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Turkey and Greece agree to improve relations in Ukraine conflict

Turkish President Erdogan meets Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis in Istanbul
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis March 13, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey. President’s Press Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALE. NO ARCHIVES.

March 13, 2022

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis agreed in talks on Sunday to improve ties despite longstanding disagreements between the two NATO members, Ankara said.

Both countries play key roles in the changing security landscape in Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and their enhanced cooperation would benefit the region, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Turkey shares a maritime border with both Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea, has good relations with both countries and has offered to mediate in the conflict.

After a five-year hiatus, Greece and Turkey agreed last year to resume exploratory talks to address their own differences in the Mediterranean, but little progress has been made so far.

“Despite the disagreements between Turkey and Greece, it was agreed at the meeting to keep communication channels open and improve bilateral relations,” the statement said.

“Noting that Turkey and Greece have a special responsibility in the changing European security architecture with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the meeting focused on the mutual and regional benefits of enhanced cooperation between the two countries,” it added. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.

Ankara and Athens have been at odds for years over issues ranging from conflicting maritime claims in the Mediterranean to airspace and migration.

Greece said both sides emphasized building a positive agenda, especially in the area of ​​the economy, where they hope to make progress in the coming months.

“We have big differences that cannot be easily overcome,” Mitsotakis told Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew after meeting Erdogan.

“I believe we have laid the foundations to improve our relations,” he said, adding that if progress is made well, Greece could organize a meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council in the autumn, a mechanism the two countries set up in 2010 for their rapprochement to have.

The countries came close to confrontation in 2020 when Turkey sent a drillship into contested Mediterranean waters. The situation eased after Ankara withdrew the ship and neighbors resumed bilateral talks in January 2021.

In 60 rounds of talks from 2002 to 2016, they made little progress.

(Additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrew Heavens)

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Bobby Allyn

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