Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed on the necessity to deescalate tensions between Greece and Turkey and support stability in the East Mediterranean amid the war in Ukraine, Greek government sources said following the lunch on Sunday between the two leaders in Istanbul.
The Turkish president received the Greek prime minister at the Vahdettin Mansion, his presidential residence, where they met privately over lunch.
Government sources said the two leaders conversed in a very cordial atmosphere, meeting as allies facing security challenges due to political developments following the war in Ukraine. They agreed on improving communication at all levels.
“Despite the disagreements between Turkey and Greece, it was agreed at the meeting to keep communication channels open and to improve bilateral relations,” a statement Turkish presidency said in a statement.
“Pointing out that Turkey and Greece have a special responsibility in the changing European security architecture with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the meeting focused on the mutual and regional benefits of increasing cooperation between the two countries,” it added.
“Turkey and Greece have a special responsibility in the European security architecture which has changed with Russia’s attack on Ukraine,” the statement said, adding that both countries should increase cooperation and “focus on positive agendas” for regional benefits.
According to the sources, Mitsotakis agreed to holding a Greece-Turkey confidence-building measures meeting in April, as long as there is no escalation of tension.
Mitsotakis and Erdogan each reiterated their set stance on bilateral issues, but despite disagreements both decided to emphasize the positive agenda and their countries’ economic collaboration, the sources said. A high-level Greek source saw the meeting as a foundation for a better era between the two countries’ relations.
“With the goal of starting a new page in bilateral relations,” Erdogan told Mitsotakis he believes the two countries can make headway on issues like the Aegean, minorities, combating terrorism and migration. He added the neighbors should speak regularly, rather than only at times of crisis.
The two leaders also agreed to coordinate action toward the opening of humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, the Greek sources said. President Erdogan told the Greek prime minister that Ankara helped evacuate a Greek woman from Kherson.
In terms of the migration issue, it was noted that each country should fulfil its relevant obligations.
Mitsotakis kicked off his visit by attending a service for Orthodox Christians at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. “We have big differences which cannot be overcome just like that,” Mitsotakis told Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios after meeting Erdogan.
“I believe we set the foundations to improve our relations,” he said, adding that if there was good progress, Greece might organize in autumn a High-Level Cooperation Council meeting, a mechanism the two countries set up in 2010 for their rapprochement.