Greek and Turkish Leaders to Meet in Bid to Improve Ties Amid Regional Tensions

mitsotakis erdogan

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday, as part of efforts to improve relations between the two countries following Greece's show of solidarity with Turkey after a devastating earthquake struck southern Turkey last year.

Despite sharp differences over issues such as the Israel-Hamas conflict, both leaders are keen to prevent further instability in the Eastern Mediterranean as the war in Ukraine also continues to rage.

"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 upcoming visit. "Nevertheless, I think it's imperative that when we disagree, the channels of communication should always be open."

He added: "We should disagree without tension and without this always causing an escalation on the ground."

Ioannis Grigoriadis, a professor at Ankara's Bilkent University, said the two leaders will likely 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.

The visit comes after Erdogan traveled to Athens in early December, and the two countries have since maintained regular high-level contacts to promote various fence-mending initiatives, including educational exchanges and tourism. This summer, Turkish citizens are able to visit 10 Greek islands using on-the-spot visas, skipping a more complex procedure to enter Europe's 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.

Just weeks before Mitsotakis' upcoming visit, Erdogan announced the conversion of a former Byzantine-era church in Istanbul into a mosque. This decision has drawn criticism from Greece and the Greek Orthodox church. The Chora, similar to the iconic Hagia Sophia, had been operating as a museum for decades before being transformed into a place of Muslim worship.

The two countries have a history of disputes, particularly over maritime borders and energy exploration rights in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean seas, as well as the status of Cyprus. However, the leaders appear determined to find areas of cooperation and avoid further escalation.

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