Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sounded an upbeat note on the future of Greco-Turkish relations as he arrived in Athens on Thursday in a visit both countries hope can reboot ties after years of friction.
“It will be much more beneficial for the future if we look at things from a glass half-full perspective,” said Erdogan, during a meeting with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.
Greece and Türkiye, neighbors and NATO allies, have been at odds for decades over issues including where their continental shelves start and end, energy resources, overflights of the Aegean Sea, and ethnically-split Cyprus.
They reached the brink of war in the 1990s and over the past years they have argued over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, defense issues, migration and the acquisition of fighter jets, which paused diplomatic talks, Reuters said.
Relations improved after Greece sent aid to Türkiye following a devastating earthquake in February. Both Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ re-elections this year also eased political pressure and allowed them to put rivalry aside.
Erdogan was welcomed by Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis at Athens International Airport, ahead of the fifth Greece-Türkiye High-level Cooperation Council. It is his first visit to Greece in six years.
He is expected to meet Mitsotakis around noon, the leaders’ third meeting since July when they agreed to resume talks at all levels.
Athens wants to emphasize a positive and mutually beneficial agenda, a Greek government official said.
The meetings will produce a joint declaration and agreements in sectors including the economy, health, education, agriculture, migration and tourism, according to government officials.
Greece got permission from the European Union to re-enable Turkish citizens to apply for a seven-day tourist visa for 10 islands close to the Turkish coast, a move expected to be announced during the visit, as evidence of goodwill, the officials said.
Both countries want to show they are willing to mend ties.
Türkiye has been seeking EU membership for more than two decades. Following a debt crisis that rocked the euro zone, Greece wants to regain its footing and appear as a pillar of stability in a changing geopolitical landscape due to the war in Ukraine and the Gaza conflict.
“If we consider what is happening around us, it is necessary probably more than ever that Greece and Türkiye work jointly to reinforce prosperity, safeguard peace and stability and respect for international law,” Sakellaropoulou told Erdogan.
Despite expressions of goodwill, little progress is expected on long-standing issues according to officials in both countries.
Athens has said that it will only discuss the demarcation of exclusive economic zones and the continental shelf in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean, not issues of “national sovereignty”.
Erdogan on Wednesday reiterated Türkiye’s stance that all issues should be discussed, if the dispute is taken to the International Court of Justice.
“They are all interrelated,” he said in an interview with Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper ahead of the visit.