POLITICS > Turkish, Greek premiers in surprise Qatar summit

DOHA - Anatolia News Agency

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Turkish PM Erdoğan (R) meets with
Greece’s Samaras (L) in Qatar’s Doha. AA photo

Turkish PM Erdoğan (R) meets with Greece’s Samaras (L) in Qatar’s Doha. AA photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras for an unexpected, 40-minute meeting in Doha yesterday to discuss the issue of Western Thrace.

Erdoğan also offered Ankara’s help in building a mosque in Athens. “We said it would be important for Muslims coming to Athens for tourism and other purposes to have a place to worship. Mr. Samaras was warm to the idea – they said the move has already passed Parliament,” he said, adding that such mutual steps made in good faith would aid in reconciliation.

The meeting comes amid renewed talk of reopening Istanbul’s Halki Greek Orthodox seminary. The Education Ministry and Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK) have accelerated work for its reopening upon instructions from Erdoğan, according to media reports.

During his talk with Samaras, Erdoğan discussed the issues of restrictions on Turks and Muslims living in Western Thrace, including the freedom of worship, the establishment of associations, the right to own property and the appointment of 240 religious teachers for the community, according to Anatolia news agency.

Samaras was in Qatar to attract foreign investment to his debt-ridden country. Erdoğan also told reporters that he had invited the Greek prime minister to Ankara.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, who declared Jan. 28 that the Turkish government was in favor of reopening Halki, also expressed his disappointment about Greece’s attitude concerning the needs of muftis in the region.

 “Greece has taken the right to appoint muftis and teachers from the hands of the Turkish community. Our Foreign Minister [Ahmet Davutoğlu] told them [at the time], ‘Would you like us to appoint the [Greek] patriarch?’ stating that this attitude was unfriendly,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate cautiously welcomed the reports. “A mixed commission or a discussion group has to be established and the patriarchate’s opinion should be taken. The patriarchate has to know what the state can do in the existing judicial frame, so it can figure out their demands. They should go further than give a message. We trust Prime Minister Erdoğan in this matter,” an ecclesiastical source said.

The Supreme Court decided in 1971 that all higher education facilities had to be connected to a state university. The Halki Seminary, located on Heybeliada island in the Marmara Sea off Istanbul, was considered a “private higher education facility” at the time, and so had to be tied to a state university or a state seminary in order to stay open after the ruling. As the patriarchate was unwilling to affiliate the school with a Turkish university, the seminary was closed down.


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Notice on comments


1/31/2013 3:38:30 PM

Mark Mark, instead of telling me I'm "wrong once again", prove to me that I'm wrong. I said not every immigrant in Athens is illegal, many arrived not through Turkey, reciprocity applies to Athens as well, and Athens must provide places of worship. Which part of what I've said is wrong and why? There should indeed still be 100K plus Greeks living in Istanbul, but that has nothing to do with reciprocity. It is to do with the nationalism, which, by the way, is still present in both countries.

Mark Mark

1/31/2013 12:49:08 PM

No Baris, you are wrong once again.Athens has has a serious problem with illegal immigrants and the vast majority are muslim and have all passed through Turkey and been dumped in Greece.Reciprocity means that there should still be 100K plus Greeks living in Istanbul. Seeing as you like to quote law,maybe your people should start living by it! Kosovo is exactly what Turkey wants in Thrace.


1/31/2013 2:14:07 AM

Stefanos Kalogirou. Reciprocity does apply to Athens, as it applies to any part of Greece or Turkey. Articles 38-44 (section III) of the treaty defines the rights of the non-Muslim minority in Turkey. Article 45 states "The rights conferred by the provisions of the present Section [section III] on the non-Moslem minorities of Turkey will be similarly conferred by Greece on the Moslem minority in her territory". Another Kosovo? This is about rights of minorities, which both countries are abusing.


1/30/2013 7:18:39 PM

Harry Foundalis, Athens, like many other cities, has been drawing immigrants from poorer countries for decades, prior to Turkish "government’s blessings". Many Muslims arrived from Greece's neighbours or from places like Egypt. It would be wrong to say they are all illegal. According to City of Athens Municipiality's website, city of Athens has accepted the immigrant reality and adopted a philosophy to integrate the migrants to life in Athens. Least they can do is provide places of worship.

Brit in Turkey

1/30/2013 6:40:11 PM

ismail demir: "There is no ban of building churchs in Turkey." But you just try to get planning permission for one. Considering the large Foreign population from Kuşadası round to Alanya, you might have thought there would be at least one church. I know of one Christian group who used to meet in a room at a small hotel until they were banned by the local council.

Stefanos Kalogirou

1/30/2013 6:37:05 PM

@Harry Foundalis spot on! Athens was no part of the Lausanne Treaty. No reciprocity applies. The Greek State will build a mosque even though the muslim population is a recent development. 368 mosques exist in Western Thrace & more than 100000 muslims live there. (How many Greeks live in Istanbul? Turkey violated the Lausanne Treaty. Those who talk of reciprocity should be prepared to welcome 100000 Greek to return to their homes in Istanbul). However Greece wont let Turkey to make another Kosovo

Harry Foundalis

1/30/2013 6:02:17 PM

@kerem atan: the “considerable muslim population” in Athens that you’re talking about is made entirely of illegal immigrants. The only muslims in Athens before hundreds of thousands were “swept” into Greece from Turkey (with your government’s blessings) were the staff and families of the various embassies.

ismail demir

1/30/2013 5:50:03 PM

There is no ban of building churchs in Turkey.That is why protestans build new churchs in Turkey.Whereas Greece bans building mosque, even prevent to repair mosque by imposing millions of Euros fee.

kerem atan

1/30/2013 2:40:08 PM

@Nicholas Loucas but there is no mosque in athens despite the considerable muslim population..people are praying in basement apartments.bu apparently samaras will construct a mosque in athens to attract muslim tourists.he is already in pursuit of arab investors.i also cant believe the people who say 'i have nowhere to pray' whereas bekir bozdag said theres 349 churches in turkey.

Mark Mark

1/30/2013 12:41:13 PM

M B - there is nothing left in Turkey apart from a few small pockets in Istanbul.Places of worship other than Islamic are disappearing in Turkey at an alarming rate.There are certainly no Churches left in the West and SW of Turkey as all their flock were either deported or massacred so there was no further use for them.The last standing non-active Church in Bodrum is about to be bulldozed.
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