Recep Tayyip Erdogan – the first Turkish President to visit Greece in 65 years – and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Thursday showed the will to round up their historical differences and to continue their cooperation on refugees and the economy.
“I invite you to open together a new chapter in Greek-Turkish relations, which will not be based on provocations (…) but on the construction of a bridge between the two countries,” Tsipras said. a press conference after close to two hours of talks with the Turkish President.
A dismissal of this proposal would have repercussions “not only on Franco-Turkish relations but also on relations between Turkey and Europe,” said Tsipras.
Ankara and Athens have been cooperating closely since the March 2016 pact with the EU, which has significantly reduced the number of refugees arriving in Greece from the Turkish coast.
However, the Turkish President again complained Thursday that “the promises of the European Union have not yet been made in (economic) aid (…) while we meet our commitments” in relation to the pact.
– ‘Update’ –
As early as Wednesday night, eyebrows gathered in Athens for the broadcast of an interview with Erdogan on Greek TV Skai, in which he called for “the revision of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty” which governs the borders in Europe and Europe. Middle East.
“We need an update, in this treaty there are outstanding issues and incomprehensible things, it was signed 94 years ago”, repeated Mr. Erdogan upon his arrival in an interview with the President of the Greek Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
“The treaty is not negotiable, it needs neither revision nor update,” Mr. Pavlopoulos retorted firmly.
Signed from 11 countries, belonging to the then Europe, to the Balkans, as well as Japan, the Treaty of Lausanne defines the borders not only between Greece and Turkey, but also in Cyprus, Syria, Jordan and other countries in the Middle East, an unstable region where Turkey has crucial interests.
Erdogan took advantage of the interview in Skai to also ask for an “improvement” in Turkish and Greek air and sea space measures in the Aegean Sea, another point of contention.
Finally, everyone has shown a willingness to move forward. During the press conference with Tsipras, Erdogan explained that Turkey “does not covet the territorial integrity of any country”, and announced that the two countries will “relaunch the dialogue on the construction of confidence in the Aegean “.
Tsipras said that “the visit of the Turkish President comes at a time when we face challenges in our region, the crisis in Syria (…), the tension between Turkey and the EU, and must build a dialogue “.
– Court decisions –
“You have to see the glass half full,” Erdogan finally agreed, stressing also the need to continue the dialogue to find solutions to the most difficult problems: Cyprus and the delimitation of the continental shelf in the Aegean Sea.
The Turkish president, however, lamented that the rights of the Muslim minority in Thrace, in the north-west of Greece, 120,000 strong, “are not respected under the Treaty of Lausanne.” Athens continues to name the muftis, religious leaders of this minority, and “do not let the minority do it”, he regretted.
Mr Erdogan, who had already been to Greece as Prime Minister, in 2004 and 2010, will go to Thrace on Friday.
After several decades of heated reports that nearly degenerated into clashes in 1996, the thaw came in Greece and Turkey began in 1999 when the first helped the second after an earthquake that devastated Istanbul.
But their relations came under renewed tension last year when Greek justice refused to extradite eight soldiers who had taken refuge in Greece in the aftermath of the failed coup against Erdogan.
“As in any European country, we must respect the rulings of justice,” said Tsipras to his interlocutor.