Tsipras’ visit to Turkey puts all issues of Greek-Turkish relations on the table, not just the refugee crisis

Tsipras’ visit to Turkey puts all issues of Greek-Turkish relations on the table, not just the refugee crisis

Ankara, November 12, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

Erdogan and Davutoglu will have already discussed the refugee crisis with Obama, Merkel and Putin

By Manolis Kostidis

Athens highlights the refugee problem as a key issue of the visit of Tsipras Alexis in Turkey, and there are expectations for “EU-Turkey contacts”, from Ankara’s point of view however, the visit of the Greek Prime Minister is seen as an opportunity to include in the agenda other issues as well that concern the Greek-Turkish relations.

Besides, devil is in the detail, and Ankara showcases bilateral relations as the first issue in the agenda.

Different priorities in the announcements!

The communication issued by the Office of the Greek prime minister speaks of a working visit that “will focus on international and regional developments – with emphasis on the Refugee crisis – and bilateral relations”, while the announcement of Ahmet Davutoglu’s office stresses that “in addition to bilateral relations, there will be discussion on regional and international issues”, without making specific reference to the refugee problem.

On the issue of Syrian refugees, Turkey stresses that it already hosts 2.2 million refugees from Syria, with Recep Tayyip Erdogan having already reached an initial agreement with Angela Merkel during her visit in Istanbul in October.

Ankara, however, has marked the accusations made by Alexis Tsipras against Turkey in an interview with Bild last week, in which he said that “the refugees should stay in Turkey. For drama (of the refugees) responsible is Tirkey”.

Athens is quick to reject the notion of joint patrols, but Turkey wants some kind of close cooperation on the refugee wave and at every opportunity its officials say that it is almost impossible to completely control all the coastline along their coasts.

During Tsipras’ visit however, there will be discussions on bilateral relations as well. And Turkey expects discussions to touch “all aspects of bilateral relations”, such as the process of exploratory contacts on the continental shelf, and the Cyprus issue.

Back to the football era of George Papandreou

However, the Greek-Turkish relations at the level of impressions seem to return to the era of George Papandreou. In October 2002, as foreign minister, he had visited Istanbul and watched with his Turkish counterpart, Şükrü Sina Gürel, in the ‘Şükrü Saraçoğlu stadium, the football match Fenerbahçe-Panathinaikos.

Now Alexis Tsipras will visit Istanbul and will sit next to Ahmet Davutoglu to watch the friendly football match Turkey-Greece to be held at the ‘Fatih Terim’ stadium at the Βahçeşehir region. This stadium has a capacity of 17,000 spectators, and is located on the European shore, several kilometers away from the center of Istanbul.

The Greek prime minister on the morning of November 18, will visit Fanar and will meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, while soon after that he will travel to Ankara to meet with his Turkish counterpart there.

Later he will visit the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The meeting will probably take place at the Ak Saray palace, the residence of the Turkish president, which has caused numerous debates in Turkey.

Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias, had visited the Turkish capital in May 2014 and had met both with the Turkish prime minister and Erdogan.

Davutoglu and Erdogan will have already discussed the refugee crisis with Obama, Putin and Merkel

Ahmet Davutoglu and Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan before their meeting with Alexis Tsipras will have contacts with the 19 most powerful world leaders at the summit of G-20 to be held on November 15-16 in Antalya. Among the participants will be Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel.

Officially, the topic of the summit will be investments, climate change, but it is considered that “terrorism and the refugee crisis” will also be in the agenda.