Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed 25 bilateral agreements in Istanbul on March 4 and began discussions on oil and gas explorations in disputed territorial waters as the Greek leader said that the two sides aimed to put “economic growth at the service of peace.”
Samaras and Erdogan spoke to journalist briefly after their talks and the meeting of a High-Level Cooperation Council involving a number of other ministers. “Today is a good day for Greek-Turkish relations,” said Samaras, who added that the two countries’ relationship was not “fully aligned” and “careful steps” had to be taken to build trust, the newspaper Kathimerini reported.
The issue if oil and gas exploration in the Aegean was one of the key issues on the agenda and both leaders made brief references to it after Athens and Ankara recently sent diplomatic notes to the United Nations to complain about the other side’s stance on the issue. Samaras said that the continental shelf rights Greece has as a result of the Law of the Sea are “clear.”
Erdogan said the two sides would be in a win-win situation if they could come to an agreement on the issue. Discussions are expected to continue on March 5, the second and last day of Samaras’ visit to Turkey. He is accompanied by other political leaders and a contingent of business executives.
It’s a difficult issue as the energy in the Aegean could be hugely lucrative and Greece is especially anxious to find new revenues to offset a crushing economic crisis that has found tax revenues far off expectations despite big tax hikes going along with pay cuts and slashed pensions ordered by international lenders in return for $325 billion in two bailouts.