Erdoğan in Athens: friends again?


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan travelled to Greece for talks on Thursday. Just a year ago, Ankara and Athens were threatening each other with war, but now there are signs of a rapprochement and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Erdoğan have signed a joint declaration for "friendly relations and good neighbourliness". Commentators’ views on whether real progress has been made differ widely.


Phileleftheros (CY) /

Duplicitous friendliness

Athens needs to be careful, warns Phileleftheros:

“Naturally we’re happy that a step towards reconciliation has been taken so that a positive climate can be created and the dangerous tensions finally come to an end, but it seems more like a joke than a positive step. It’s as if Athens is living in a pink cloud and doesn’t realise that the sultan is once again using Greece just because it suits him. ... Because of the crisis he himself has created in recent years with his threats and provocations, he is having difficulties getting ‘gifts’ from the European Union and airplanes from the US.”

Aristos Michailidis
Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Non-binding, but historic all the same

Rzeczpospolita recaps:

“Erdoğan accused Athens of occupying islands in the Aegean Sea. The conflict also revolved around the right to exploit gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean and the flow of refugees from Turkey. ... Now everything is to change. Erdoğan has come round and adopted a rhetoric of reconciliation. The Turkish leader and Mitsotakis signed a declaration on ‘friendly relations and good neighbourliness’ on Thursday. ... Although it’s not a legally binding treaty, it is of truly historic significance. And it could lay the groundwork for the normalisation of relations between two important powers on Nato’s southern flank.”

Piotr Jendroszczyk
Cyprus Mail (CY) /

Hope for Nicosia too

The Cyprus Mail hopes for progress — also with regard to the Cyprus issue:

“Good Greece-Turkey relations may also have a positive impact on efforts for a resumption of Cyprus talks, according to government sources in Nicosia. The fact that Erdoğan avoided, during the visit, mentioning the two-state solution, which he has been championing for some time now, restricting himself to talking about a settlement based on the realities in Cyprus, was seen as a good sign by the same sources.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Migration problem as an indicator

Ankara’s tough policy against migrants and human traffickers has contributed to the détente between Greece and Turkey, Hürriyet believes:

“One of the key topics between the two countries is the question of ‘irregular migration’. Greece’s pushing irregular migrants from Turkey back into the Aegean as if it were sentencing them to death has attracted much criticism. Greece, in turn, claimed that Turkey was using irregular migrants as a weapon. The most recent operations against such migrants and those who help them both on our borders and throughout Turkey have had a positive effect on Athens and the West. ... And they have played a significant role in relaxing the tensions between the two countries.”

Fatih Çekirge
Sabah (TR) /

First step towards a win-win situation

Words must now be followed by deeds, Sabah urges:

“It would be good if Mitsotakis came to Ankara in a few months’ time to keep this atmosphere alive and implement the agreements signed in many areas — from tourism to education — and build trust between the two countries. The Athens Declaration is an important document in which both sides express their willingness to act constructively. It should not simply remain on paper. Turkey and Greece have tested the limits of tensions in recent years. If they now adhere to the Athens Declaration, a new chapter can be opened on the basis of ‘good neighbourly relations’.”

Burhanettin Duran
Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

A hopeful new beginning

The outlook for the meeting between Turkish President Erdoğan and Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis is positive, writes Greece correspondent Gerd Höhler in the Frankfurter Rundschau:

“They are putting difficult problems such as the decades-old dispute over sovereign rights and economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean on the back burner for now and concentrating on issues where rapprochement is possible: cultural exchange, cooperation in science, students from the two countries coming together. All these things have long existed between European states. For the ‘hereditary enemies’ Greece and Turkey, however, these are significant steps. They could build trust.”

Gerd Höhler
Protagon.gr (GR) /

Concessions needed on both sides

News website Protagon puts the euphoria into perspective:

“It’s true that in the period immediately after Nea Dimokratia’s double election victory, perhaps excessive optimism was cultivated regarding a potential settlement of the Greek-Turkish legal dispute over the delimitation of the continental shelf and the Exclusive Economic Zone. ... Either bilaterally or through an appeal to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. This would indeed mean taking several steps backwards for the Greek side. But Turkey would also have to take some of its major, unreasonable demands off the table. Such as the Turkish-Libyan Memorandum of Understanding, for example.”

Pierros Tzanetakos

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