Erdoğan will visit Greece's Muslim minority after meeting with Mitsotakis in Athens

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will visit the Muslim minority in Western Thrace after his visit to Athens in early December, as he does every time he visits Greece, before returning to Turkey.

Erdoğan has previously twice visited Western Thrace during a visit to Greece.

According to reports, he is expected to visit Komotini on Friday, December 8, a day of prayer for Muslims.

It is still being determined whether he will also visit Xanthi or one of the mountain villages of Rodopi. He does, however, intend to pray at a mosque in the city and to meet with minority institutions and officials at the Turkish consulate or a hotel.

Erdoğan is also expected to visit a minority school or tour the Muslim districts of Komotini to meet his fellow Muslims.

The previous visit by the Turkish leader to the region was on December 8, 2017, again on a Friday, after his meeting in Athens with then Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and the first one was in 2004, during Kostas Karamanlis’ premiership.

However, the climate in Greek-Turkish relations and the wider regional environment has since changed, with Erdoğan claiming a role as a powerful player in geopolitical developments, and also on the occasion of the events in Gaza.

Moreover, Erdoğan has made numerous references to Thrace when talking about the “Blue Homeland” doctrine, which envisions Turkish influence across large swaths of the Eastern Mediterranean.

His references, in the context of his escalating irredentism, to Thrace and Thessaloniki, which he has included in the “borders of [his] heart,” were seen as anything but positive by the Christian element of Xanthi and Rodopi.

Turkey repeatedly claims that the 120,000-strong Muslim minority in Greece’s Thrace are “Turkish,” despite the fact that Turkish-speakers make up a minority of the group who overwhelmingly identify as Greeks, Pomaks or Roma.

Turkey’s own Foreign Ministry website affirms that there is only officially a Muslim minority in Western Thrace via the Treaty of Lausanne Part VI Article 2, that states:

“Moslems established in the region to the east of the frontier line laid down in 1918 by the Treaty of Bucharest shall be considered as Moslem inhabitants of Western Thrace.”

Erdoğan was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Thessaloniki on December 7 but the venue has changed to Athens.

Although the change was made was made for “practical reasons” (large delegation, security issues), which is not far from the reality, possible local reactions were also taken into account, mainly due to Erdoğan's recent statements.

Turkish Defence Minister Yaşar Güler says talks with Greece 'quite positive'

Turkish Defence Minister Yaşar Güler on Wednesday appeared satisfied with the course of the talks between Greece and Turkey, which he described as "quite positive."

Asked by the press, the Turkish minister said: "I hope we will continue this way. In exchange, we will go to Greece later."

After the visit of our President, there will be a second meeting on the confidence-building measures (CBM). We will discuss and reach an agreement with them," he added.

Güler also stated that the Greek side would decide the date of the new meeting.

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