Turkish President visits Greece to make warming relations a reality
Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Greece on Thursday 7 December. In Athens, the Turkish president, who was re-elected last May, is due to hold talks in the morning with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was re-elected in June. This highly symbolic visit illustrates the recent climate of diplomatic warming between the two countries, whose shared history is marked by dissension.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Istanbul in March 2022. AFP - MURAT CETIN MUHURDAR
By: RFI Follow
Far from some of the bellicose rhetoric still made in 2022, President Erdogan now says he wants to write a "new page" in bilateral relations between Turkey and Greece, notes our correspondent in Athens, Joël Bronner.
Despite the geographical proximity between the two neighbouring countries, this is only the second time since he went from prime minister to president of his country in 2014 that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has officially visited his neighbour. The last time was six years ago.
The rarity of his visits to Greece reflects the recurrent difficulties of cohabitation between Ankara and Athens. These difficulties have been going on for about 200 years, since the independence of modern Greece, wrested from the Ottoman Empire of which the Republic of Turkey is the heir.
Border disputes, migration issues, gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, militarization of the Greek islands... At present, there is no shortage of points of contention between the two countries, which in 2020 seemed almost on the verge of confrontation.
Last year, the Turkish head of state was still threatening the Greeks to invade one of their islands unexpectedly. He even vowed that he would never meet the head of the Greek government, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, again. But since February 2023, the tone has softened, when Athens came to Ankara's aid after the deadly quake.
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Since then, dialogue has resumed at the top of the state, which is now taking shape with this presidential visit and the parallel holding of a "cooperation council" between Greek and Turkish ministers. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is travelling accompanied by many ministers.
This is the first time that the cooperation council has met since 2016, says our correspondent in Istanbul, Anne Andlauer, who points out that from the Turkish point of view, the objective is to find common ground with its neighbour in a troubled geopolitical context.
The economic crisis, and of course the war in Ukraine, has pushed Turkey to calm tensions with its neighbours, especially in the eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara and Athens have long disputed their sea and air borders.
The logic of this appeasement is to restore confidence by moving forward step by step, and therefore, first and foremost on the least contentious subjects. At the Athens summit, where Turkey hopes to sign a "declaration of good neighbourliness", trade, tourism, migration, energy and transport will be discussed.
The two countries are in no hurry to discuss controversial issues, such as borders or the status of Cyprus. Turkey is very keen on this bilateral approach, accusing third countries – notably the United States – of stoking tensions with neighbouring Greece to serve their own interests.
Opening a new chapter on the basis of "win-win" is how Recep Tayyip Erdogan describes his new state of mind towards Greece and its head of government. It should be noted that both were re-elected in the spring, so they are no longer under as much pressure from their respective nationalist electorates.
Read alsoOctober 29, 1923: The Turkish Republic breaks with the history of the Ottoman Empire
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