On the first day of his historic visit to Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan touched on contentious issues between the two countries, especially the Treaty of Lausanne, the common borders and the Cyprus file.
In a news conference with his Greek counterpart, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Erdogan said that some details of the Treaty of Lausanne, which delineated Turkey’s modern borders in 1923, were not clear.
He called for durable solutions to issues related to the Aegean Sea and Cyprus. But the Greek president insisted on excluding the idea of revising the treaty, saying: “The Treaty of Lausanne defines the territory and the sovereignty of Greece and of the European Union and this treaty is for us non-negotiable. It has no flaws, it does not need to be reviewed, or to be updated.”
Erdogan pointed out that Muslims in the western Thrace region were not able to choose their Mufti, while the Christian communities in Turkey enjoyed greater freedom when choosing their patriarchs.
The Turkish president also touched on the divided island of Cyprus. “Our aim is to find a permanent and fair solution on Cyprus, and find the same in the Aegean,” he said.
Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that issues raised by Erdogan about the Treaty of Lausanne were cause for concern, adding that Greece hoped that the visit of the Turkish president would be an “opportunity to build bridges, not walls.”
Erdogan also met on Thursday with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
In remarks following the meeting, he underlined the need to base negotiations on positivity and common traits.
“Turkey and Greece should no longer see the glass as half empty but rather look at the full side,” the Turkish president said.
“We should base our negotiations on [such an understanding]. There are many common traits between our people, as long as we put aside those who have ideological obsessions… We are countries that have lived in each other’s pockets in the past. If we can establish a common discourse and wisdom, we can get rid of our problems,” he added.
In response, Tsipras highlighted the need to “focus on common ground rather than disputes between us.”