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Φωτο: Dimitris Kapantais/SOOC

Mitsotakis - Erdogan: Declaration of friendship and new steps of rapprochement

Mitsotakis said they had also agreed with Erdogan to continue the meetings between them, expressing his willingness to visit Ankara in the spring, ahead of their meeting at the NATO summit in July.

In joint statements with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after their meeting in Athens on Thursday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told a press conference that this was "a truly special day, as the High-Level Cooperation Council of Greece and Turkiye is convening once more after seven years."

"A fact that in itself, I think, signals the intention of our two countries to seek new, creative paths in the relations between them," he added.

In the time that had intervened, Mitsotakis said, "we faced unprecedented challenges that know no borders," highlighting that these included the three-year pandemic, a war in the heart of Europe that caused an energy, inflation and food crisis, as well as major natural disasters and regional conflicts that raised grave concerns.

"Our bilateral relations also have seen ups and downs, which at times posed a dangerous threat to them, and alongside them to security and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean," Mitsotakis said, stressing the great importance of the fact that the two countries have been "treading a more tranquil path" in recent months.

"Greece and Turkiye, Turkiye and Greece have an obligation to live peacefully. To state their differences, which are known, to discuss them with sincerity and to constantly seek solutions. And, even if they cannot be bridged, to not automatically generate tension and crises," he stressed.

Mitsotakis noted that in their meeting in Vilnius, they had decided with Erdogan to begin contacts once again on three levels, that of political dialogue, a positive agenda and confidence building measures. Reviewing the previous two meetings, he said that an assessment was now underway of the joint efforts and the progress that had led to a series of important agreements on many levels, in electricity, trade, education, sports, technology, tourism, closer economic ties and promoting a shared understanding and an exchange of best practices in agriculture, research and innovation.

"Regarding migration, we noted a significant reduction in flows over the recent period as a result of the systematic protection of our land and sea borders. I would add, however, that it is also due to the improved cooperation of the police, coast guard and harbour police of the two countries," Mitsotakis said, while noting that this cooperation can and should be further improved.

"Regarding Greece's steadfast support for Turkiye's EU accession course, our country supports the facilitation of granting visas, though always within the framework of the European acquis, so that the younger generation in Turkiye, the scientists, business people and students can build closer ties with Europe. In addition, Greece has asked for and secured the European Commission's approval to activate the possibility for Turkish citizens and their families to visit 10 of our islands for seven days throughout the year, which either have refugee facilities or have direct ferry links with Turkiye," the prime minister said. He noted that this was an initiative that sends a strong message and states a great truth, namely "that the Greek islands are a bridge of communication and friendship between the two countries."

Mitsotakis: 'We have a duty to bring our two states side by side'

Welcoming Turkiye's president to Athens during joint statements after their meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis emphasised that they have a duty to future generations to build a future of calm and peace between Greece and Turkiye.
"...we should make use of this opportunity to bring the two states side by side, as our borders are. Up until now, we have succeeded in returning our relations to calm waters. Today, in the name of the generations that follow, we have a duty to both build a future that allows a following wind to blow in these calm waters, a future of peace, progress and cooperation," he said.

Continuing joint statements with the Turkish president, Mitsotakis said they had discussed worrying international developments in the region and further afield, such as those in the Middle East, Ukraine and Caucasus.

"We are obliged to always converge on the need to uphold international legality. To condemn, in other words, every form of aggression, extremism and terrorism regardless of the form it takes. To a full respect of the territorial integrity of states and the protection of humanitarian values, with special emphasis on the protection of civilians," he said.

Regarding Cyprus, Mitsotakis noted that there was disagreement and said there can be no solution other outside the resolutions of the UN Security Council, adding that dialogue must resume from the point where it was interrupted in 2017.

Referring to the Athens Declaration signed by the two leaders on Thursday, Mitsotakis said an agreement on friendly relations and good neighbourliness had been signed by the two countries 100 years after the historic Lausanne Treaty, one which fully respected the rights arising from the sovereignty of each country while outlining the principles and milestones of dialogue between them and highlighting the potential for cooperation.

He noted that these will govern the next steps in meetings between the Greek and Turkish delegations, in order to broaden the positive agenda. "We will intensify our economic cooperation, we will expand the confidence building measures and the next phase of political dialogue, when the conditions are ripe, may be  a rapprochement on delineating the continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zones in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean," he said, noting that this was the sole difference that Greece considers can be settled through international arbitration, based on international law and the law of the sea.

Mitsotakis said they had also agreed with Erdogan to continue the meetings between them, expressing his willingness to visit Ankara in the spring, ahead of their meeting at the NATO summit in July.

Concluding, he pointed out that geography and history have consigned Greece and Turkiye to live in the same neighbourhood, that events had often brought the two countries into confrontation with one another and that there were voices in both Greece and Turkiye "that do not agree with this approach".

"I feel a historic duty, however, that we should make use of this opportunity to bring the two states side by side, as our borders are. Up until now, we have succeeded in returning our relations to calm waters. Today, in the name of the generations that follow, we have a duty to both build a future that allows a following wind to blow in these calm waters, a future of peace, progress and cooperation. Displaying responsibility and realism, I want today to look toward the future," the Greek premier concluded, welcoming Erdogan to Athens.

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Mitsotakis also stressed that Greece is also mobilizing its diplomacy, notifying friendly nations and alerting allies and partners. "We are not alone in this effort. The immediate response of the European Union to our request to convene the Foreign Affairs Council confirms that this is not purely an issue of Greek-Turkish relations. It concerns the relations of all of Europe with Turkey," he said.