Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Greek, Turkish leaders seek rapprochement



Greek, Turkish leaders seek rapprochement

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during his meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople at the Greek Consulate in Istanbul on Sunday. AFP

Greek, Turkish leaders seek rapprochement

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held talks in Istanbul on March 13, seeking a rapprochement against the backdrop of Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine.

“The meeting focused on the benefits of increased cooperation between the two countries” in view of “the evolution of the European security architecture”, the Turkish presidency said in a statement after two hours of talks.

“Despite the disagreements between Turkey and Greece, it was agreed . . . to keep the channels of communication open and to improve bilateral relations,” the statement added, saying the two leaders discussed the conflict in Ukraine and their differences in the eastern Mediterranean.

“We are facing so many challenges at the moment . . . that the most important thing is to concentrate on what unites us rather than on what divides us,” the Greek prime minister told journalists after the meeting.

“We stressed the need to forge a positive agenda,” Mitsotakis said.

The meeting between the leaders of the neighbouring NATO members came as Ankara seeks to shore up its credentials as a regional power player by mediating in the conflict.

On March 10, the Turkish resort city of Antalya hosted the first talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba since the start of Russia’s offensive.

They failed to broker a ceasefire.

The Turkish and Greek leaders met on March 13 mindful that the burgeoning conflict in Ukraine looms larger than the long-standing tensions between Athens and Ankara.

“From the standpoint of both countries, having a potentially new crisis between them would certainly be very unwanted at this particular point in time,” Sinan Ulgen, president of the Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies in Istanbul, said.

The Aegean Sea neighbours and NATO allies entered a dangerous stand-off in 2020 over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the waters off their coasts.

Mitsotakis then unveiled Greece’s most ambitious arms purchase programme in decades and signed a defence agreement with France, to Turkey’s consternation.

Senior Turkish officials continue to question Greek sovereignty over parts of the Aegean Sea, but last year Ankara resumed bilateral talks with Athens.

“Obviously, Turkey is pursuing a very clear wave of normalisation with regional rivals, after several years of having pursued a sort of very assertive foreign policy and being regionally isolated,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“I think that both Turkish and Greek leaders understand that the world is changing and the European security order is challenged in ways they have not imagined three months ago,” she added.

Last week, the Israeli president also visited Ankara after more than a decade of diplomatic rupture.

Antonia Zervaki, assistant professor of international relations at the University of Athens, says the meeting on March 13 in Istanbul would provide an opportunity to “bring the two countries closer together” after a fraught period in relations.

Before his trip to Turkey, Mitsotakis had said he was heading there in a “productive mood” and with “measured” expectations.

“As partners in NATO, we are called upon . . . to try to keep our region away from any additional geopolitical crisis,” he told a cabinet meeting on March 9.

Alongside its European partners, Athens strongly condemned the Russian offensive of Ukraine on February 24, calling it a “revisionist” attack and “flagrant violation of international law”.

The Greek government spokesman last week said Mitsotakis was already due to visit the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on March 13 and had been invited to lunch by Erdogan at the presidential mansion on the banks of the Bosphorus.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro