Statements by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after his meeting with the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara

20240514 074509

"Dear Mr. President of the Republic of Turkey, dear Tayyip, ladies and gentlemen Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, I can only begin by thanking you for the warm hospitality you have extended to us today in Ankara.

In a meeting which - it is worth noting - is the fourth in the last ten months, which I believe proves that the two neighbors can now establish this approach of mutual understanding, no longer as an exception, but as a productive normality which is not negated by the known differences in our positions. Normality, which I would say also shapes a better everyday reality.

And I think this is also the message we are sending today. A message, which we established a few months ago at the Summit of the Supreme Cooperation Council that took place in Athens and with the signing of the Declaration of Athens afterwards, was built with great systematicity, as we had agreed and under the responsibility of the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs, on three levels: political dialogue, positive agenda and Confidence Building Measures.

I believe that it is a positive development in a difficult time for international peace, but also for the wider stability in our region. And it is very important that, as we set out, this approach has already led to tangible, mutually beneficial results.

You mentioned the very high importance we both attach to the economy and we had indeed agreed that there should be further tightening in the areas of trade and investment.

I would like to take my turn today and welcome the official establishment of the Greek-Turkish Business Council, which was decided within the framework of the positive agenda, and express my satisfaction that a very successful business forum was held in Istanbul, with the participation of many prominent Greek and Turkish businessmen.

I think it is one of the many steps that will follow, so that we can reach our goal, which is to double our bilateral trade over a five-year period, despite the adversities of the international environment, despite the obstacles in the international supply chains. We are definitely moving in the right direction.

And at the same time, our two peoples, as I committed in December, are enjoying the fruits of an important initiative: allowing Turkish visitors and their families to travel to ten Greek islands. And thanks to the agreement reached by the Greek Government with the European Commission, the visa issuance process now only takes a few minutes.

I had the opportunity in the last few weeks to visit Lesvos and Chios. I found out for myself how fast and how simple and short this process is. And I think it's very important, not only economically, but it's very important that our two peoples communicate in a direct way and with less bureaucracy.

But I would say that also in the critical area of ​​migration, the cooperation between our two countries and especially between the Police and the Coast Guard is paying off against illegal flows and against the wretched smugglers, who take advantage of the pain of desperate people. This cooperation must be continued and intensified. A coordination that we want both on our land and sea borders.

We know, moreover, that we have both been pressed by waves of immigration. And Turkey is under a lot of pressure. That is why Greece has always agreed and still agrees to the financing of Turkey by the European Union, just as we also agree to a European plan to relieve it in turn through organized relocations.

At the same time, the minorities in our countries defined by the Treaty of Lausanne constitute - and I deeply believe this - a bridge of friendship between our two peoples.

On the one hand, the Greek minority, even if drastically reduced in population, enriches the social and cultural life of Turkey. But it also needs the support of the Turkish state to continue doing so.

While in Thrace, our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens live in harmony with the European as well as the Greek legal order guaranteeing them a regime of equal opportunities. I must assure you that I am personally committed to this goal.

As I have already emphasized, the characterization of the minority as religious is expressly provided for in the Treaty of Lausanne, while the practical interest of the Greek state in the well-being of the Muslim minority in Thrace is manifested in the self-evident adherence to the principles of equality and equality for its members, as well as for all Greek citizens, but - and I want to emphasize this - also by taking special measures enjoyed by the Muslims of our country. And we consider the active presence of the minority in Greek political and social life to be our success and it would be a blessing if the, unfortunately, ever-shrinking Hellenism in Turkey experienced the same flowering.

And of course, the spirit of harmonious coexistence includes the respect of international rules for the protection of religious and cultural heritage, especially when we talk about monuments which are universal property under the umbrella of UNESCO. We had the opportunity to honestly discuss with President Erdoğan our sadness, our dissatisfaction with the fact that the Monastery of the Country has changed character and will now function as a mosque.

I heard what Mr. President said and I believe that at the very least it is very important that we can preserve the special cultural value of this monument so that it can be visited by everyone and everyone can enjoy this very important cultural treasure , which I believe is also a reference point in the history of Constantinople itself.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends, we had the opportunity with President Erdoğan to discuss the developments in Ukraine and the Middle East. These are events which are extremely disturbing, bring only pain and suffering and which must be stopped in one way only: by condemning despotic aggression, but also brutal terrorism. By defending International Law, the sovereignty of states, the inviolability of borders, in a course with a constant compass of respect for human life.

We do not always agree with Turkey on the issues concerning the Middle East. The position of Athens is that Israel had every right to defend itself in a bloody and provocative terrorist invasion on its territory, in an attack with innocent victims, who were murdered, kidnapped, tortured and even by a terrorist organization that does not represent the Palestinian people .

So far we don't agree, but we do agree on other things. We agree that the asymmetric use of force and bloodshed in the region must stop and lead to a lasting truce. We agree that the civilians of Gaza must be protected and the hostages released. We agree that the Palestinians must gain access to humanitarian aid. Yes, we agree that it would be a colossal mistake to launch a ground attack on Rafah at this time.

As we also agree on the fact that the only viable perspective is a return to the political process and the two-state solution, a position that we fully and actively support as members of the international community and as countries in the region.

And in the same context we obviously also discussed the Cyprus issue, an issue which remains of the utmost importance for us. An issue on which we obviously disagree, but the antidote to any impasse can only be dialogue. That is why I am happy for the appointment of Ms. Holguín as the personal representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and I believe that she should be given time to seek a solution within the framework of the decisions of the Organization's Security Council, starting with the constructive discussion between of two parts.

And referring to the European Union, I will repeat from this stage that Greece supported and supports, despite the great difficulties, Turkey's accession path, on the condition, of course, of its integration into the European acquis. And the conclusions of the European Council of April give a positive perspective to the restart of Euro-Turkish relations. I want to hope that these will be interpreted correctly and that they can and should be used correctly on your part.

Dear Mr. President, dear Tayyip, and today we showed that next to our established disagreements we can write a parallel page, with our agreements. Proof that in addition to what we said about the economy, about immigration, about visa facilitation, our Ministers signed memoranda of cooperation in the fields of health and especially in the field of civil protection, where we both recognize that our countries face similar challenges from the climate crisis.

Taking two more steps that concern the daily needs of our people in the present, because today should not remain a prisoner of yesterday and should not undermine tomorrow either.

And with an eye on the many things that unite us, we wish to intensify our bilateral contacts in the next period, to continue under the coordination of the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs this positive path that we have traveled in the last year.

And with these thoughts I want to thank you again for the excellent hospitality, looking forward to meeting again, possibly at the NATO Summit in Washington, certainly in the framework of the United Nations General Assembly in September in New York and of course to reciprocate and me and the members of the Council of Ministers the visit you made to Athens, with the next convocation of the Supreme Cooperation Council, which, as we have agreed, will take place in Ankara within this year.

Thank you very much".

"Let's agree, Mr. President, that we disagree on this issue, but let's agree that we agree on the need at this time for an immediate cease-fire and above all, above all to protect the Palestinian civilians, who are the unjust, the great victims of this war".

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