Turkey, Greece should improve solidarity: Erdoğan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 8 said during his official visit to Greece that solidarity between two countries should be improved, addressing local Turks in the city of Komotini.
In his speech, Erdoğan stressed the importance of improving the prospects and respecting the rights of the Muslim Turkish minority in Greece.
“The improvement of our bilateral relations with Greece will also ease the problems of minorities. The solution of these problems [in minority issues] will bring Turkey and Greece closer together,” he said in front of a Turkish high school, addressing locals there.
“We have taken important steps in the recent years to solve the demands our Greek-origin citizens, to meet them [demands] through dialogue ... We believe it is our right to expect such similar approaches from Greece,” Erdoğan added.
“I mentioned some of these problems [during a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos] ... I believe that the elimination of these problems will strengthen unity and solidarity,” he also said.
Greece’s Western Thrace region, in which Komotini is located, is home to a Muslim-Turkish minority of around 150,000 people.
On his first day of Greece visit, on Dec. 7, the Turkish president visited the capital Athens, meeting Pavlopoulos and Tsipras.
On his second day, he traveled by car to Komotini after landing at Alexandroupoli Airport. Upon arrival in Komotini he performed Friday prayers at the city’s Kir Mahalle Mosque.
During his visit – the first visit of a Turkish president to Greece in 65 years - Erdoğan was being accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Çavuşoğlu, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, EU Minister Ömer Çelik, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.
Also accompanying Erdoğan were Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Georgios Katrougalos and Deputy Foreign Minister Ioannis Amanatidis.
In a second speech in Komotini, Erdoğan stressed the difference between integration and assimilation.
“The state of Greece should not want my relatives here to assimilate. Integration is another issue, but they should not demand assimilation. Because we have never demanded this from any ethnicity and would never do so. That would be the biggest injustice,” he said.
“The Treaty of Lausanne has entrusted the minority living in both [Turkey and Greece] to both countries. We should take care of this trust. We are aware of our responsibilities and we believe that Greece is too,” Erdoğan said, referring to a clause in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that guarantees the religious freedoms of the Muslim minority in Greece.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay an official visit to the Turkish capital Ankara on Dec. 11 to meet with Erdoğan, the Turkish presidency said in a statement on Dec. 8
Putin will visit Ankara on Dec. 11 “at the invitation of” Erdoğan, the presidency said, adding that the talks would focus on the latest developments on Jerusalem and the situation in Syria.
The Kremlin confirmed the visit by Putin on Dec. 8, saying the two leaders would discuss energy projects and “key international problems.”
Erdoğan and Putin had spoken on the phone on Dec. 7, agreeing that the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital willnegatively impact the region’s peace and stability.