Greece, Turkey Seek New Thaw as Ministers Meet in Athens

Greece and Turkey’s foreign ministers met in Athens on Monday in an effort to thaw out the countries’ relations, after an April meeting in Ankara ended with the two officials arguing during a live broadcast.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s unofficial visit to Greece and meetings with his counterpart Nikolaos Dendias and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis mark a bid by the two neighbors to ease tensions in the eastern Mediterranean region and the Aegean Sea. Relations soured last summer amid a spat over Turkish energy exploration and maritime claims in contested waters.

Dendias said Monday that the two ministers had agreed on a meeting between Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of a NATO summit.

Cavusoglu said an agreement with Greece to reciprocally recognize virus vaccination certificates will enable travel between the two countries and help boost tourism.

“We also agreed to a mutual recognition of Covid-19 certifications for those vaccinated,” Dendias said.

Greece, Turkey Seek New Thaw as Ministers Meet in Athens

At the April meeting, the ministers ended up exchanging barbs on camera. Cavusoglu made reference to a Turkish minority in Greece, while Dendias stated that the only minority Athens recognizes -- according to the 1923 Lausanne Treaty -- is the Muslim one.

The issue returned to the fore during the current round of diplomacy, with the Turkish minister repeating the minority reference during an unofficial visit to the Greek region of Thrace. Greece’s foreign ministry then issued a statement clarifying that the minority group in question is Muslim, rather than specifically Turkish.

After their last meeting in April, Dendias accused Turkey of violating Greece’s sovereign rights, international law and the Convention on the Law of the Sea in its search for energy assets in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean. He said European Union sanctions remain on the table if needed. Cavusoglu defended Turkey’s rights to protect its interests in the region.

In late April, officials from Turkey, Greece and the U.K. -- guarantor powers under the agreement that ended British colonial rule in Cyprus -- joined top Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking Cypriot politicians in Geneva for three days of talks.

Those talks failed to find common ground on how to settle nearly five decades of division of Cyprus, adding to numerous UN-led failed efforts to reunify the island.

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