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GREEK NEWS

Greece Seeks to Extend ‘Period of Calm’ at Mitsotakis-Erdogan Summit

Mitsotakis Erdogan Greece Turkey
Greek PM Mitsotakis welcomed Turkish President Erdogan in Athens last December. Credit: Press Office of the Greek PM

Greece will be seeking to extend the “period of calm” in relations with Turkey during the meeting of PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday, Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis said.

“What we are seeking through Greek-Turkish rapprochement is, primarily, a period of calm,” he said speaking to SKAI radio on Thursday.

He pointed out that violations of airspace had fallen to virtually nil and that this had more than just an economic and military dimension since crises were the result of accidents and the lack of channels of communication that might defuse tension.

Gerapetritis said that a “frank discussion” should be expected, in which all issues, even the “thorny” ones, will be raised by the two leaders and a schedule decided as regards the next steps in the positive agenda, political dialogue and the confidence-building measures.

Will Mitsotakis raise the issue of Chora with Erdogan?

He warned against “overdramatizing” meetings between the leadership of the two countries and revealed that the Greek government at no time considered making changes to the visit, despite the “very disappointing” decision, both in terms of its timing and as to its essence, to convert the former Byzantine Monastery of Chora into a mosque.

He said this issue will be raised with both the Turkish president and Gerapetritis’ counterpart “so that they also realise how very important it is, not just for Greece but for the whole world,” while emphasizing the site’s importance as a world cultural heritage monument.

Mitsotakis criticized Turkey for turning the Byzantine Chora church in Istanbul into a mosque.

Just a few days before his official visit to Ankara he publicly expressed his displeasure over the “unnecessary conversion of a historic Byzantine temple, the Monastery of Chora, into a mosque.

“It is an action which insults Istanbul’s rich history as a crossroads of civilizations and is an issue which, of course, I will put to President Erdogan when I meet him,” he said during a meeting with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

Disputes beyond negotiation

Gerapetritis reported having “open and sincere communication” with his Turkish counterpart on all issues, both big and small, while pointing to a sharp decline in migration flows as a result of cooperation and communication in fighting trafficking networks.

“All these conditions are very important so that we can have a level of, if not agreement on everything, at least of mutual understanding and basic sincerity,” he added.

While there was a “fixation on basic positions of Turkish foreign policy” that was part of Turkey’s agenda, Gerapetritis said, Greece had its own very specific positions, “which are based on international law and from which we will never deviate.

“There are points on which we will not even enter into a negotiation,” he pointed out, stressing that issues of sovereignty were “internal, non-negotiable and inalienable” elements that are not up for discussion.

Mitsotakis and Erdogan last met in December in Athens where they signed a friendship declaration in a symbolic move that confirms the warming of relations between the two nations.

Related: What’s Next for Bilateral Relations Between Greece and Turkey?

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