Turning over a page, Greece and Turkey agree to mend ties


Athens (Reuters) – Greece and Turkey on Thursday agreed to reboot their relations, establishing a roadmap designed to usher in a new era of ties between the two NATO allies but historic foes.

In a landmark visit of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to Greece, the long-time sparring partners agreed to focus on pursuing good neighbourly relations, keep open channels of communication, boost trade volumes and work on issues which have kept them apart, notably in the Aegean Sea.

“There is no issue between us that is unsolvable. So long as we focus on the big picture and don’t end up being like those who cross the sea and drown in the river,” Erdogan said after a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens. The meeting went on longer than expected.

The NATO allies wanted to raise bilateral trade volume to $10 billion, while Erdogan said both countries could benefit from high-level meetings held annually.

“Geography and history has dictated that we live in the same neighbourhood.. But I feel a historical responsibility to utilise this opportunity to bring the two states side-by-side, just as our borders are,” Mitsotakis said.

More accustomed to verbal jousting in recent years, chilly relations between the two neighbours thawed markedly after Greece swiftly dispatched aid in the wake of a devastating earthquake in Turkey in February.

Greece and Turkey have been at odds for decades over issues including where their continental shelves start and end, energy resources, overflights of the Aegean Sea, and ethnically-split Cyprus.

They came to the brink of war in the 1990s, and in recent years have argued over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, defence issues, migration and the acquisition of fighter jets, which interrupted cooperation talks.

But ‘earthquake diplomacy’ – similar to another thaw under similar circumstances in 1999 – has turned the tide, again.

Striking an upbeat tone, Erdogan earlier said the two countries should focus on the positives, and less on the negatives.

“It will be much more beneficial for the future if we look at things from a glass half-full perspective,” Erdogan said during a meeting with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou earlier.

Greece got permission from the European Union to re-activate a seven-day tourist visa for Turkish visitors for 10 islands close to the Turkish coast.

Both countries want to show they are willing to mend ties.

Turkey has been seeking EU membership for more than two decades. Following a debt crisis that rocked the euro zone, Greece wants to regain its footing and appear as a pillar of stability in a changing geopolitical landscape due to the war in Ukraine and the Gaza conflict.

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