A closely watched meeting by the Greek and Turkish leaders on Monday afternoon in Brussels reportedly yielded “positive results”, with the initial “spin” – at least by the Greek side – pointing to a return of the status quo ante prior to 2020, in other words, backing off from actions and provocations that generated significant tension last year.
The one-hour meeting between Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came on the sidelines of a NATO summit.
The positive tone was set by Erdogan himself prior to the meeting, who in an uncharacteristically diplomatic manner said the renewed “opening of channels of dialogue with Greece will help resolver certain bilateral issues… and (boost) regional stability.”
Those comments came during an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund, and were reported by Reuters.
On the Greek side, beginning yesterday, Mitsotakis repeated Athens’ leitmotif of needing to delimitate (based on international law) maritime zones between the two countries, who as NATO members are obliged to solve differences peacefully, as he said.
“We need to find a way to manage our differences without resorting to an escalation of tension, and avoiding what happened last summer,” Mitsotakis said, again citing the need for a common framework based on respect of international law and good-neighborly relations.
“We will live side-by-side with Turkey, therefore, we need to find a way, even if we disagree, to continue talking and managing our differences in a civilized manner,” he said.
Both Athens and Ankara have expressed volition over the recent period to jump-start negotiations over bilateral economic ties, with Mitsotakis on Monday adding cooperation on environmental protection into the equation as well as the refugee/illegal migration crisis. The latter comprises a “hot button” for Athens after a concerted effort by the Erdogan government in late February 2020 and March 2020 to assembly third country nationals and would-be migrants on the frontier with Greece and then allow them to try and enter the latter illegally.
As opposed to 2015, when the then government under leftist Alexis Tsipras allowed any seaworthy craft from Turkey to carry hundreds of thousands third country nationals to handful of Greek islands in the eastern Aegean, in 2020 the Mitsotakis government essentially sealed the land border – separated by the Evros/Maritsa River – with Turkey.