by Aggelos Skordas
Recep Tayyip Erdogan will become the first Turkish President to visit Greece in 65 years, Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavusoglu told the press on Thursday. However, while Athens and Ankara are preparing for what is seen as a historic visit that could ease tension and improve diplomatic and economic ties between the two NATO allies, four Turkish aircrafts violated the Greek air space no less than 36 times solely during the very same day Cavusoglu announced Erdogan’s upcoming visit to Greece.
The Turkish CN235-300 multi-mission tactical transport aircrafts also violated the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) four times, while similar violations were recorded on Wednesday. According to a statement issued by the Hellenic Airforce, the Turkish aircrafts were not armed and they were all identified and intercepted in accordance with international rules of engagement.
The visit’s date that has yet to be confirmed, will be made during the upcoming days, while according to sources from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs it will most likely take place at the end of November or early December. Same sources pressed that Athens and Ankara are willing to hold talks every six months in the future, while a high level Cooperation Council meeting will be hosted in Thessaloniki in February. “Our president will be the first Turkish president visiting Greece in 65 years. I think this visit will yield significant results”, Cavusoglu said, adding that the aim is to improve bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey. “I think that this visit will have significant results”, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister characteristically said. Cavusoglu, who was born in Greece, visited Athens as well as his birthplace, in Thrace, earlier this year.
As he explained there are currently three projects on which both sides have reached common ground: The first concerns ferry services to transport passengers and goods from Turkey’s Izmir province in Asia Minor to Thessaloniki, the second one a high-speed train service project connecting Istanbul and Thessaloniki, and the third a bridge between Greece’s easternmost town of Kipoi and Turkey’s Ipsala border crossing.
For the time there has been no mention regarding the numerous “hot” issues concerning Greece and Turkey, among which the preservation of numerous Byzantine monuments in Istanbul including the Hagia Sophia which is officially operating as a museum but has lately seen an uptick in Muslim activity, the reopening of the Theological School of Halki, the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus following the 1974 invasion, the maritime borders as well as the migration flows. On its behalf Turkey appears unhappy that Greece has given sanctuary to eight Turkish officers wanted over the 2016 failed coup, who escaped by helicopter the night of July 15 2016.
It is reminded that the visit comes after Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzia’s visit to the Turkish capital in October, where he transferred both to Cavusoglu and to the President of Turkey himself the invitation of his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos. The last President of Turkey to have visited Greece was Celal Bayar in 1952, although, Erdogan himself has visited Greece in two occasions in 2004 and 2010 as a Prime Minister.