Turkey’s Erdogan, Greece’s Mitsotakis ‘to meet at NATO summit’

Both sides are NATO members and came close to armed conflict last year but have been trying to lower tensions since.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will meet at this month’s NATO summit as both sides pledge to smooth their differences.

The two rivals are at odds over many issues, from competing territorial claims in the Eastern Mediterranean to migrant and refugee boats as well as the status of Cyprus.

Both sides are NATO members and came close to armed conflict last year but have been trying to lower tensions since.

“We are fully aware of the different, and in some very serious issues, diametrically opposed positions that we have,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Monday following a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Athens.

“The purpose of today’s meeting was to attempt an initial negotiation process and if possible, a gradual normalisation of the situation over time.”

As recently as Sunday, the two countries traded barbs over the status of the Muslim minority in Greece. But the ministers were at pains to avoid a repeat of their open argument over sovereignty at a press conference in Ankara last month.

Cavusoglu said Turkey wanted to improve economic ties with Greece and said there had been concrete steps on 25 articles in areas ranging from transport to energy, the environment, tourism and trade.

He also said they had decided to recognise each other’s COVID-19 vaccination certificates to permit travel between the countries.

“I would like to say that, as Turkey, we have the will for these actions and I am happy to see the same will from Greece,” Cavusoglu said, before adding that Erdogan and Mitsotakis were planning to meet at the NATO summit in Brussels on June 14.

Erdogan and Mitsotakis have met only once since the Greek premier took office in the summer of 2019. That meeting also took place on the sidelines of a NATO summit.

Al Jazeera’s John Psaropoulos, reporting from Athens, said the “goodwill” shown by both sides on Monday promised a “productive discussion between the two leaders of government at the NATO summit”.

“It is expected that they [Erdogan and Mitsotakis] will discuss the most substantive issues between them. But in the meantime, the two foreign ministers said ‘we are going to start building confidence and turn a new leaf in our relationship by announcing economic measures’,” he added.

“There is a genuine attempt it seems for … real cooperation to be built at the economic level before a more overarching agreement at the political level.”

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