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At UN, Tsipras, Erdogan Again Seek Better Greece-Turkey Relations

Αssociated Press

Leading their respective delegations, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, centre right, meets with Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, centre left, in New Work, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. The two leaders are in New York for the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

NEW YORK - As they often do when meeting, Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they want to improve relations, usually followed by a worsening of relations.

They met for an hour on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly and reportedly talked about a wide range of issues causing problems between the countries, said Kathimerini, including Turkish provocations in the Aegean such as putting warships off Cyprus in a bid to keep foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas.

The wider Cyprus question was on the table too, with unity talks to bring together the island split by an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion collapsing in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan insisted on keeping an army on the occupied northern third and wanting the right to militarily intervene again when he wanted. Turkey and Greece, along with the United Kingdom, Cyprus’ former Colonial ruler, and which still has a military base on the island, are guarantors of security, along with a United Nations peacekeeping force aimed at preventing another confrontation.

They said talks should resume about Cyprus although Erdogan said he won’t even discuss taking his army off the island, a deal-breaker for Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. The two leaders also couldn’t agree on guidelines to resume the talks.

Αssociated Press

FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, prior to their talks in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

There was no word whether Tsipras, as he did before, asked Erdogan to stop sending fighter jets to violate Greek airspace and warships past Greek islands, with Greek fishermen reporting they were being stalked by the Turkish Coast Guard and were fired upon in at least one instance by a Turkish fishing vessel.

Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, going on for more than a decade, has stalled with opposition from Germany and France, but is still being backed by Greece despite constant and often growing tensions.

Erdogan extended an invitation to Tsipras to visit Constantinople for a working meeting, but no date was set, the paper said. Erdogan came to Athens in December, 2017 with a declaration he doesn’t recognize the Treaty of Lausanne that set borders between the countries and spent much of his time provoking Tsipras and Greek officials.

At that time, both sides also said they wanted better relations but that lasted only about as long as it took for them to pose for photos shaking hands and when Erdogan returned to Turkey he swiftly picked up the provocations again.

The possibility of launching a sea link between Thessaloniki and Izmir was also discussed with both agreeing that it should be ready by next summer, if possible.

They also discussed strengthening cooperation on security matters while Tsipras emphasized the need to stem the flow of migrants and refugees to Greek islands, sent there by human traffickers Erdogan lets operate during a suspended swap deal with the European Union, which closed its borders to them, dumping the problem on Greece during its long-running economic crisis.

Αssociated Press

FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, meets with Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, prior to their talks in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)