24 May, Thursday

Lausanne Treaty needs to be revised over Turks in Greece, Erdoğan says on Athens visit


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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has arrived in Athens on Thursday, marking the first visit by a Turkish head of state to Greece in 65 years.
Speaking during televised talks with his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Erdoğan expressed hope that his visit will mark a new era in Turkish-Greek relations.
Erdoğan reiterated his call to revise the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, citing conditions of ethnic Turks living Greece's West Thrace.
"Muslims in [Greece's] Western Thrace are not allowed to choose a mufti by their own community, efforts to appoint a mufti are ongoing; this is not the case for the Patriarchate in Turkey," he said. "You cannot find any discrimination against Turkish citizens of Greek origin while in Western Thrace, writing the word 'Turkish' is not allowed."
Noting that the average income of Turks in Western Thrace is $2,200, Erdoğan said: "Steps for investment, economic development are not taken, for this reason Lausanne Treaty should be updated."
Touching upon the topic of Cyprus, Erdoğan said Turkey wanted to reach a mutual resolution on the problems in the island with Greece.
Before Erdoğan, President Celal Bayar was the last Turkish head of state to pay official visit to Greece in November 1952. Earlier that year, King Paul and Queen Frederica visited Turkey.
Erdoğan, who last visited Greece as prime minister in 2010, was invited by Pavlopoulos to pay a two-day visit.
He will also meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and ethnic Turks in Western Thrace.
What's on the agenda
Turkey and Greece established a High-Level Cooperation Council in 2010, which was last held in Izmir in March 2016 when Tsipras and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım signed 54 cooperation agreements.
Next council meeting expected to be held in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Erdoğan expected to discuss future cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism, trade, transport, energy, tourism, culture, Cyprus, migration. Issues affecting minorities in both countries, Turkey's relationship with EU also due to be mentioned.
The extradition of putchist soldiers who fled to Greece after the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt is another issue that is expected to be discussed during the visit.
Ethnic Turkish lawmakers in Greece
Greece's 2015 general election saw four Turkish-Greek lawmakers returned to parliament.
Three — Ayhan Karayusuf, Mustafa Mustafa, Hüseyin Zeybek — represent Tsipras's Syriza coalition.
Syriza came first in Rhodope, Western Thrace, home to significant Turkish community.
Ilhan Ahmet, of The River party, was elected in Western Thrace's Xanthi.
Projects on table
Three planned projects will boost economic, transport ties between neighbors.
One focuses on passenger, goods ferries between Izmir, Thessaloniki. Another is a high-speed rail link between Istanbul, Thessaloniki. Third is construction of a river bridge between Kipoi in Greece, Turkey's Ipsala.
Economic relations
According to Turkish Central Bank, direct investment from Greece to Turkey was $6.9 billion between 2002 and August 2017. Turkish investment in Greece was $200 million over same period.
Trade volume fell by 47 percent in four years to $2.6 billion in 2016, down from $4.9 billion in 2012, according to Turkish Statistical Institute.
Decline mainly due to drop in Greek exports, which fell 66.5 percent to $1.2 billion, while Turkish exports to Greece rose 1.8 percent to $1.4 billion.
Turkey is fourth largest market for Greece exports, 12th largest importer to Greek market.
Latest bilateral visits
Yıldırım, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan paid working visit to Athens in June.
Greek-born Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Çavuşoğlu visited in November, when he met ethnic Turks in Komotini, his hometown.
Pavlopoulos attended May's Black Sea Economic Cooperation in Istanbul to mark organization's 25th anniversary.
Greek Economy Minister Dimitri Papadimitriou attended Aegean Economic Forum in Izmir in October.
Also in October, Greece's Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias paid working visit to Ankara.

Daily Sabah

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