Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has expressed his belief that an upcoming meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will offer Greece and Turkey a chance to improve their bilateral relations and put tensions aside.
The meeting is expected to take place on the sidelines of a scheduled NATO summit that will be held in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, on July 11 and 12.
Mitsotakis discussed other geopolitical and diplomatic issues including Euro-Turkish relations, migration in the Mediterranean, and border security.
An opportunity to improve bilateral relations
“It will be the first meeting after the re-election of both of us. We are both at the beginning of our government term, with a strong popular mandate,” Mitsotakis said, speaking at a press conference after the European Council summit in Brussels.
“It is an opportunity to redefine the context of Greek-Turkish relations and chart a path of rapprochement, without Greece backing down on its red lines that I have referred to publicly many times,” the Greek prime minister continued.
The meeting in Vilnius will be the first time that Mitsotakis and Erdogan have met in person since March last year when the pair held discussions in Istanbul.
Mitsotakis and Erdogan to meet in July
The meeting between the two leaders was confirmed by a statement issued by the office of the Greek prime minister on Monday.
Confirmation of the phone call was made by both sides, with the Communication Directorate of the Turkish Presidency also releasing an official statement that read “President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated Mitsotakis on his success in the election and wished the new period to be beneficial for Turkey/Greece relations. During communication, It was noted that the presence of strong governments in both countries is an opportunity for the future of bilateral relations.“
With historically high tensions somewhat cooling off in recent months, largely due to the so-called earthquake diplomacy which ensued after parts of Turkey were leveled by tremors in February, both leaders have expressed a desire to meet with one another. However, this was delayed by elections in both Greece and Turkey.
Migration in the Mediterranean
Mitsotakis also addressed reporters’ questions on other topics, including the difficulties of addressing migrant crossings in the Mediterranean. The issue has been especially poignant since a boat carrying migrants capsized off the coast of southern Greece, leading to hundreds of deaths.
The Greek prime minister stressed the “need to cooperate with the countries of North Africa and break the trafficking networks so that vulnerable people do not board rotten ships.”
He expressed that it is “a Greek success that far fewer boats set out from Turkey” because “they know that the possibility of reaching their final destination is limited.”