Greek and Turkish leaders seek common ground on war in Ukraine | Russo-Ukrainian War

Turkey says both sides have agreed to keep communication channels open despite the disagreements.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held talks in Istanbul, seeking rapprochement amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Both countries have key roles to play in shaping the security situation in Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and their increased cooperation would have benefits for the region, the Turkish presidency said in a statement. after talks on Sunday.

“Despite disagreements between Turkey and Greece, it was agreed during the meeting to keep communication channels open and improve bilateral relations,” the statement said.

“Underlining that Turkey and Greece have a particular responsibility in the evolution of the European security architecture with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the meeting focused on the mutual and regional benefits of a increased cooperation between the two countries,” he added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Istanbul, Turkey, March 13, 2022 [Presidential Press Office/Handout/Reuters]

The meeting between the leaders of neighboring NATO members came as Ankara seeks to bolster its credentials as a regional power by acting as a mediator in the conflict.

Last Thursday, the Turkish resort town of Antalya hosted the first talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba since the Russian invasion began on February 24. They failed to make a breakthrough.

Dead end

Greece and Turkey entered a stalemate in 2020 over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the waters off their coasts.

Mitsotakis then unveiled Greece’s most ambitious arms purchase program in decades and signed a defense deal with France, much to Turkey’s dismay.

Senior Turkish officials continue to question Greek sovereignty over parts of the Aegean, but last year Ankara resumed bilateral talks with Athens.

After a five-year hiatus, Greece and Turkey agreed last year to resume exploratory talks to settle their own disputes in the Mediterranean, but little progress has been made so far.

The countries came close to confrontation in 2020, when Turkey sent a drillship to disputed Mediterranean waters. The situation calmed down after Ankara withdrew the ship and the neighbors resumed bilateral talks in January 2021.

“Measured” expectations

Ahead of his trip to Turkey, Mitsotakis said he was going there in a “productive mood” and with “measured” expectations.

“As NATO partners, we are called upon…to try to keep our region free from any further geopolitical crisis,” he told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Alongside its European partners, Athens strongly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling it a “revisionist” attack and a “flagrant violation of international law”.

Ecumenical Patriarch - Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, holds an icon as Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis looks on in the courtyard of the Ecumenical Patriarchate after a Sunday service in Istanbul, Turkey, March 13 2022 [Murad Sezer/Reuters]

Earlier on Sunday, Mitsotakis attended a celebration at St. George’s Orthodox Cathedral, Turkey’s largest, in Istanbul.

The Greek government spokesman said this week that Mitsotakis was due to visit Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on Sunday.

Barthélemy, who called himself “a target for Moscow”, called during the mass for an “immediate ceasefire on all fronts” in Ukraine.

Sharon P. Juarez