Erdogan to make first Turkish presidential visit to Greece since 1952

Reuters , Thursday 23 Nov 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: Reuters)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will in the coming days visit Turkey's sometimes uneasy NATO ally Greece, a top official said Thursday, the first visit by a Turkish head of state to its neighbour in 65 years.

Erdogan had himself, as prime minister, visited Greece in 2004 and 2010 but the trip will be the first by a Turkish president since Celal Bayer went to the country in 1952.

Turkey and Greece have a history of uneasy relations dating back to the creation of the modern Turkish Republic out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

But Erdogan's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power in 2002, has sought a more pragmatic relationship with Athens based on trade and tourism rather than nationalism.

"Our president will be the first Turkish president to visit Greece in 65 years," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavusoglu, said without specifying the precise timescale, quoted by the Anadolu news agency.

"I think that this visit will have significant results," added Cavusoglu, who was born in Greece.

Ties between Ankara and Athens have also been aided after Alexis Tsipras, who is believed to enjoy a warm personal relationship with Erdogan, became prime minister in 2015.

Greece and Turkey both joined NATO in 1952 but the thaw between the two countries only began in earnest in 1999 after destructive earthquakes struck both nations within weeks of each other.

They also cooperated closely in the 2015 migration crisis, with Greece backing an EU deal for Turkey to stem the flow of migrants.

However there are still many bones of contention.

Athens is unhappy over Turkey's upkeep of Byzantine monuments in Istanbul, the former Constantinople, including the Hagia Sophia which is officially a museum but has seen an uptick in Muslim activity in the last years.
Greece has also been rattled by Erdogan's sometimes angry tirades against the post World War I treaties that set the countries' modern borders and meant almost all the Aegean islands are Greek territory.

Turkey, meanwhile, is unhappy that Greece has given sanctuary to suspects wanted over the 2016 failed coup, notably eight troops who escaped by helicopter on the putsch night.

Another festering sore is Cyprus, where the northern portion of the island is still occupied by Turkish troops following the 1974 invasion in response Athens-inspired coup aimed at uniting it with Greece.

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