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Greece, Turkey Vow 'Confidence' Measures Despite Lingering Disputes

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said it is important to broaden channels of communication with Turkey, as long-standing disputes continue to plague relations between the two NATO members.

Tsipras made the comments in Athens on December 7 during a two-day state visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- the first to Greece by a Turkish head of state in 65 years.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Tsipras said that "we are undergoing a critical period in our neighborhood. A period of tension in European-Turkish relations, a period of worrying developments in our region, in the Middle East, and in Europe."

"In this period, we believe it is as important as ever that we boost our channels of communication. We can only do this based on mutual respect," he said.

The Greek prime minister said that the two countries agreed to begin "confidence-building measures" and resume talks on security measures to "do away with misunderstandings."

The two countries have long been regional rivals and have occasionally appeared on the brink of war with each other.

During a joint news conference with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Erdogan insisted that the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne setting out Turkey's borders was not being fairly applied and should be revised.

Pavlopoulos bluntly rejected any changes to the pact, saying: "This treaty, to us, is not negotiable, this treaty does not have any gaps, does not need a review nor an update. This treaty is valid as it is."

Erdogan also accused Greece of harboring eight soldiers that Ankara says were involved in plotting last year's failed coup against the Turkish government.

Athens has rejected an extradition request, saying it is not clear they would receive a fair trial in Turkey.

The Turkish president also called for an improvement in the status of 100,000 ethnic Turks living in northern Greece.

In addition, a peace deal remains elusive over the island state of Cyprus, which has an ethnic Greek majority but has been divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion in response to a military coup backed by Athens.

Erdogan said Turkey wanted to create a lasting solution on the island, but claimed Greek Cypriots were avoiding talks

Greece, meanwhile, complained that Turkey has repeatedly violated its air space and naval territory.

Speaking on Greek TV later in the day, Erdogan said the two countries should leave mistakes of the past behind them and build their relationship on "firmer ground."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, the BBC, and Ekathimerini