LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Greece backed a bid by its old rival Turkey to join the European Union ahead of talks on Monday between Brussels and Ankara.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou told The Guardian Athens wanted its neighbour to join the 15-nation bloc in order to end tension.
Relations between Athens and Ankara have warmed since Greece sent help after an earthquake killed more than 15,000 people in Turkey last month.
``Greece not only wants to see Turkey in the EU, it wants to be pulling the cart of a European Turkey,'' Papandreou told the daily in an interview.
``Contrary to popular belief, it is in Greece's interest to see Turkey, at some point, in the EU, rather than having it in continual conflict and tension with the bloc and European standards.''
Relations with Ankara had been difficult since Turkey was spurned as a candidate for EU membership in 1997.
Obstacles to membership include Western concerns about Turkey's human rights record, and a dispute with Greece over the divided island of Cyprus.
``It's to our benefit that our neighbours across the Balkans not only become EU members but advanced and prosperous countries,'' Papandreou said.
``Improving ties with Turkey goes hand in hand with the stability of the Balkans,'' he added.