Greece seeking Turkey restart as leaders meet

AFP , Wednesday 12 Jul 2023

The Greek prime minister is to hold a rare meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, with the two countries seeking to build on a rapprochement forged after this year's deadly earthquake.

Greece - Turkey
File photo: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) meets with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (R) in Istanbul. AFP


"I hope and look forward to building on this positive climate and make some important steps of progress," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said to reporters Tuesday on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

"As I have said many times, we are not condemned to live in a constant climate of tension with Turkey."

The two uneasy NATO neighbours have long feuded over maritime borders and energy exploration rights in disputed parts of the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.

"We obviously have significant differences," said Mitsotakis.

"But we can agree...on a roadmap so that we can resolve our most important geopolitical difference, the delimitation of maritime zones, namely exclusive economic zones and the continental shelf in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean."

Erdogan had hosted a March 2022 meeting with Mitsotakis in Istanbul, but the relationship rapidly soured in the following months.

The Turkish leader accused Greece of "occupying" Aegean islands, whose status was settled in post-war treaties, and warned that Turkey's armed forces could "come overnight" and "do what is necessary".

At their last encounter in Prague in October, the pair had a verbal spat when Erdogan reportedly said Athens was raising tension in the region with provocative actions.

Erdogan at the time claimed that Mitsotakis had stormed out of the official dinner of an informal European summit.

But the rhetoric was toned down in February when Greece sent aid and rescue teams in the wake of a massive earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people.

Greece's then-foreign minister Nikos Dendias was also the first European minister to visit Turkey after the quake.

What is known in the two nations as 'earthquake diplomacy' also came into play in 1999 when two deadly quakes struck Turkey and Greece within a month of each other.

It brought about a thaw in relations just three years after the NATO allies had nearly gone to war over an uninhabited islet in the Aegean Sea.

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