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Turkish president Erdogan calls for border treaty review in Greece visit

The Treaty of Lausanne defines the territory and the sovereignty of Greece, and of the European Union, and this treaty is non-negotiable, said Greek president, Pavlopoulos

7 December 2017, 4:48pm
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reviews the Presidential Guard with Greece's President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (Photo: SF Gate)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reviews the Presidential Guard with Greece's President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (Photo: SF Gate)
A landmark treaty delineating the borders between Greece and Turkey, regarded as a cornerstone of regional peace, should be placed on the rubbish heap of history, according to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The comments from the politician, who rarely travels to Europe, came on the eve of a historic visit to Greece that many had hoped would put bilateral relations on a new footing.

Erdogan’s words drew sharp rebukes from Greece’s president and head of state, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, and prime minister, Alexis Tsipras.

“The Treaty of Lausanne defines the territory and the sovereignty of Greece, and of the European Union, and this treaty is non-negotiable,” Pavlopoulos said as Erdogan sat, surrounded by Greek and Turkish officials.

“It has no flaws, it does not need to be reviewed, or updated,” he added.

The situation intensified when Erdogan insisted that Athens would not have been able to join Nato had it not been for the support of the Turkish government.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras (left) welcomes Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Athens on Thursday. Erdogan's visit is the first by a Turkish president in 65 years (Photo: Getty Images)
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras (left) welcomes Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Athens on Thursday. Erdogan's visit is the first by a Turkish president in 65 years (Photo: Getty Images)
Tsipras said, in subsequent talks, that respect for international law was the basis of solid ties between the two neighbours.

“Differences have always existed and [they exist] today,” the leftist leader said. “It is important … that we express our disagreements in a constructive way, without being provocative.”

Despite the altercation, Erdogan was treated very well upon landing in Greece. 2,800 police officers were deployed around Athens, as a part of a US presidential-level security operation to guard Erdogan.

Elite special force units, including 200 commandos and bomb disposal specialists, were seconded to a surveillance operation in which snipers will be posted on buildings along routes passed by the Turkish leader’s cavalcade.

“We are taking every precaution,” the Greek public order minister, Nikos Toska said.

“The security will be on a level similar to that of Barack Obama’s visit. Every detail has been covered and planned.”

The visit follows the arrests in Athens of nine Turkish nationals charged this week with being members of DHKP-C, a militant Marxist group, which claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Turkey.

Toskas denied that the reinforced security was related, but it has not been ruled out that the suspected terrorists were planning an attack on the Turkish presidential visit.

“The visit comes at an especially delicate time, diplomatically, given mounting criticism of his crackdown on perceived and real participants in the coup and other domestic opponents,” said Hubert Faustmann, professor of history and political science at the University of Cyprus.

The buffer zone divides the Greek south of Cyprus from the Turkish north (Photo: Getty images)
The buffer zone divides the Greek south of Cyprus from the Turkish north (Photo: Getty images)
The history of Greek-Turkish relations

Relations between the two countries have been strained for a long time, as hostility can be traced back to the subjugation of the Greeks under Ottoman rule, before a war of independence initiated in 1821, which led to the creation of the modern Greek state in 1830.

Conflicts ensued, most notably in 1922, when the Greek army suffered a defeat in Asia minor, prompting an exchange of populations and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.

The two came close to war in 1996, over a group of uninhabited isles in the Aegean Sea.

Most recently, tensions resurfaced over Greece’s frontier role in the refugee crisis, failed talks to reunify Cyprus and according to officials in Athens, Turkey’s repeated violations of Greek naval and air space in the Aegean Sea.

According to the defence ministry, more than 3,000 airspace violations have taken place this year, more than any other time since 2003.

Erdogan’s open questioning of the peace treaty that forged the boundaries of the two states in 1923 have made tensions rise even further.

 “What we anticipate is a substantive upgrade of our relationship with Turkey… We expect very constructive talks,” said the Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos.

Aegean Sea tensions, economic relations, the refugee crisis, transport and trade would top the agenda, he added.