Rivals Turkey, Greece hail ‘new era’ in relations, vow to intensify dialogue

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The top diplomats of historic rivals Turkey and Greece on Tuesday hailed a “new era” in relations and vowed to intensify dialogue in the coming months.

The visit by Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis to Ankara came with Turkey seeking to improve its testy relations with Western allies two years into a deep economic crisis.

It follows a rare meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the margins of the NATO summit in Vilnius in July.

Both leaders, coming off difficult election victories, then promised to build on the “positive momentum” of their brief talks.

“We have entered a new and positive era in our relations with Greece,” Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan told a joint news conference with his Greek counterpart.

“We are ready to continue dialogue with our neighbor Greece without any preconditions, and to develop our relations in all fields based on common interests,” Fidan said.

The two NATO members have had troubled relations dating back to the creation of the modern Turkish republic out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire a century ago.

They have long-standing disputes over exploratory drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean, the divided island of Cyprus as well as rival claims over the Aegean Sea.

Greece also frequently accuses Turkey of waving through migrants from across their joint border and at sea.

Ankara in turn accuses Athens of being engaged in illegal pushbacks of migrant boats.

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Gerapetritis said Greece was ready to back Turkey’s recently reaffirmed ambition to join the European Union, provided it meets the required conditions, which include human rights issues.

“We are ready to resolve our differences,” Gerapetritis said.

Erdogan and Mitsotakis are due to meet on the margins of the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings this month.

Although their relations have been strained, Greece became one of the first countries to send a rescue team in the wake of a February earthquake that hit southeastern Turkey, claiming more than 50,000 lives.

Fidan thanked the Greek government on Tuesday and said Turkey was “ready to help” Greece’s weeks-long battle against wildfires.

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