A closely watched meeting between new Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and powerful Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan took place on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in Manhattan, touching on the resurgent migrant crisis in the Aegean as well as the long-standing Cyprus issue.
A surge in the number of third country nationals being ferried over to a handful of Greek isles by smuggling rings operating in western Turkey has been recorded over the past month, with the Mitsotakis government promising to use military assets to better patrol sea lanes and to streamline the asylum process, whereby foreign nationals that illegally enter Greece and are denied asylum are quickly deported.
The meeting lasted for 45 minutes and was attended by aides and ministers accompanying the two leaders, with the Greek side’s “spin” immediately afterwards saying the talks were held “in a good climate” and with “several personal references” made.
The meeting, essentially the inaugural one-on-one contacts between the center-right Greek prime minister and the authoritarian Turkish president, officially yielded at least one result, namely, the activation of a supreme council for Greek-Turkish cooperation, with either side’s foreign ministers tasked with preparing such a summit.
The long-standing Cyprus issue was also discussed, in the wake of continued Turkish saber-rattling and outright threats against the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus. Ankara has been trying to block and deter hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation in Cyprus’ EEZ for several years.
Leaks by the Greek delegation merely noted that Mitsotakis and his ministers reiterated Athens’ support for the island republic, while repeating a recent proposal by Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades to fairly distribute a share of the hydrocarbon profits between the two communities (Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot) on the island.