.

Greece has endorsed and supported Turkey's bid for candidacy to the European Union since the Helsinki EU Summit in 1999. Greek opinion leaders generally believe that Greece's long-term interests are best served by Turkey's successfully fulfilling the requirements for membership and joining the European Union. The EU opened accession talks with Turkey on October 3, 2005.

Shortly after his inauguration, Prime Minister Papandreou visited Istanbul and met with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, signaling his intention to reinvigorate bilateral relations and increase rapprochement between the two countries, which Papandreou had spearheaded when he was Greece's Foreign Minister (1999-2004). Following an exchange of letters between Erdogan and Papandreou, both Greece and Turkey agreed to the creation of a "High Level Cooperation Council" headed by the two prime ministers to increase bilateral dialogue. Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Droutsas met with his counterpart Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu in Ankara in April 2010 and announced shared military confidence-building measures between Greece and Turkey.

Since 1974 the largest source of tension in the bilateral relationship between Greece and Turkey has been the Cyprus conflict. After the UN-brokered "Annan Plan" to reunify the island failed to gain support among Greek Cypriots in a 2004 referendum, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus in September 2008 reopened inter-communal talks with the Turkish Cypriot side toward a comprehensive settlement on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. The UN has welcomed this development and continues to encourage both parties to address the key problems of the Cyprus issue. Greece has expressed its support for the talks.

In December 2006, amid continuing dispute over Cyprus, the EU froze talks with Turkey on eight chapters regarding accession and stated that no chapters would be closed until a resolution is found. Of the 35 chapters, 33 have been opened, with one chapter closed and six additional chapters blocked by Cyprus. Greece continues to support Turkey's EU aspirations, granted it meets all obligations toward the EU and its member states without any special concessions.

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