Turk­ish re­la­tions sour

Pres­i­dent pro­vokes Greek hosts with de­mand for re­de­fined bor­ders

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation & World - Niki Kit­san­to­nis and Car­lotta Gall, The New York Times

ATHENS, Greece — Turkey’s pres­i­dent made a land­mark visit to Greece on Thurs­day, but any ex­pec­ta­tion for im­proved re­la­tions was quickly de­flated by his call for changes to an in­ter­na­tional treaty that de­fines the bor­ders be­tween the coun­tries.

The visit by Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan was not his first — he had vis­ited Greece twice be­fore as prime min­is­ter — but it was the first by a Turk­ish pres­i­dent in 65 years.

With Turkey’s re­la­tions with Europe and the United States de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, there had been hopes that Er­do­gan’s visit might por­tend closer re­la­tions with Greece and greater sta­bil­ity in the re­gion.

In­stead, Er­do­gan pro­voked his hosts even be­fore land­ing in Athens. In an in­ter­view pub­lished in the Greek daily

Kathimerini on Thurs­day, he sug­gested an “up­date” of the 1923 Treaty of Lau­sanne, which de­fined Turkey’s bor­ders with neigh­bor­ing coun­tries af­ter World War I.

He re­peated the de­mand at a tense, tele­vised news con­fer­ence with his Greek coun­ter­part, Pres­i­dent Prokopis Pavlopou­los.

“There are out­stand­ing is­sues with the Treaty of Lau­sanne and mat­ters that have not been ad­dressed cor­rectly,” Er­do­gan said. It should be “up­dated,” he added.

Pavlopou­los, clearly un­com­fort­able, coun­tered that the treaty was “non­nego­tiable.”

Greek news me­dia con­demned the Turk­ish leader’s stance as “provoca­tive” and “un­prece­dented.”

Er­do­gan has been rais­ing the is­sue of the Lau­sanne Treaty since last year’s failed coup, call­ing it un­fair, a pub­lic stance that is con­sid­ered provoca­tive not only to­ward Greece, but even in Turkey be­cause it ques­tions the very le­git­i­macy of the repub­lic that was es­tab­lished on the foun­da­tions of the treaty.

He has in­sisted that the treaty is un­fair be­cause it handed is­lands close to Turkey’s shores to Greece. He also re­ferred to Greece’s Mus­lim mi­nor­ity as a “Turk­ish mi­nor­ity,” a term re­garded in Greece as sug­gest­ing ter­ri­to­rial as­pi­ra­tions.

Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras told him that he was ea­ger to “build bridges, not raise walls,” and he stressed the need for “re­spect for in­ter­na­tional law, treaties and of the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of coun­tries.”

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