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Turkey's Erdogan vows 'new era' in ties with Greece

The Turkish president has pledged a "win-win" approach to relations with historic rival Greece during a visit to Athens. The trip is part of his bid to reset often rocky relations with Western allies.

Turkey's Erdogan vows 'new era' in ties with Greece
Turkey's Erdogan vows 'new era' in ties with Greece

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday made his first official visit to Athens since 2017, telling his Greek counterpart that he believes that "a new era" is dawning in relations between their two countries.

Greece and Turkey have long been regional rivals, but ties have recently become closer after Greece sent rescuers and aid to Turkey following a February earthquake that killed at least 50,000 people there.

What was said during the visit?

Erdogan told Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou in televised comments that he believed that "the Turkey-Greece strategic cooperation meeting will lead to a new era" in relations, adding that "we need to be optimistic, and this optimism will be fruitful in the future."

The Turkish president said, "We will discuss what steps going forward we can take on all issues after preparations have been made by the relevant ministers. We will proceed in a more logical way."

"I believe it is best for the future of both sides to discuss looking at the glass half-full," Erdogan said.

Erdogan said he aimed to nearly double bilateral trade volume to $10 billion (€9.3 billion) from $5.5 billion currently.

Sakellaropoulou, whose role is largely ceremonial, said the natural disasters that hit both countries this year — wildfires and floods in Greece and the earthquake in Turkey — had brought the two closer together.

She said it is now "perhaps more necessary than ever for Greece and Turkey to work together to enhance prosperity, to preserve peace, stability and respect for international law, and to promote good neighborly relations for the benefit of both our peoples and the wider region."

Erdogan also met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Following that meeting, Mitsotakis said he found it very important that Greece and Turkey "progress on a calm path."

He said Greece would also revive the 7-day visa for Turkish citizens to visit 10 Greek islands.

Erdogan said during a media appearance with Mitsotakis that there was "no problem that cannot be solved between us," adding that he wanted to turn "the Aegean into a sea of peace and cooperation."

What issues divide Turkey and Greece?

Ankara and Athens have long had territorial disputes and rows over expoitation rights in the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean, with Erdogan last year accusing Greece of "occupying" Aegean islands and threatening to use force in return.

The disputes have led the two countries to the brink of war three times in the last 50 years.

Migration has also been a thorny issue, as many people fleeing conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere use Turkey as a point of departure for Europe via the Mediterranean, with Greece a frequent gateway to the EU.

A 2016 deal with the EU aimed to curb the number of people making the attempt, and one agreement to be signed in Athens during Erdogan's five-hour visit also focuses on migration, aiming to establish better communication between the coast guards of the two countries.

Greece is expected to put its weight behind Ankara's longstanding request to ease travel restrictions for Turkish nationals in the European Union.

Source: Dw

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