ATHENS – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wanting to keep the ball rolling on diplomacy instead of provocation, said a Dec. 7 meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Thessaloniki could prove pivotal.
Erdogan has changed his tune from belligerence and threatening to invade Greece in seeking dialogue as he renews a push for Turkey to get into the European Union, a process that began in 2005.
He met with Mitsotakis on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly annual opening in New York during a period of detente in trying to settle disputes between them, primarily sovereignty in the Aegean Sea.
Mitsotakis said that should be decided at the International Court of Justice at The Hague in The Netherlands and that lesser issues could be worked out at a lower level between their governments.
In interviews with reporters in New York, Erdogan said that he and Mitsotakis share the same idea about clearing the “distressed sea” in the Aegean and as Turkish fighter jets have largely stopped violating Greek air space.
distracting the “distressed air” in the Aegean region.
“Thessaloniki summit will be an important leap” in bilateral relations between the two countries, he underlined. Greece’s second-largest city is also the birthplace of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish Republic.
Erdogan, said Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, noted that the foreign ministers of the two countries will prepare the groundwork for the meeting with Mitsotakis although no formal agenda has yet been set.
There have been other high-level contacts as well and plans to resume so-called Confidence Building Measures that hadn’t brought any confidence, as didn’t dozens of other meetings between officials of both countries.
Erdogan said he hopes the Thessaloniki meeting would help avoid the restart of tensions if there aren’t resolutions to differences which he said could harm the “trust environment,” that’s been built, the report said.
“We have to take steps together” for this process to progress with peace, he added although the thorny question of Cyprus, the northern third occupied since 1974 Turkish invasions, is off the table so far and he’s unyielding on that.
“Our objective is to diffuse the negative atmosphere in the Aegean. This is also Mitsotakis’ objective. The most important step toward this will be the summit we will hold in Thessaloniki,” Erdoğan said.
“I hope our consultations will be much more positive following the Thessaloniki Summit. We should avoid actions and rhetoric that would damage the confidence between Türkiye and Greece,” he said, reported Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.
In New York, Mitsotakis told reporters that, “We confirmed our joint volition for a restart of our bilateral relations, for a cautious new beginning,” adding to meeting with Erdogan at a NATO meeting in Lithuania earlier.
Mitsotakis outlined three primary aspects for dialogue, namely, political dialogue between the countries’ foreign ministries focusing on resolution of a single difference acknowledged by Greece and delimitation of maritime zones.