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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is set to visit Ankara on Monday to test the five-month-old friendship initiative between long-time foes Turkey and Greece. The two NATO members have agreed to set aside their disputes and focus on trade, energy, cultural ties, and other positive agenda items. Mitsotakis will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara to discuss ways to expand the positive agenda and seek win-win solutions in areas such as trade, tourism, and migration.

Both leaders have sharp differences over the Israeli-Hamas war but are working to maintain stability in the eastern Mediterranean while conflict continues in Ukraine. The visit aims to improve ties following the solidarity Athens showed Ankara after a devastating earthquake hit southern Turkey last year. Erdogan visited Athens in December, and the two countries have been promoting fence-mending initiatives such as educational exchanges and tourism. Turkish citizens can now visit 10 Greek islands this summer with on-the-spot visas, facilitating improved economic relations and bringing the two societies closer together.

Over the past five decades, disagreements over maritime borders, resource exploration rights, and the Cyprus issue have brought Athens and Ankara close to war several times. The two countries are also in conflict over the exploration of energy resources, leading to a naval standoff in 2020. Despite these disputes, relations between the two countries thawed last year, leading to meetings between Erdogan and Mitsotakis. The foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece are set to join the upcoming talks between the two leaders.

Recent disagreements between the two countries include Turkey converting a former Byzantine-era church in Istanbul into a mosque, drawing criticism from Greece. Greece’s plans to declare areas in the Ionian and Aegean seas as marine parks have also been objected to by Turkey, as some areas in the Aegean remain disputed. Both Turkey and Greece could focus on restoring derelict Ottoman monuments in Greece and Greek Orthodox monuments in Turkey as a way to improve ties. Despite the ongoing disagreements, both sides aim to maintain open channels of communication and avoid escalating tensions during disagreements.

Both Mitsotakis and Erdogan are looking for ways to improve ties and expand their positive agenda during the upcoming visit. Efforts to find areas of mutual benefit, such as trade, tourism, and migration, are key priorities for the two leaders. The ongoing friendship initiative aims to set aside decades of mutual animosity, tense borders, and disputed waters in favor of building a stronger relationship based on common interests and cooperation. As the two leaders meet in Ankara, they will seek to navigate past disputes and focus on finding solutions that benefit both countries.

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