Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his visit to Ankara.
During a joint press conference, the men stressed that they planned to resolve issues between the two countries through dialogue despite their fraught history with disputes over maritime borders, the 1974 division of Cyprus and the granting of asylum to Turkish soldiers who fled Turkey during a failed coup in 2016. The visit also came days after the 23rd anniversary of a crisis that brought the two countries to the brink of war in 1996 when Ankara refuted the sovereignty of rocky islets that Greece referred to as Imia, but Turkey knows as Kardak.
Mr Tsipras said he was pleased that “communication channels” with Turkey were open and called for a relationship to be based on “respect for international law and reciprocal understanding” of problems.
Mr Erdogan said that he believed that problems could be resolved “peacefully” and added that a “politician’s job is not to win enemies but friends… otherwise you constantly lose blood.”
Eight Turkish soldiers in Greece
The Greek PM said that “Greece respects the decisions delivered by the judiciary”. His answer did not please Mr Erdogan, who said that Turkey did not want Greece to become a “safe haven” for members of terrorist groups and called for more cooperation on the issue.
Oil and gas
The discovery of gas fields around Cyprus has also divided the two countries as the exploration of oil and gas between internationally-recognised Greek south would deprive the Turkish-occupied side a share of the profits. The Turkish government would like a suspension of activities until a solution to the long-standing dispute is found.
Greece would like the migrant deal that Ankara signed with the European Union in 2016 to be kept in place so that the flow of refugees could be stemmed. The deal means that Turkey would take back refugees landing on Greek shores in exchange for incentives such as financial aid, accelerated entry into the EU for Turkey and more.
The agreement has not stopped a flow of migrants to the Greek islands putting pressure on saturated Greek refugee camps. Rather than decrease the flow of refugees, the Greek side has found that the number has risen from 5,400 in 2017 to 14,000 in 2018.
Mr Erdogan said that the EU did not waive its visa restrictions to Turkey, a term of the 2016 deal, and he urged for the EU to keep its promises.
On the second day of his visit, Mr Tsipras will meet with the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Varthalomaios in Istanbul. He is also expected to visit the Halki seminary that was closed in 1971 during a dispute between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus.