Greek, Turkish leaders speak after months of tension

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The leaders of Greece and Turkey spoke by phone Friday, the prime minister’s office says, after months of increasing tension between the two countries.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan focused on the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and issues relating to the reopening of borders and tourist visits after the end of lockdowns triggered by the virus, Mitsotakis’ office said.

The two “agreed to maintain bilateral channels of communication open,” it said in a statement.

Tension has been high between the two neighbors and NATO allies in recent months. Greece has accused Turkey of using migrants to pressure Greece, after Ankara declared in late February that Turkey’s borders to the European Union were open to all those who wanted to cross.

Thousands of migrants gathered at Turkey’s border with Greece, demanding to be allowed in. Similar scenes didn’t play out on Turkey’s border with EU member Bulgaria.

Greece and Turkey are also at loggerheads over oil and gas exploration rights in the Mediterranean and over territorial issues in the Aegean Sea dividing the two countries. The two have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s.

According to official in Athens with knowledge of the discussions, the two leaders didn’t discuss anything related to the disputes, but agreed that the level of tension was too high and that direct communication at the highest level would be helpful and should continue.

Discussions focused on broader talks within the EU on the access of nationals from third countries when borders open to tourists. The official said Greece doesn’t in principle object to supporting Turkey’s inclusion in the list of countries that would have access.

The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the details of the call, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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