First Turkish state visit to Greece in 65 years gets off to rocky start

Telegraph Reporters
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R) shake hands after their joint press conference in Athens, Greece on December 07, 2017. - Anadolu

The first official visit by a Turkish president to Greece in six decades got off to a tense start yesterday after Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the countries needed to reassess their border and demanded the extradition of suspected coup plotters. 

Uneasy allies in Nato and at odds over a host of issues from ethnically split Cyprus to air space, diplomatic niceties were set aside after early remarks by Mr Erdogan to Greek media that a treaty defining their borders may need reviewing.

The Turkish president was quoted in an interview suggesting a revision to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which established the borders of modern-day Turkey.

The president has made similar comments in the past about the peace treaty, but his repetition on the day before his arrival in Athens came as an unwelcome surprise to his hosts.

“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,” Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos responded to his Turkish counterpart. 

"It has no flaws, it does not need to be reviewed, or to be updated.”

Historical tensions between Greece and Turkey, which have brought the two countries to the brink of war on three occasions since the 1970s, remain. 

Decades-old thorny issues include territorial disputes in the Aegean, the Muslim minority in northeastern Greece and the continued occupation by Turkish troops of northern Cyprus.

Mr Erdogan on Thursday demanded the extradition of suspected coup plotters from Greece, referring to eight soldiers who flew to northern Greece during the failed putsch last year to claim asylum.

Ankara has previously demanded their return, a request rejected by Greek courts on the grounds they could not be guaranteed a fair trial in Turkey.

Mr Erdogan has moved his country away from Europe since taking over as president three years ago, increasingly looking instead to Middle East allies. 

The visit to Athens was only Mr Erdogan’s second to Europe since the abortive coup last summer.