Despite warming relations, Greek President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday referred to Turkey as a "difficult neighbor" following talks with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian.
Armenia "has, as do we, a difficult neighbor, Turkey," Papoulias said as Kocharian started a three-day visit, and "is probably the country that best understands the problems facing Greek-Turkish relations." Kocharian did not comment.
Divided by territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea, Greece and Turkey have improved relations in recent years, and Athens has strongly backed Ankara in its effort to win European Union membership. But they continue to be divided over a number of issues, including Greece's support for Armenia's position that Turkey is guilty of genocide against its Armenian citizens at the height of World War I.
The Greek parliament in 1996 named April 24 as an "official commemoration day of the Armenian genocide." Yerevan maintains that 1.5 million Armenians were rounded up and killed in 1915 by the Turkish authorities on suspicion of hostility to the regime that deposed the last Ottoman Sultan. Ankara categorically rejects any suggestion of genocide.
Kocharian is in Athens at the head of a delegation which is also discussing economic, tourism and regional issues. Greece supports Armenia's aim of closer cooperation with the European Union and is among the country's six top investors, Papoulias said, adding that a large number of Armenian army officers are currently attending Greek military academy courses.
"We are particularly grateful for these programs," Kocharian said.
(GI-Photolur photo: Papoulias and Kocharian review a presidential guard in Athens.)