In a 50-minute meeting described by Greek sources as an “ice breaker,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to a joint understanding on Monday that 2020 tensions should not be repeated in 2021, while noting at the same time that the big differences between the two NATO members remain.
The two men who met on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Brussels agreed to avoid provocations that could lead to “difficult situations” and to promote a positive agenda of cooperation.
The Greek side, according to the same sources, has every intention to advance the positive agenda that was recently formulated jointly by the respective deputy foreign ministers, Kostas Fragogiannis and Sedat Onal.
At the same time, the talks on the differences between the two countries, with the delimitation of the maritime zones at the forefront, must continue, according to Athens, in the context of international law, exploratory contacts and confidence-building measures.
The issue of migration was also raised, with Greece expressing its willingness to cooperate with Turkey as long as incidents such as those that occurred in Evros in March 2020 when thousands of migrants tried to cross into Greece from Turkey will not be repeated.
Within this context, according to government sources, Mitsotakis conveyed that it would be a sign of good will for Turkey to accept the 1,450 immigrants whose asylum applications have been rejected by the Greek authorities. The Greek request for the returns has been pending since last January, while the European Commission has also intervened, without result.
Erdogan, who is seeking to mend strained relations with West in general, said that a revival of dialogue with Greece to resolve long-standing disputes will serve “stability and prosperity” in the region. He added that his country is guided in its relations with its neighbors by the principles of justice, equality and international law, but also by “respect for mutual rights and interests.”
He noted that there is no need for mediators between Athens and Ankara and that it was agreed with Mitsotakis that communication channels between Greece and Turkey should remain open. He said he was in favor of a direct dialogue between the two sides and expressed the assessment that 2021 will be a “quiet year” for Greek-Turkish relations.
In what was seen as significant with regard to Greece’s positions, the second paragraph of the joint communique of the summit stressed the Alliance’s commitment to strengthen consultations when the security and stability of an ally is threatened or its fundamental values and principles are in danger.