Athens says Erdogan remarks on Lausanne Treaty ‘dangerous’ for bilateral ties

1 October 2016
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Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has described Thursday’s comments by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that expressed regret over the Lausanne Treaty, signed in 1923, as “dangerous.”

“Questioning the Lausanne Treaty, which clearly and definitively settled Greek-Turkish relations, as well as the status of the Aegean and its islands, is dangerous for relations between the two countries and the wider region,” he said Friday during a meeting of the Council for Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA).

He insisted that, regardless of the “real causes” behind these comments, and similar ones in the past that challenge international legality, Greece will not go down the same route.

Greece, he said, will continue work to strengthen its role as “a pillar of peace and stability in a volatile region.”

In light of the Turkish president’s propensity for incendiary comments, the government in Athens has, particularly in recent months, been closely monitoring, if somewhat nervously, his every statement regarding relations between the two countries.

Even though the leftist-led coalition is well aware that his comments are aimed at a Turkish audience, it is keen not to leave anything which could be perceived as disputing Greece’s sovereignty unanswered.

Erdogan had also hinted at reservations regarding the Treaty of Lausanne last May, before the coup attempt, when he called for a revision of its articles pertaining to minorities living in Turkey. At the time, his remarks were somewhat played down, as they were seen within the context of a wider trend in Turkey toward revision.

However, by reiterating his objections to the treaty – after his forceful reassertion of political dominance in the aftermath of the failed coup – he has triggered alarm bells in Athens.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who is also leader of junior coalition partner Independent Greeks, said Friday that the effort to dispute international treaties “leads to dangerous roads” and accused Erdogan of “trying to transform Turkey into a theocratic state,” due to pressure from forces within the country, and clamoring to change the secular nature of the modern state founded by Kemal Ataturk.

Referring to the Turkish president’s claim that the Treaty of Lausanne had deprived his country of islands that once belonged to the Ottoman Empire, Kammenos was scathing, saying that there were Greeks on the coast of Asia Minor long before the arrival of “those that slaughtered them.”

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