Wary of Wars in Gaza and Ukraine, Old Foes Turkey and Greece Test a Friendship Initiative

ANKARA, Turkey  — Old foes Turkey and Greece will test a five-month-old friendship initiative Monday when Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visits Ankara.

The two NATO members, which share decades of mutual animosity, a tense border and disputed waters, agreed to sideline disputes last December. Instead, they’re focusing on trade and energy, repairing cultural ties and a long list of other items placed on the so-called positive agenda.

Here’s a look at what the two sides hope to achieve and the disputes that have plagued ties in the past:


Mitsotakis is to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday as part of efforts to improve ties following the solidarity Athens showed Ankara after a devastating earthquake hit southern Turkey last year.

The two leaders have sharp differences over the Israeli-Hamas war, but are keen to hold back further instability in the eastern Mediterranean as conflict also continues to rage in Ukraine.

“We always approach our discussions with Turkey with confidence and with no illusions that Turkish positions will not change from one moment to the next,” Mitsotakis said last week, commenting on the visit. “Nevertheless, I think it’s imperative that when we disagree, the channels of communication should always be open.”

“We should disagree without tension and without this always causing an escalation on the ground,” he added.

Ioannis Grigoriadis, a professor of political science at Ankara’s Bilkent University, said the two leaders would look for ways “to expand the positive agenda and look for topics where the two sides can seek win-win solutions,” such as in trade, tourism and migration.


Erdogan visited Athens in early December, and the two countries have since maintained regular high-level contacts to promote a variety of fence-mending initiatives, including educational exchanges and tourism.

Turkish citizens this summer are able to visit 10 Greek islands using on-the-spot visas, skipping a more cumbersome procedure needed to enter Europe’s common travel area zone, known as the Schengen area.

“This generates a great opportunity for improving the economic relations between the two sides, but also to bring the two stable societies closer — for Greeks and Turks to realize that they have more things in common than they think,” Grigoriadis said.

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, right, makes statements with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after their meeting at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. Old foes Turkey and Greece will test a five-month-old friendship initiative on Monday, May 13, 2024 when Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visits Ankara. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas, File)


Disagreements have brought Athens and Ankara close to war on several occasions over the past five decades, mostly over maritime borders and the rights to explore for resources in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean seas.

The two countries are also locked in a dispute over Cyprus, which was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the island’s northern third.

The dispute over the exploration of energy resources resulted in a naval standoff in 2020 and a vow by Erdogan to halt talks with the Mitsotakis government. But the two men met three times last year following a thaw in relations and a broader effort by Erdogan to re-engage with Western countries.

The foreign ministers of the two countries, Hakan Fidan of Turkey and George Gerapetritis of Greece, are set to join the talks Monday and hold a separate meeting.


Just weeks before Mitsotakis’ visit, Erdogan announced the opening of a former Byzantine-era church in Istanbul as a mosque, drawing criticism from Greece and the Greek Orthodox church. Like Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia, the Chora had operated as a museum for decades before it was converted into a mosque.

Turkey, meanwhile, has criticized recently announced plans by Greece to declare areas in the Ionian and Aegean seas as “marine parks” to conserve aquatic life. Turkey objects to the one-sided declaration in the Aegean, where some areas remain under dispute, and has labelled the move as “a step that sabotages the normalization process.”

Grigoriadis said Turkey and Greece could focus on restoring derelict Ottoman monuments in Greece and Greek Orthodox monuments in Turkey. “That would be an opportunity” for improved ties, he said.


ATHENS - A rapprochement of sorts that has seen tensions dialed down between them doesn’t mean Greece isn’t still wary of Greece, said Defense Minister Nikos Dendias, saying there is still an “existential threat” despite warmer ties.

Top Stories


A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.


2 Germans, a Spaniard and a Senegalese Killed in Building Collapse in Spain’s Mallorca Island

MADRID (AP) — Spain's National Police on Friday gave details on four people killed when a building housing a bar and restaurant club collapsed on the island of Mallorca.

THRU JUNE 4 NEW YORK – The third iteration of the Carte Blanche project featuring Maria Antelman with the work ‘The Seer (Deep)’ opened on April 19 and runs through June 4, Monday-Friday 9 AM-2:30 PM, at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, 69 East 79th Street in Manhattan.

ATHENS – An Archieratical Divine Liturgy and a memorial service honoring the 50th dark anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus at the Metropolis – the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Athens – marked the beginning of the 4th Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on Sunday, May 26.

NEW YORK – Greek-American Republican congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis gave a strong and clear response to reports by American media such as The Hill and Politico regarding the purpose of her presence at the trial in the well-known ‘hush money’ case against former President Donald Trump.

NIKOSIA - Dust and other potentially toxic emissions are being caused by renovations at the Makarios Children’s Hospital in Nicosia which specializes in treating cancer cases, charities helping there have complained.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.