Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis emphasized the importance of the Athens Declaration, signed by Greece and Turkey (Turkiye) during a recent bilateral high-level cooperation council that took place in the Greek capital earlier this month, a closely watched development viewed as a distinct ‘thaw’ in previously frosty relations.

In an interview with the Athens daily “Ta Nea”, Gerapetritis referred to a text of “high symbolism and importance…although no formal legal commitments were produced, a decisive step is sought in order to deal with historical burdens of the past.”

The foreign minister said the aim is for disagreements not to produce tensions, “and when conditions are ripe, the next step may be a discussion of the delimitation of the continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean…We are not afraid of the difficulties, but we want to operate wisely.”

Asked about the importance of the Declaration and to what extent it commits the two neighboring countries to find way to resolve differences, Gerapetritis merely noted that it is a text of high symbolism and importance.

The Declaration reflects the political will, at the highest level, to deepen bilateral relations, it defines the principles and milestones of their dialogue and confirms their friendship, he said, reminding that the agreement also has an explicit reference to the Charter of the United Nations and the recognized principles of international law.

He underlined that a 100 years from the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne and 93 years after the Venizelos-Inonou Friendship Treaty, the Declaration of Athens, despite the fact that it does not formally produce legal commitments, “is a decisive step in order to deal with historical burdens of the past.”

Greece and Turkey will continue to cooperate in the year ahead with a positive agenda at the level of a political dialogue and confidence-building measures, he added.

Athens’ top diplomat also emphasized that the implementation of the Dec. 7 agreements will be monitored and additional targets will be set.

Asked if the  two countries are entering a new chapter in bilateral relations or have if they merely “agreed to disagree”, Gerapetritis said the current Greek-Turkish dialogue has developed an understanding and a more inter-personal relation between the two states, one that enables them to cooperate – something that is evident with the agreements, signed memoranda and joint statements.

“The Declaration of Athens on Friendship and Good Neighborliness between us constitutes the culmination of this new, mutually beneficial, chapter,” the foreign minister emphasized, while concluding:

“We have managed to improve the level of mutual understanding and establish the necessary interpersonal relationships.”