Turkish President Erdogan and Greek PM Mitsotakis to raise level of bilateral relations

The two leaders agree to focus on a positive agenda by keeping dialogue channels open

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis there were “no unsolvable problems” between their countries during talks in Ankara on Monday.

The two countries 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.

There have been years of tensions between the two nations, bringing the Nato allies and historic foes to brink of conflict, however following the re-election of both leaders last year they have started taking high-profile steps to improve ties.

“Despite disagreements, we focus on a positive agenda by keeping our dialogue channels open,” Mr Erdogan told a joint press conference with Mr Mitsotakis.

Mr Mitsotakis said the leaders' frequent meetings in recent months had “proved that we neighbours can establish an approach of mutual understanding, not as an exception but as a productive normality”.

“We showed today that alongside our proven disagreements, we can chart a parallel page of agreements,” he added.

Mr Erdogan visited Athens last December and the two countries signed the “Declaration of Athens” aimed at setting the base for a road map to rebooting relations.

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.

The two leaders disagreed over how to classify the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Mr Erdogan reiterated his view that it is a “resistance movement” and said he was saddened by the Greek view – shared by many other Western countries – that it is a terrorist organisation.

“Let's agree to disagree,” Mr Mitsotakis replied.

On Sunday, Mr Mitsotakis told Turkish daily Milliyet that his visit to Ankara – the first in five years – was an opportunity to evaluate progress and to reiterate Athens' commitment to improving ties.

Mr 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.

However, the allies remain at loggerheads over several issues including maritime jurisdiction.

Greece's plan to build a marine park in the Aegean, which it says is for environmental purposes, has upset Turkey, while Athens was annoyed by Turkey's decision to turn the ancient Chora church, previously a museum for decades, into a mosque.

Updated: May 13, 2024, 8:01 PM