Greek and Turkish leaders seek to strengthen bilateral relations

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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed on Monday the need for Greece and Turkey to break free from the constraints of historical grievances, urging both nations to elevate their bilateral interactions and collaboration in the coming years.

“Despite our differing perspectives, we have demonstrated a readiness for mutually beneficial cooperation,” Mitsotakis remarked during a press briefing following discussions with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.

Mitsotakis reiterated Greece’s endorsement of Turkey’s aspirations for EU membership, albeit acknowledging the substantial challenges involved, stipulating that such integration must align with European standards.

Regarding migration, the Greek leader acknowledged Turkey’s efforts in curbing irregular migration across the Aegean Sea.

“Our joint endeavors to combat human trafficking have yielded tangible results, with Turkey making a positive impact in this endeavor,” Mitsotakis affirmed.

Touching upon the conflict in the Middle East, Mitsotakis affirmed Israel’s right to self-defense following the October 7 terrorist attack, while expressing concerns over disproportionate Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip. He acknowledged discrepancies between Athens and Ankara regarding the classification of Hamas as a terrorist entity, yet underscored their shared desire for cessation of violence and a sustainable ceasefire.

“In areas where we may not see eye to eye, let’s respectfully agree to disagree,” Mitsotakis responded to Erdogan’s remarks expressing regret over Greece’s stance on Hamas, while finding common ground on the rejection of a ground incursion in Rafah.

Furthermore, Mitsotakis lamented the decision by Turkish authorities to convert the Byzantine Monastery of Chora into a mosque, deeming it “regrettable.”

“I consider this historic site to be a testament to humanity’s shared heritage,” he remarked.

Erdogan, on his part, asserted that no challenge between Turkey and Greece is insurmountable, emphasising that progress on resolving the Cyprus issue would bolster regional peace and stability.

He emphasised a focus on constructive dialogue despite divergent viewpoints, underscoring efforts to enhance bilateral trade to $10 billion from the current $6 billion.

Addressing the conversion of Chora, Erdogan affirmed his government’s commitment to preserving UNESCO-recognised cultural sites, stating that the Chora Mosque is now accessible to all in its new capacity.

Touching upon the Muslim minority in Greece’s northeastern Thrace region, Erdogan characterised minorities as conduits of friendship between the two nations, urging for a conducive atmosphere to enhance the rights of the Turkish minority in Greece.

In response, Mitsotakis hailed the active involvement of the Muslim minority in Greek political life as a testament to success, expressing hope for similar treatment of the Orthodox Christian minority in Turkey.

Erdogan also highlighted discussions on counterterrorism cooperation, emphasising joint efforts against terrorist organisations like FETO, PKK, and DHKP-C, stressing their mutual commitment to eradicating terrorism from the region.

Source: Ekathimerini.

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