Turkish, Greek leaders set for talks to maintain positive momentumBreaking

May 13, 2024

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will visit Turkey for talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan aimed at maintaining the positive momentum achieved in bilateral ties in recent months despite lingering problems between the neighbours. Turkey and Greece, NATO allies and historic foes, have long been at odds over issues including maritime boundaries, energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean, flights over the Aegean Sea, and ethnically split Cyprus. After years of tensions that brought the two to the brink of conflict, Ankara and Athens started taking high profile steps to improve their ties in recent years, notably last year after both leaders were re-elected. A Turkish diplomatic source said Erdogan and Mitsotakis will discuss during Monday's visit issues from technology, tourism and economic ties to counter-terrorism and migration, adding a "Joint Business Council" would also be formed to bring together Turkish and Greek business people.

Erdogan visited Athens last December in what he described as a new era in ties, and the two countries signed the "Declaration of Athens", aimed at setting the base for a roadmap to rebooting long-strained ties. They agreed to boost trade, keep communication channels open, carry out military confidence-building measures to reduce tensions, and work on problems that have kept them apart, namely in the Aegean Sea. "Since the (December) visit, in accordance with the meaning and spirit of the Declaration, by mutually building confidence, the two parties have aimed to create an atmosphere to allow for existing issues to be tackled in the appropriate way," the diplomatic source said. On Sunday, Mitsotakis told Turkish daily Milliyet that his visit to Ankara - the first in five years - is an opportunity to evaluate the progress in recent months, and to reiterate Athens' commitment to improving ties. "What we can change is our perspective: Instead of seeing a riddle that cannot be solved, we should focus on strengthening a positive agenda and seek cooperation between our two countries and our peoples," he said.

Erdogan, speaking to Greek daily Kathimerini on Sunday, said the main goal was to "raise the level of our bilateral relations to unprecedented heights", adding the neighbours had many issues they could agree on while seeking solutions to their problems. He said his December visit to Athens was the "highest point in ties", adding existing issues should not derail progress made in other areas, and that problems between the two sides could be solved via compartmentalisation. Despite the positive mood, the allies remain at loggerheads over several existing issues - namely maritime jurisdiction in the Mediterranean - as well as new ones. Greece's plan to build new marine park in the Aegean Sea, which it says is for environmental purposes, has upset Turkey, while Athens said it was disappointed by the Turkish decision to turn the ancient Chora church, previously a museum for decades, into a mosque. "Disagreements apparently remain. The important thing is that they do not lead to crises," a Greek government source said.

Credit: Independent News Pakistan