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Mitsotakis says Turkey and Greece should increase cooperation and contacts

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday that Greece and Turkey “should not remain captives” to the past, adding that the two countries should intensify bilateral contacts and cooperation in the future.

“Despite our differences in views, we have proven to be open to a win-win cooperation,” he said at a press conference after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.

Mitsotakis reiterated Greece’s support for Turkey’s EU accession “despite great difficulties… on the condition it integrates to the European acquis.” 

On migration, the Greek Prime Minister acknowledged Turkey’s contribution in halting irregular migration in the Aegean Sea. “Our joint efforts to stop human traffickers have produced results. Turkey has positively contributed in this regard.”

On the war in the Middle East, Mitsotakis acknowledged Israel’s right to self-defence after the terrorist attack of October 7, but cautioned over the Israelis’ asymmetric use of force in the Gaza Strip. He also said Athens and Ankara disagree on Hamas’ definition as a terrorist organisation but agree that violence must end and a long-term ceasefire is needed.

“Let’s agree to disagree,” Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, responding to Erdogan who said that he was saddened by the Greek view that deems Hamas a terrorist organisation, adding however that “we are in agreement that a ground operation in Rafah would be unacceptable.” 

He also said that the decision by Turkish authorities to convert the Byzantine Monastery of Chora into a mosque “is unfortunate.” 

“I believe that this extraordinary place is a work of humanity that belongs to all mankind.”

On his side, Erdogan said that there are no unsolvable problems between Turkey and Greece and that a step towards a solution for the divided island of Cyprus would strengthen regional peace and stability.

He said the two countries were focusing on a positive agenda, keeping channels of dialogue open despite differences of opinion, adding that the two countries are working toward meeting the goal of boosting bilateral trade to $10 billion from $6 billion.

On the conversion of Chora, Erdogan said his government is “committed to preserving every cultural heritage site recognised by UNESCO. The Chora Mosque is now open to everyone with its new identity.”

Referring to the Muslim minority that lives in Greece’s northeastern region of Thrace, Erdogan said: “We see minorities as bridge of friendship between the two countries. We expect positive atmosphere in our relations to contribute to rights of the Turkish minority in Greece.”

Responding to this statement, Mitsotakis said that Greece considers the active presence of the Muslim minority in Greek politics “as our success” and said he hoped the same would apply for the Orthodox Christian minority in Turkey.

The Turkish president said the two leaders discussed their cooperation in fighting terrorism. “Fight against terrorism, including FETO, PKK and DHKP-C was on top of our agenda. Our counterterrorism cooperation with Greece strengthens by day and we agree on the fact that there is no future for terrorist groups in the future of our region.”