Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged Thursday to open a “new era” in relations with historic rival Greece as he opened his first official visit to Athens since 2017.
“I believe that the Turkey-Greece strategic cooperation meeting will lead to a new era” in relations, Erdogan told Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, adding that “we need to be optimistic, and this optimism will be fruitful in the future.”
In meetings with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and President Sakellaropoulou during a five-hour visit, the Turkish leader is expected to discuss trade, regional issues, and the perennially thorny issue of migration.
Ankara has served as a migration bulwark since a 2016 deal with the European Union, which Mitsotakis and fellow EU leaders hope to update.
A retinue of diplomats accompanying Erdogan is also broaching with Greek counterparts the longstanding issue of Greek-Turkish territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea.
Erdogan has questioned century-old treaties that set out Aegean sovereignty, and Turkish and Greek warplanes regularly engage in mock dogfights in disputed airspace.
Last year, he accused Greece of “occupying” Aegean islands and threatened: “As we say, we may come suddenly one night.”
But relations have improved since February, when Greece sent rescuers and aid to Turkey after a massive earthquake killed at least 50,000 people.