Greece and Turkey made significant progress toward mending relations Thursday, as leaders of the neighboring countries agreed to several cooperative measures after years of tension.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the Greek capital of Athens, where he met with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The two reached agreements focusing on pursuing good neighborly relations, opening communication, lessening tension through military confidence-building, increasing trade and working to resolve issues in the Aegean Sea, where the two countries share a border.
"There is no issue between us that is unsolvable. So long as we focus on the big picture and don't end up being like those who cross the sea and drown in the river," Erdogan said. "We want to turn the Aegean into a sea of peace. Through the joint steps we will take as Turkey and Greece, we want to be an example to the world."
Disputes between the two countries include maritime boundaries and rights to explore for resources in the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean Sea. Tension has risen nearly to the point of war three times in the last 50 years.
Most recently, in 2020, warships from the two countries shadowed each other in the eastern Mediterranean.
Erdogan said as recently as last year that he had no interest in meeting with Mitsotakis. But the two have now met three times this year, with Thursday's meeting showing a stark departure from the usual rhetoric used between the two leaders.
Mitsotakis praised the mending relationship and set a “realistic goal” to double trade between the two from $5.4 billion to $10.8 billion over the next five years.
The Greek leader also said he would back holiday visas for any Turks visiting Greece and would support Turkey’s request for a loosening of travel restrictions for Turks traveling to European Union countries.
An increased relationship with Greece is also a step toward Turkey improving relations with the EU, which the country has been attempting to join for two decades. Erdogan has made it a priority to increase cooperation with Western allies since being reelected in May.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.