Relations between Greece and Turkey must be improved further, including through an "update" of the Lausanne Treaty, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised interview with Alexis Papahelas, broadcast on Greece's SKAI television channel on Wednesday night. Erdogan spoke in Turkish throughout the interview (with Greek subtitles supplied by the television channel).
The Turkish president, talking to Greek audiences just hours before his arrival in Athens on Thursday, sent a message that bad relations between Greece and Turkey were "a thing of the past" and that the two countries must now forge a spirit of solidarity. If they succeeded in this, he said, "I think relations between the two countries can develop further."
He also repeated his demand for the extradition of eight Turkish ex-soldiers that fled to Greece after the failed coup, even though their case is now being considered by Greek justice.
Questioned about his statements on revising the Lausanne Treaty, Erdogan replied that all treaties required updating at some time, including the Lausanne Treaty. He noted that this process concerned Greece as much as Turkey, while clarifying that in the process of such an update "we can discuss everything, from A to Z."
"Greece may be uncomfortable with some issues, with specific provisions, but we can sit down and talk about it," he noted. According to Erdogan, updating the Lausanne Treaty could be mutually beneficial for both sides. Several crises might have been resolved, he said, if the two sides engaged in dialogue to discuss the issues, while he noted that security and friendship between the two countries could do more to strengthen their relations. He also referred to a need to "overcome any complications" and said that ships engaged in trade and tourism must be able to make their journeys undisturbed.
"In order to overcome the crisis we must come together and talk one more time... we can resolve our differences through dialogue," Erdogan stated, adding that this was very important for the future of both countries.
He also pointed to the similiarities in the customs and traditions of the Greek and Turkish peoples, expressing his conviction that "we can find alternative ways to build a better future."
Asked to describe what a possible solution for the Aegean might look like, Erdogan replied: "In the Aegean there are distances between the islands that are quite problematic and I consider that these problems can be easily overcome. We have issues concerning the limits of air space and sea borders and delineating the continental shelf." If these were overcome, he added, then this would bring relief to both countries.
"We must not be overly optimistic but we can make concessions," he said.
Referring to the eight Turkish ex-soldiers currently in Greece, Erdogan said that he had called the Greek prime minister immediately after the eight sought refuge in Greece, asking for their extradition to Turkey as suspected members of the plot to stage the coup.
"That was on the first night...and he told me that he had the situation in hand, that in 15-20 days they would be extradited to Turkey. But, unfortunately, they are currently still in Greece," he said.
Asked about Turkey's relations with the United States and the case of the Michael Flynn, the US president's former National Security Adviser, Erdogan called the US president "a friend" and said that he had never spoken or met with Flynn.