War in Ukraine puts differences between Greece and Turkey 'on ice'

Turkey and Greece are working to keep a lid on the still persistent tensions between them in order to protect the unified front within NATO and the European Union (E.U.), the Greek daily Ekathimerini reported on Sunday. 

The two neighbours are both members of NATO and they have each condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine that began on February 24, but shared opposition has not prevented their own disagreements from puncturing the aura of unity. But a recent meeting last week between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis signaled an interest in tabling these disputes for now. 

When Mitsotakis arrived in Istanbul on March 13 to meet with Erdoğan, the focus of their conversation was centered around the war in Ukraine. According to the Greek Reporter, the duo agreed to reduce tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean where their relationship has been challenged by competing maritime claims and previous aggressive posturing by Turkey in the region. 

Turkey and Greece each maintained robust economic relations with Russia before the war, but have pursued different responses to the crisis. After the war began, Greece quickly moved to back Ukraine and support the positions of NATO and the European Union (E.U.) to sanction Russia, earning Moscow’s ire. In contrast, Turkey has refused to join in on sanctions against Russia and has actively advocated for both sides to accept Turkish mediation of the conflict. 

On March 24, a NATO summit is scheduled to focus on how to confront Russia and support Ukraine. Erdoğan has already indicated that he will attend the meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, but it is unclear if he will hold another meeting with Mitsotakis. Whether he will meet with other world leaders like U.S. President Joe Biden has not yet been confirmed.

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