Greece’s Mitsotakis Says Time to Recalibrate Ties With Turkey

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(Bloomberg) -- Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis sees room for easing tensions with Turkey that could potentially resolve a dispute around the two countries’ maritime borders.

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The two NATO member states narrowly avoided a military confrontation in 2020 over a Turkish effort to conduct a drilling survey in contested waters. Relations between Athens and Ankara have thawed this year after Greece was one of the first nations to provide help following an earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey.

“I think it’s time to recalibrate our relationship with Turkey after four difficult years,” Mitsotakis said in a Bloomberg interview in Athens Tuesday. The comments come ahead of a meeting between Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the NATO summit next week.

The Greek premier, whose party won a landslide election victory last month, called for a road map to defuse tensions. Doing so will “help us find a way to address what we consider to be the one main outstanding problem that we have with Turkey,” which he identified as the demarcation of the neighbors’ maritime zones in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean Seas.

Erdogan, too, is enjoying a new mandate after winning elections in May, meaning he and Mitsotakis have a window of popular support to explore solving the disputes that have kept the regional rivals at odds for decades.

While the leaders’ planned meeting is a sign of thawing ties, stubborn disagreements persist.

Though Greece considers the demarcation of the exclusive economic zones between it and Turkey as the only outstanding issue to resolve, Erdogan’s government wants to pursue the demilitarization of Greek islands in the eastern Aegean that Athens says are already covered by international treaties.

Greece is willing to discuss only the issue it considers open and, if necessary, take it to international court, Mitsotakis said. But it won’t discuss issues regarding the country’s sovereignty and its defense posture, he added.

“These are issues that are simply off the table.”

--With assistance from Jacqueline Simmons and Sotiris Nikas.

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