Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Ozal announced yesterday that he is "ready to meet any time, anywhere" with Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou to relieve Greek-Turkish tensions and called on Greece to sign "an agreement of friendship, good-neighborliness, conciliation and cooperation."
The State Department issued a statement last night welcoming Ozal's "statesmanlike proposal" and "his stated readiness to meet with Greek leaders." The statement added, "The United States continues to believe that the differences can best be resolved by discussion and negotiation."
Ozal, who has been advocating a summit with Papandreou to discuss tourism and commercial issues, broadened what has become known as his "olive branch campaign" during a speech here sponsored by Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"We think Greece should be a natural partner in the process of peace-making," the Turkish leader said. Instead, he contended, the Papandreou government continues "the propaganda of a so-called, imaginary Turkish threat" by advocating a nuclear-free zone in the Balkans and redeploying Greek forces along Turkey's border under what Papandreou calls the "new defense doctrine of Greece."
Greek Ambassador George Papoulias met with reporters Monday, the eve of Ozal's visit, to argue that Turkish overtures should not be taken seriously. "Turkey is baiting us in the Aegean. Turkey is baiting us in Cyprus. If they want a dialogue, they should stop baiting us . . . ," he said.
Papoulias hinted that the United States should use its position as Turkey's principal arms supplier to force an accommodation with Greece. However, President Reagan, in a meeting with Ozal on Tuesday, promised that he will support continued high levels of military aid for Turkey. A senior U.S. official later noted that the United States has problems with Papandreou's anti-American rhetoric and neutralist positions.
In regard to Cyprus, where strife between the Greek and Turkish communities has resulted in Turkish occupation since 1974, Ozal noted that U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar has praised the Turkish Cypriot community's acceptance of his draft proposals for a solution, "while the [Greek] side has not."
"My government continues to support a lasting and just solution of this problem along the lines of establishment of an independent, territorially integral, bi-zonal, federal republic in which the two communities can cooperate with equal political status," Ozal said.
Athens supports the concept of a strong central government for Cyprus, which would be dominated by the Greek majority.
Referring to the broader range of Greek-Turkish relations, Ozal said, "We are neighbors . . . . Our nations should know each other better. We should remove all obstacles so that journalists, businessmen, artists and the man in the street can freely contact one another."
In answering questions, Ozal reiterated Turkey's firm denial that it committed genocide against its Armenian population during World War I.