Speaking at a joint press conference with his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday during a visit to Athens, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the first by a Turkish president to Greece in 65 years, said ethnic Turks living in the Western Thrace region were being discriminated against, whereas the Greeks in Turkey boasted greater privileges.
"The necessary support should be given to those living in Western Thrace. They are being discriminated against," he said.
He stated that the Muslims in the Greek border region were not allowed to elect their chief mufti, whereas such a situation does not exist in the Patriarchate in Turkey, which is a violation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
“There isn’t discrimination against Turkish citizens of Greek origin, but even writing of the word ‘Turkish’ is not allowed in Western Thrace. We need to address such issues.
“How can you assert that the Treaty of Lausanne is still in effect? Then Lausanne is not in effect. We need to prove Lausanne’s applicability by doing this," said Erdoğan.
Additionally, Erdoğan said Greece would not be able to enter NATO without Turkey’s support, but that Turkey did not take advantage of this and considered Greece as a neighbor.
The election of muftis has been a problem for the Turkish Muslim minority situated in Greece’s Western Thrace border region since 1991. The problem was covered by the 1913 Treaty of Athens, as well as 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which also guarantees the religious freedoms of Turks in Greece. However Greece started appointing muftis itself in 1991.
About 145,000 Muslim Turks live in the Western Thrace region in Greece.
Second presidential visit to Greece in Turkish history
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become first Turkish president to visit Greece in 65 years.President Celal Bayar was last Turkish head of state to pay official visit to Greece in November 1952. Earlier that year, King Paul and Queen Frederica visited Turkey.Erdoğan, who last visited Greece as prime minister in 2010, was invited by President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to pay a two-day visit.He will also meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and ethnic Turks in Western Thrace.Negative past between Turkey, Greece is history nowWhat’s on the agendaTurkey and Greece established a High-Level Cooperation Council in 2010, which was last held in Izmir in March 2016 when Tsipras and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım signed 54 cooperation agreements.Next council meeting expected to be held in Thessaloniki, Greece.Erdoğan expected to discuss future cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism, trade, transport, energy, tourism, culture, Cyprus, migration. Issues affecting minorities in both countries, Turkey’s relationship with EU also due to be mentioned. Ethnic Turkish lawmakers in GreeceGreece’s 2015 general election saw four Turkish-Greek lawmakers returned to parliament.Three - Ayhan Karayusuf, Mustafa Mustafa, Huseyin Zeybek - represent Tsipras’s Syriza coalition.Syriza came first in Rhodope, Western Thrace, home to significant Turkish community.Ilhan Ahmet, of The River party, was elected in Western Thrace’s Xanthi.Projects on tableThree planned projects will boost economic, transport ties between neighbors.One focuses on passenger, goods ferries between Izmir, Thessaloniki. Another is a high-speed rail link between Istanbul, Thessaloniki. Third is construction of a river bridge between Kipoi in Greece, Turkey’s Ipsala.Economic relationsAccording to Turkish Central Bank, direct investment from Greece to Turkey was $6.9 billion between 2002 and August 2017. Turkish investment in Greece was $200 million over same period.Trade volume fell by 47 percent in four years to $2.6 billion in 2016, down from $4.9 billion in 2012, according to Turkish Statistical Institute.Decline mainly due to drop in Greek exports, which fell 66.5 percent to $1.2 billion, while Turkish exports to Greece rose 1.8 percent to $1.4 billion.Turkey is fourth largest market for Greece exports, 12th largest importer to Greek market.Latest bilateral visitsYıldırım, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan paid working visit to Athens in June.Greek-born Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavusoglu visited in November, when he met ethnic Turks in Komotini, his hometown.Pavlopoulos attended May’s Black Sea Economic Cooperation in Istanbul to mark organization’s 25th anniversary.Greek Economy Minister Dimitri Papadimitriou attended Aegean Economic Forum in Izmir in October.Also in October, Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias paid working visit to Ankara.
Negative past between Turkey, Greece is history now
Greek people should know that negative relations between Turkey and Greece is history now, says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Wednesday, according to a Greek channel.Speaking to Greece’s local broadcaster Skai TV ahead of his visit to the country on Thursday, Erdoğan touched bilateral relations between Turkey and Greece.Recalling his discussion with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras about FETO fugitives in Greece, he said that the Greek PM said he would “extradite the coup plotters in 15-20 days”.“Unfortunately, these [coup plotters] are still in Greece. We need to follow these very carefully,” Erdoğan said, adding that if there is this kind of action against Greece, we also must seize them and extradite them to Greece.“Justice delayed is justice denied,” he added and said that this is the delayed justice.“There are few countries that we have done it in a very quick manner, but we couldn’t do it with Greece.”Touching the recent issues with the U.S., he said that the two countries need to control the developments in Syria and Iraq together.“We also discussed this over the phone calls, but there is no progress yet.”Erdoğan also added that Turkey is negotiating with Russia about the issue and both countries are taking positive steps and will continue doing so.He delivered a message to the Greek people: “You should know that negative relations between Turkey and Greece has become a history now. Now, there are two countries that make a high level strategic council agreement, and establish relations on it... Trust and stability are our two most important principles.”He also called upon both Turkish and Greek societies to show affection and peace to each other, developing solidarity with those feelings.When asked about updating the Treaty of Lausanne, which set the modern borders between Greece and Turkey, Erdoğan stated that in fact, all agreements made in the world must be updated in the course of time.“Lausanne also needs to be updated in the light of all these developments. This update would be useful not only for Turkey but also for Greece.”He also added that this update may strengthen the two countries friendship and security.Erdoğan pointed out that distances between some islands in the Aegean are very distressing, and said:”We need to overcome these. There are problems in the measurement of the airspace, the sea, and the continental shelf related to these.”“If there is mutual self-sacrifice, I would say that we would overcome this thing much more comfortably,” he added.He also said that Turkish ships’ cruise on the Aegean Sea is impossible and this is not something bearable.President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the first Turkish president to visit Greece in decades, with his two-day official visit to the country.Earlier in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras described the first presidential visit from Turkey to the Mediterranean country in 65 years as "a chance to take bold steps forward".