Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was due to arrive in Greece for a two-day official visit on Thursday, a trip designed to boost relations but exposing long historical grievances between the two old foes.
Erdogan was scheduled to meet with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday. On Friday, he was due to travel to northern Greece and visit the Muslim community there.
But even before he landed, he riled his hosts with suggestions of revisions to a 1923 treaty, the Treaty of Lausanne, which established the borders of Turkey and therefore of Greece.
“This is a treaty that encompasses the entire region and just because of that, I think during the course of time, all treaties need a revision, and Lausanne in the face of the recent developments needs make up, a revision if you will,” Erdogan told SKAI TV and Kathimerini newspaper in an interview.
In swift rebuttal, Greece said the treaty was non-negotiable, and suggestions that it be revised were not conducive to attempts to build relations.
“The Greek government, and the Prime Minister, expect that his (Erdogan’s) visit will build bridges, not walls,” government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said in a statement.
The two NATO partners teetered on the verge of war in 1974, 1987 and 1996 over long-running disputes on ethnically divided Cyprus, mineral rights in the Aegean Sea and sovereignty over uninhabited islets in that sea.
Although relations have improved, many Greeks believe Turkey has territorial aspirations against their country. Turkey has also accused Greece of harbouring individuals involved in the coup attempt against Erdogan in July 2016.
Security was tight for the visit and demonstrations in central Athens were banned.
“They (Greeks) should rest assured that the negative relations between Greece and Turkey are part of history,” Erdogan said.