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Greece finally abandons defeatist policy and tells Erdogan how the wind blows

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was self-confident and determined when he went on board of the airplane for an official visit to Greece. The first visit of a Turkish president to Athens after 65 years was supposed to be historical and groundbreaking for the bilateral relations. But Erdogan got the whole visit wrong. In an interview to a Greek outlet a day before his visit he set aside diplomatic red lines and unfolded the agenda he had in mind with his Greek hosts: the Lausanne Treaty should be updated, he said, and asked for more rights for the Muslim Minority in Thrace which he considers as “our Turkish brothers”. He complained about “some islands in the Aegean Sea” and the air space Greek FIR and claimed there should also be revisions “in the measurements.”

He is invited to Greece and tells his hosts that he wants to change the borders between the two countries? A grave mistake.

A grave mistake because the Greek government had decided to not push this provocation under the red welcome carpet and immediately respond to him, right there, in front of Greek, Turkish and international cameras and journalists. An open and transparent tit for tat strategy, a bold move on the Greek side that stunned locals and foreigners who were following the meetings live.

Finally, Greeks had gotten rid of their decades-long defeatist approach to Turkey and told bylling Erdogan how the wind blows.

First, it was the President of the Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who put his fingers on the open wounds and told Erdogan right after the welcome ceremony that the Lausanne Treaty was non-negotiable.

The Turkish president felt obviously cornered to have to discuss issues with his Greek counterpart in front of the cameras. This does not happen during official visits, where state normally exchange diplomatic niceties and argued behind closed doors.

“Short reckonings make long friends,” Pavlopoulos told Erdogan and I must admit i thought I have never heard such a clear message in the long years of covering and folloing official visits.

What it looked as a faux pas by Pavlopoulos as he gave Erdogan the opportunity to speak out about the Turkish claims inside the Presidential Manor turned out to be the new Greek strategy: Talk about everything in front of the journalists and the people and clearly tell the choleric Turkish president that his demands are unacceptable.

The torture continued at the meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. At the joint press conference, Tsipras stressed the need to end Turkish airspace violations in the Aegean, adding that retaining Turkey’s casus belli threat against Greece (if the latter should choose to extend its territorial waters to 12 miles) is inconsistent with cultivating a good climate between the two countries.

On the issue of the Muslim minority and Erdogan’s claims, Tsipras made clear that the members of the minority are Greek citizens and their rights or needed reforms were “a domestic issue.”

The Greek Prime Minister spoke of “freedom of religion” in the country and said that in contrast to Turkey that holds Muslim prayers in Agia Sofia “we do not try to hold Greek Orthodox messes in mosques,”

Tsipras did not hesitate to speak about another issue that poisons the bilateral relations: Cyprus. “The Cyprus issue remains open because 43 years ago there was an illegal invasion and occupation of [northern] Cyprus” Tsipras said in front of a grimy looking Erdogan.

On the Lausanne Treaty revision, he urged Erdogan “Let’s go seek Japan!” as it was one of the 11 countries that signed the Treaty in 1923.

Tsipras told clearly Erdogan that Greece does not have expansion aspirations to other countries.

To Erdogan’s complain that “Muftis in Thrace are appointed and not elected as the members of the Patriarchate in Istanbul,” Athens explained to him that “muftis do not excersice religious duties only but they also function as judges.”

What Erdogan said to his Greek interlocutors is not of great significance. He has been saying the same things all the time.

Throughout the day, the atmosphere was frosty. Erdogan’s wife, Emine, unexpectedly cancelled a visit to the Acropolis Museum. A literally last minute cancellation due to a – diplomatic ? – sickness, while Tsipras’ partner Betty Baziana was already at the meeting point.

The two ladies shared a tea and exchanged present in the Grande Bretagne Hotel where the Turkish guests were staying.

Emine Erdogan was fit to attend the official dinner.

Frozen faces, while President Pavlopoulos speaks at the official dinner.

As I write this post it is not clear whether Emine Erdogan visited a charity together with Pavlopoulos’ wife scheduled for Friday morning or if she was ‘sick’ again. Or in a hurry to leave Athens together with her husband – and never return.

Friday morning Turkish President Erdogan, his wife and his huge entourage got on board of their airplane and left for Thrace. Half an hour earlier than scheduled. The Turkish guests are on a private visit to the Muslim Minority. Greek diplomacy has forbidden open gatherings and holding of Turkish flags during the President’s visit.

The Muslim minority in the North-East region of Greece consist to 1/3 of Turkish speaking folks who were exempted from the population exchange of Lausanne Treaty, to 1/3 of Pomaks, Slavic Muslims mainly from Bulgaria, and to 1/3 of Roma.

According to unconfirmed information, buses full with Turks were to travel from Bursa and other Turkish cities to Thrace in order to make it possible for Erdogan to turn his visit in the area into a nationalist show.

Let him do it. The next Turkish president to visit Greece will be in 1065 years.

And then this lol!

But nothing compared to this!

PS Erdogan could have used his visit to Athens to come closer to European Union that has broadly isolated him since beginning of the year. He did not. He felt much too self-confidence. A grave mistake.

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6 comments

  1. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    Whereas the government’s strategy will please most Greeks other than the Muslim Minority and leading Greek intellectuals who actually know what they are talking about, it offers nothing new. The fact is that there are problems with the muftis as state agents, when Turkey modernised its own system about 50 years ago. The fact is that there are ambiguities about unoccupied islands in the Aegean and their putative ownership. The fact is that the Muslim Minority are desperately poor, as a result of being ostracised by all Greek governments since 1923.

    So Tsipras dug his heels in, in public, and refused to discuss anything. Big deal. Let’s see how that works with the eurozone: last time, it failed miserably. Greece needs to develop new policies and push them through — not refuse to change anything, as it always does.

  2. The was no point at all for Erdogan’s visit. Greece should demand an apology from Erdogan and cancel his state visit as a persona non grata after his comments.

  3. There’s no ambiguities at all about islands, it’s all crystal clear in the various treaties. Turkey got a smell of hydrocarbons and now wish to dispute and provoke.

    The Muslim Minorities are allegedly poor, by what measure and why? Because Erdoğan says so? Turkey is the North Korea of the Middle East so i would not take anything they say seriously. What has it got to with him anyhow? They’re not Turks, he doesn’t care about his own people but cares so deeply about the Greek muslims. What sort of statesman in recent history offended the host country to such a extent

    I’m glad pavlopoulos put him in his place and to a lesser extent Tsipras did too. Pavlopoulos is a lawyer, and a university professor that specialise in constitutional law. It was pleasant watching him at work.

    Greek Muslims are ostracised how ? Do they want more handouts ? Why exactly is it government fault. You want money you work, it’s quite simple. The Greeks who lived in villages what did they do ? They work, they leave to where there are more job oppportunites, live off the land or create a business. If figures are accurate it’s simply because they don’t wish to work or are falsifying income.

  4. Andrew Psarommatis

    Come on now we should love our Turkish neighbours. Forgive and forget. Whilst we are at it let’s cancel 25th March Independence day parades. Also let’s support the ethnic Greek members of the Turkish parliament. Surely we have at least one who represents the 1 or 2 thousand Greeks left in Turkey?

  5. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    More crap from Golden Toilet, I see. The 1923 border definitions do not even consider the Dodecanese Islands to be Greek, let alone the problem of unoccupied islands. Both Turkey and Greece have potential oil exploration on their minds, so the debate is not skewed by that fact.

    The Muslim Minority is desperately poor by Greek and EU measurements — nothing to do with Erdogan. You need to learn a little about your own country, since it seems Erdogan knows more than you do. Some of the Minority are Turkish, but most are Greek Muslims who have been ignored by Greek society since 1923 and are bitter about it. Many of them have started learning Turkish as a way out of their bad position in Greece, even though they are not ethnic Turks. This is the stupidity of Greek politicians.

    Pavlopoulos could not put a wet fish in its place. As for his alleged ability in legal studies, I will not even bother to comment.

    As for your last paragraph, again you appear ignorant of the history of modern Greece. Why do you think the population converged on Athens throughout the 20th century? Because it was such a successful local economy, with millions of jobs in industry and private economic activity? LOL. They came to Athens to get handouts, jobs through political connections, and state employment that was handed out not on the basis of merit, but through personal and political patronage. The Muslim Greeks were excluded, considered second class citizens by most Greeks and by the Greek State. They have every right to be angry about their treatment.

  6. Must be golden dawn if you don’t agree or can’t argue with facts. The cause of all worlds problems isn’t golden dawn marty.
    As I said the various treaties which include 1923 lausseane treaty, the Italy and turkey convention 1932 and Paris peace treaty 1947 which gave Dodecanese islands to Greece. The 1932 convention even names Imia as Italian. The entire 1996 Imia incident, was a provocation with Greece having Meteorological instrumentation on Imia and Greeks using island for goat herding
    There is nothing ambiguous but just like
    yourself , you can always find a excuse to argue if you don’t agree.

    Our Muslim brothers choose their direction in life, you can whine and moan or create your own opportunities. That’s the defeatist attitude that keeps them there. Instead of lets get educated and learn English, leave and work elsewhere in Greece and abroad , no let’s learn Turkish to get back at Greeks.
    If that isn’t the most moronic thing I’ve heard I dont know what is I’m sure they have multiple children but love blaming “the man” for all their problems

    Pavlopoulos isnt my hero and I’m not sure of his legal ability but in this instance he put erdogan in his place with his aides giving him hand written notes to respond. Must be tough to respond with facts and think on your feet instead of the usual verbal diarrhea from his mouth

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