Greek, Turkish leaders gloss over differences

Turkish PM Davutoglu said that ‘it is very important that hearts and minds are meeting’

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The leaders of Greece and Turkey on Saturday glossed over major differences between the countries and expressed support for closer relations between the often testy neighbors.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, after a meeting with his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras, that Turkey supports the return of the Parthenon marbles to Greece as part of a general return of works of cultural heritage to their countries of origin. Samaras said he supported Turkey's quest for EU membership, provided it fulfilled the entry requirements.

“It is useful for Turkey to belong to the European family, fulfilling, of course, the European prerequisites and obligations,” Samaras said.

Samaras also referred to Cyprus, saying he believed reunification talks would resume soon. Cyprus' president broke off the negotiations after Turkey interfered with the country's search for oil and gas deposits.

Davutoglu, much more expansive in his comments than his Greek counterpart, said that “it is very important that hearts and minds are meeting,” adding that “of course there are differences among neighbors.”

Greeks have decried the British Museum's decision to send a part of the disputed Parthenon Marbles to Russia's Hermitage Museum on temporary loan. Davutoglu, on a two-day visit to Athens, said Turkey “support (s) Greece in its efforts to return the God Ilyssos to the Acropolis Museum...returning cultural heritage works is very important.”

Several ministers from both countries joined the heads of government Saturday to discuss “low-level policy issues” including energy, tourism, customs, migrants, human trafficking, organized crime, culture and transport. The Turkish delegation included nine cabinet members.

In a joint statement, the two countries stressed the importance of connecting the TAP (Trans-Adriatic Pipeline) and the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP) gas pipelines, “which definitely constitute the most cost-effective Caspian gas route to western Europe.”

TAP and TANAP bring gas from Azerbaijan and Georgia to western Europe, reducing dependence on Russia.

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