Erdoğan offends Athens by raising border issue

President Erdoğan, who is currently making the first state visit by a Turkish president to Greece in 65 years, has caused annoyance by proposing a revision of the Treaty of Lausanne. The agreement which dates back to 1923 defines the borders and the relations between the two states. Since then the western section of Thrace, which is home to around 120,000 Muslims descended from Ottoman Turks, has belonged to Greece. What is Erdoğan up to?

Open/close all quotes
Hürriyet Daily News (TR) / 08 December 2017

All just a diversionary tactic?

Hürriyet Daily News is surprised that the Turkish president didn't make any mention of Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital:

“Instead he chose to focus on Lausanne, showing his mastery on how quick he could change the agenda. Perhaps thanks to this manoeuver he tried to maintain a degree of control over the potential anti-U.S. protests that would erupt - which should not go out of control to avoid unwanted consequences - and at the same time caught the Greeks off guard, unanticipated by them as they wanted to focus on migration cooperation and trade instead.”

Naftemporiki (GR) / 08 December 2017

Turkey not relinquishing its territorial claims

Big plans lurk behind Erdoğan's statements, Naftemporiki suspects:

“His interest in the Muslim minority [in Thrace] is based on long-term plans for the region in which Kemalist and neo-Ottoman territorial aspirations coincide. ... When he talks about a grand mufti [to be elected by the Muslims in Thrace] he's making reference to an institution of the Ottoman Empire - in the 21st century, one might add! ... It seems that Erdoğan plans to cast himself as the leader and the father of Muslims. ... His constant references to Thrace only reinforce the suspicion that Turkey is above all seeking to extend its influence and, if the right conditions arise, its territorial sovereignty.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) / 08 December 2017

The old blusterer remains true to himself

On key topics hardly any progress at all has been made by the Turkish and Greek governments, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung laments:

“Erdoğan's visit to his 'friend' Tsipras can't conceal just how little progress has been made on foreign policy. And regarding both the Cyprus question and the conflict over sovereignty in the Aegean Sea there was no rapprochement whatsoever. The arms race between the 'friendly enemies' is in full swing. Also regarding the extradition of soldiers allegedly involved in the failed coup Erdoğan will no doubt go home with empty hands. ... And Erdoğan would not be Erdoğan if he hadn't once again called in an interview given before the visit for a revision of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, in which Athens and Ankara finalised their borders. On that front the old blusterer was every bit his old self.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) / 07 December 2017

Athens is Erdoğan's link with the EU

Erdoğan also had a conciliatory message in his pocket, the Süddeutsche Zeitung stresses:

“Yes, there are differences, but we don't want to escalate them. Above all, however, he made something like an apology for historical injustices - a true concession and a sign that he is very interested in good or at least stable relations with his Greek neighbours. So Erdoğan is attempting a balancing act. On the one hand he must display strength to keep the nationalists at home happy. On the other he is reaching out a hand to Alexis Tsipras on certain particularly awkward points. Ankara has fallen out with many of its close partners in recent times. ... So it can't hurt to defuse conflicts with its closest neighbour - and in this way keep a diplomatic channel with the EU open.”

Milliyet (TR) / 07 December 2017

Turkey can help Greece out of its crisis

Erdoğan's visit provides major opportunities for debt-ridden Greece, Milliyet is confident:

“Greece can't overcome the crisis by implementing the austerity policy prescribed by Germany and the IMF and staying in the Eurozone. ... So the relations between Turkey and Greece should be seen from an entirely new perspective today. Projects like ferry services between Izmir and Thessaloniki, the construction of a high-speed railway link between Istanbul and Thessaloniki or a bridge to the customs points in Kipoi and Ipsala which are all on the agenda with president Erdoğan's visit are a good start. ... Greece's current problems are the problems of all Southern and Eastern European countries, and the first step towards solving them is cooperation with Turkey.”

Libération (FR) / 06 December 2017

President casts himself as father of all Turks

For the Turkish president this trip is the perfect opportunity to polish up his image at home, the Greek author Apostolos Doxiadis writes in Libération:

“Erdoğan is the only one who can hope to benefit from this visit - although any positive effects won't extend beyond Turkey's borders. ... When visiting the Greek region of Thrace on Friday the Turkish president wants to address the Turkish-speaking Muslim minority there. The visit will help him to strengthen his favourite image of himself: that of the 'father of all Turks'. Although he's increasingly isolated in the West and his authoritarianism has been condemned by the European leaders, this trip to Greece provides him with an opportunity to give audiences at home the impression that he continues to maintain good relations 'with Europe'.”

Kathimerini (GR) / 03 December 2017

The region needs respect and trust

Both countries now have a unique chance to improve their relations, Kathimerini admonishes:

“This an opportunity for both sides to tone down their rhetoric and isolate extreme voices in both countries that try to foment discord at any opportunity. A certain level of consensus will, of course, have to be achieved during the powerful leader's stay in the country if we are to avoid any misunderstandings. These are always a risk in the difficult relationship between the two neighbours. Both countries are doomed by geography to coexist. The issue at hand is developing a framework of mutual respect and trust that will allow Greece and Turkey to coexist peacefully in a perilous neighbourhood and an uncertain international climate.”

Phileleftheros (CY) / 02 December 2017

Erdoğan will never change his stance on Cyprus

Erdoğan's visit to Athens is unlikely to bring a breakthrough for Cyprus, Phileleftheros fears:

“Cyprus and the ongoing occupation of the island by Turkey are a permanent thorn in the relations between the two countries. ... It's clear that the dialogue hasn't hurt anyone. Even under the Erdoğan regime, which has no desire to reach an understanding but is solely focussed on its own interests. Athens clearly wants this meeting to produce results. But that doesn't just depend on the Greek side. It takes two to tango. ... There is no optimism regarding the results of this visit because Erdoğan hasn't changed his stance. Instead he's taking an even tougher stance and insisting on pushing through his policies. That's Turkey, and that's Erdoğan for you.”

More current debates

Le Soir (BE)
Financial Times (GB)
Nowaja Gaseta (RU)
Ziare (RO)
Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE)
Ukrayinska Pravda (UA)
Libération (FR)
Der Standard (AT)
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH)
Rzeczpospolita (PL)
Frankfurter Rundschau (DE)
gazeta.ru (RU)