Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Athens, the first such visit to Greece by a Turkish president in 65 years, has gained historical momentum as the agenda of the two countries was opened to the public for the first time ever.
The effort to strengthen the channels of communication between the two countries through joint efforts to resolve bilateral problems was common ground both of the visit and of the relevant (to it) discussions.
During the joint press conference with the Turkish president, Alexis Tsipras described the Treaty of Lausanne as the cornerstone of the ties between Greece and Turkey.
Photo: Spiros Sideris
“In our effort not to hide behind disagreements, we spoke openly with the Turkish president. (Our aim is) to identify them and at the same time extinguish misunderstandings, realise what each other means. We talked about the tension in the Aegean. I stressed that Turkish airspace violations must be terminated. The increased violations of the Greek airspace and especially embroilment in the Aegean Sea pose a danger to our relations and, above all, a danger to our pilots,” the prime minister said, noting that the casus belli threat is not in line with the good climate.
Alexis Tsipras noted that Greece’s position is (to see) a reunified federal Cyprus Republic with no guarantees or foreign troops involved, where Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will live in safety. As Mr. Tsipras said, “this solution should be based on the framework presented by the General Secretary of the UN” and expressed the hope that all sides and Turkey will contribute to the resumption of talks on the Cyprus problem, soon.
Replying to a question by ANA-MPA journalist Nikos Lionakis, that referred to what the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said about the Muslim minority of Thrace, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that “The issues concerning the necessary reforms in Greece, that concern the Greek citizens are not issues under negotiation between the two states.”
“Here we will apply our policy because we want to implement it, as well as our reforms’ programme the reformist, as this concerns an issue of ours and we will realise it,” said the PM, adding: “The Muslim minority in Thrace and the Greek minority in Turkey must be the connecting link between the two countries, what will bring us closer. Our government is especially concerned about Greek Muslim citizens and is particularly sensitive to issues concerning all minorities, the religious ones included.”
The Greek government proposes to Turkey to use the positive momentum for the Greek economy and the forthcoming exit of Greece from the memorandums and help to open a new chapter in Greek-Turkish relations, which will not be based on mutual suspicion but on mutual respect and solidarity, stressed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. At the same time, he expressed the hope that the Turkish side will accept this proposal, because if it does not accept this, it will be detrimental on both peoples, and would also affect Greek-Turkish and Euro-Turkish relations.
“I am glad that after 65 years I am the President of Turkey who makes an official visit to Greece. This place is quite familiar to me; I have visited it as a Prime Minister, but it is the first time I am visit (Greece) as the President of Turkey,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during the joint presser with premier Alexis Tsipras.
“The steps we have made are important, we have also raised issues such as the Supreme Cooperation Council, which was set under my own presidency,” noted Tayyip Erdogan. “Regarding terrorism, we are fighting against blood-thirsty gangs. The counter-terrorism struggle is something Greece knows well,” said Tagip Erdogan, adding that “we acknowledge the support Greece has provided us with on the matter.” “Coup plotters could be handed over to Turkey, a country that has abolished the death penalty, no methods of torture are followed, and I hope that the Greek Justice will come to agree with us”, added the Turkish President.
“The Treaty of Lausanne is a treaty signed by 11 countries. Does it contain provisions for the Aegean only? Is there nothing about the status of the two minorities? In Thrace, we have a Muslim minority, and we believe that we could produce fresh ideas regarding this issue,” the Turkish President pointed out. “The per capita income in Greece is 15,000 euros and in Thrace, 2,000 to 2,500 euros. There is a financial gap. There are issues in Western Thrace, and he stated emphatically that “we do not covet the territorial integrity of any country and (that) of any neighbouring country.”
About the Cyprus issue, Tayyip Erdogan pointed out that “In order to get to reach solid ground, we must move on united” and stressed: “We are motherlands and guarantor powers. We want a permanent and sustainable solution. This is what the Greek side wants, too, but there are last minute issues that can be considered as evasions so that we do not reach a solution.”
The Turkish president also argued that “the issues of the Aegean are knotty, but they could be resolved through talks” and noted: “We have to look at the glass as if it is half full. Move forward and make steady steps.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan also referred to the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “I want to refer to the U.S. President. Israel and the United States are the only countries that talk about Jerusalem regarding it as the capital of Israel. Jerusalem is the spiritual centre of the three great monotheistic religions”, said Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Replying to a (press) question posed by the ANA-MPA, the Turkish President said, “In Western Thrace, the issue related of the Grand Mufti, in my opinion, is a wound to be taken seriously and I believe that the Honorable Prime Minister will help to resolve it.” He pointed out that “we do not disagree that it is an internal issue of Greece, but if we are given permission, we can formulate our plea.”
According to information, during the discussions, it was agreed that, under the high-level supervision of the two leaders, talks about the Measures for building Trust and Safety (MOEA) would resume (with the active participation of the military leadership and the ministerial leadership of the Foreign Ministry) and so will those concerning exploratory talks on the continental shelf.
New measures of co-operation that will contribute to the congestion relief of (Greek) islands (from migrants and refugees) under the EU-Turkey Agreement were also agreed.
Last but not least, leaders reached an agreement on setting up the next Senior Cooperation Council and establishing a Joint Economic Committee as soon as possible . At the same time, it was agreed to promote several infrastructure projects…/IBNA
Photos: Andrea Bonetti, Official photographer of the Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras