Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Sunday, March 13, Turkey announced on Monday.
The two leaders will have lunch at the Turkish president’s residence.
Mitsotakis will be in Istanbul to celebrate the Feast of Orthodoxy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Phanar.
The visit comes amid concerns about the regional consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Diplomatic sources in Greece told Kathimerini that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has put a damper on the aggressive attitude of Turkey, which has seen that the West will not respond idly to such blatant violations of international law.
They added that a key aim is to “stop Turkey’s revisionist rhetoric and demands that Greece demilitarizes its islands.”
Related: Ukraine War: The Consequences for Greece and Turkey
Turkey raises issue of “militarization” of Greek islands
The meeting between Mitsotakis and Erdogan, if officially confirmed by Athens, comes at a time when Turkey has been raising the issue of the demilitarization of the Aegean islands.
In February, Greece issued on Thursday a diplomatic protest, or demarche, to Turkey over the continued provocations of Turkish officials, including President Erdogan, who have been questioning the sovereignty of the Aegean islands.
“It is not possible for us to remain silent about the military activities carried out in violation of the agreements on the islands with disarmed status,” Erdogan has said.
Turkey has long called for the demilitarization of the Greek islands in the eastern Aegean. In 2020, Ankara singled out sixteen Aegean islands, claiming that Greece is violating international agreements.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias responded to Erdogan’s comments, saying:
“I am saddened that Turkey has elected to maintain its stance. At a time when NATO must demonstrate its unity in defending the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Turkey has decided to threaten Greece and question its very presence and commitment to NATO and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
In letters sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last July and September, Turkey for the first time disputed Greece’s sovereignty over its east Aegean islands, “over which sovereignty was ceded to Greece on the specific and strict condition that they be kept demilitarized,” in the words of Turkey’s permanent UN representative, Feridun Sinirlioglu.
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