In a surprising turn-around, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said he ‘respected’ the Treaty of Lausanne during an interview with Greek media.
Speaking with Greek newspaper “Vema” Erdogan conceded that the Lausanne Treaty is the basic agreement that regulates relations with Greece and it is binding for Turkey.
The Turkish President insisted however that there are issues with what he refers to as the ‘Turkish’ minorities in Greece that need to be resolved.
Erdogan says issues include ‘’recognition of its ethnic identity, education and religious freedoms’’ however Greece not recognise a ‘Turkish’ minority in Thrace but a broader ‘Muslim’ minority, in line with the terms used in the Lausanne Treaty.
“Starting with the minorities, it has until now implemented the Treaty with sensitivity. On the other hand, at times it happens that we face difficulties, problems or mistaken application, either on a bilateral level or in other issues,” Erdogan said.
Regarding his visit to Greece, Erdogan said that to not carry out visits on a presidential level “would not be in accord with the level of relations we would like to see between the two neighbouring countries” and stressed that dialogue was the only way for relations to develop. During his talks with Greece’s leadership, he added, they had reaffirmed a desire to strengthen ties in trade, transport and tourism.
“As two countries sharing the same geographical space we place emphasis on transport projects that will bring our peoples closer,” he said, citing plans for a high-speed rail link between Istanbul and Thessaloniki, a Thessaloniki-Izmir ferry line and a second bridge over at the Kipi border crossing.
On the Aegean, he noted that delineating sea zones was not the only problem and that many, interlinked issues needed to be resolved in ways “that take into accounts the rights and interests of both sides”.
Meanwhile Erdogan was unrelenting in his message to the Greek Cypriot side: “they still see Cyprus as a Greek island…I would like to say clearly that this dream of the Greek Cypriots will never come to be.”