March 5, 2000Relations improving some in Balkans
PLOVDIV, Bulgaria (AP) -- The foreign ministers of three traditional Balkan rivals gathered at a symbolic meeting Sunday meant to demonstrate improving relations among them.
Ismail Cem of Turkey and George Papandreou of Greece arrived in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv at the invitation of their Bulgarian counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, to discuss cooperation among the three bordering countries and Balkans stability.
"This meeting symbolizes the opening up of a new spirit of cooperation in the region," Papandreu said after the meeting.
In a joint statement, the ministers expressed hope that the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe -- an international effort meant to reward progress toward democracy with financial and development aid -- will give a strong impetus for the region.
Tensions between the two NATO allies, Turkey and Greece, have decreased sharply in the past year with a series of diplomatic and civic initiatives, including an outpouring of mutual aid during serious earthquakes in both countries last summer.
In December, Greece dropped its veto and allowed Turkey to be considered for European Union membership.
Concerned about the recent escalation of violence in Kosovo, the three foreign ministers called for a more active peacemaking role of the countries in the region.
Bulgaria, once a Cold War enemy of NATO members Greece and Turkey, has improved relations with both neighbors. Its aspirations for NATO membership have been supported by Greece and Turkey.