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Greece, Turkey Eye ‘New Start’ in Relations After Elections

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Leaders of Turkey and Greece during their meeting in Istanbul in 2022. Credit: Turkish Presidency

The leaders of Turkey and Greece exchanged positive messages in the runup to elections to be held on May 14 and May 21 respectively.

Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he will extend “a hand of friendship” to the winner of the upcoming elections in Turkey, whereas President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the elections in Greece and Türkiye will mark the “beginning of a new era.”

In an interview with The Associated Press (AP), Mitsotakis expressed his wish for better relations with Turkey if he is re-elected.

The prime minister said that he hopes to build on a reduction of rhetoric following the earthquakes. “It is a pity. We don’t have to wait for a catastrophe to strike, nor are we destined to live in a state of permanent tension,” Mitsotakis said.

“I would hope that the next Turkish government would overall reconsider its approach toward the West, not just toward Greece, toward Europe, toward NATO and toward the United States,” Mitsotakis said.

Bilateral relations in recent years plummeted to new lows that saw the two countries’ warships shadowing each other and Turkish officials suggesting they could invade Greek islands.

In response, Greece has embarked on an extensive military procurement program to modernize its armed forces, including purchasing advanced French-built fighter jets.

“I wish I did not have to spend much more than 2% of my GDP on defense. But unfortunately, we live in a precarious neighborhood with … a much larger country than us that’s also been behaving aggressively,” Mitsotakis said.

“But again, I have to be a realist and not be too naive, and that is why we will continue with … our firm foreign policy. That means we will continue to strengthen our deterrence capabilities and our defense capabilities,” Mitsotakis told AP.

Elections in Greece and Turkey will mark the beginning of a new era

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pointed to a fresh start between Turkey and Greece once the leaders of the two countries are re-elected this month.

Speaking to Kathimerini, Erdoğan said that hostilities and competitions can be set aside, as these have “significantly harmed both countries and should not persist.”

“I hope that the elections in Greece and Türkiye will mark the beginning of a new era,” he said.

Relations between Athens and Ankara have warmed significantly in recent weeks after Greece’s rapid assistance in the wake of twin earthquakes that shook southern Turkey in early February.

Likewise, Turkey was the first country to offer condolences and aid following a deadly Feb. 28 train accident in northern Greece that left 57 people dead.

The Greek government has sent 80 tons of medical and first aid equipment. Thousands of Greeks had responded to calls for aid to quake-hit Turkey, reviving memories of how a spontaneous outpouring of help after a similar disaster in 1999 brought the neighbors together when they seemed to be on the brink of war.

Related: Earthquake Diplomacy Sparks Hopes of Normalization Between Greece and Turkey

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