There has been a lot of public discussion whether the time was right for the visit of the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Greece.
Alexia Tasouli Reporting from Athens exclusive for Sigma Insight
Turkey’s difficult relations with a number of European Union members as well with United States raised questions whether Athens would pay a service to its neighbors without any return.
There was a debate whether Greece should secure something in exchange as it gave Turkish president a European stage.
The truth is that there are open discussion issues on the Aegean, on Cyprus, on the Muslim (Turkish) minority in Thrace as well as the illegal migration and the extradition of the eight military officers accused by Turkey of taking part in last year’s failed coup.
So the question was raised: Why did Erdoğan come? What did Greece gain from this visit?
I believe that there has never been – in the past 65 years since the last Turkish presidential visit to Greece, in 1952 by President Celal Bayar – a perfect time for such a high-level meeting between Greece and Turkey. The bilateral relations have never been perfect and every year there is tension either in the political spectrum or in the military field in the Aegean. Therefore, I believe there is always a perfect time to talk since the problems are still unsolved.
The decision by the Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to invite his Turkish counterpart was correct and appropriate. Because the problems will not be resolved in one visit, and shutting down the doors to each other will lead nowhere.
The discussions that took place in Athens were frank and open, so much that some were held even in front of the TV cameras. This was unusual because public dialogues about sensitive issues are usually avoided.
“Treaty of Lausanne defines the territory and the sovereignty of Greece and of the European Union
Both parties were squared up to each other over old and new disputes and created uncertainty as to whether the meeting would be considered successful.
Erdoğan expressed his annoyance at Greece’s failure to respond to Turkish demands for the extradition of the eight servicemen.
He also stressed that the Treaty of Lausanne, which is considered the cornerstone of peace in the region, should be updated.
“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,” Greek President Pavlopoulos said.
An hour later Alexis Tsipras described the visit by Turkish President Erdoğan to Greece a chance to take bold steps forward and that the two Aegean neighbors must signal their desire for a resumption of negotiations to reunite ethnically-split Cyprus.
Erdoğan left Greece and the Greeks have now mixed feelings.
Is it worth it to leave our past behind and build a new future after this visit?
Despite war and immense suffering of the people of both two flanks of the Aegean in the aftermath of the World War I, Eleftherios Venizelos and Kemal Atatürk went down in history for their immense contributions to Greek-Turkish friendship.
Greek President Pavlopoulos will soon pay a visit to Ankara.
Only time will prove whether this historic visit was successful.