During a time of crisis between the European Union and Turkey and in view of disturbing developments in the East Mediterranean that threaten the region's stability, Greece proposed to Turkey to initiate a new chapter in Greek-Turkish relations, government sources said on the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Athens on Thursday.
This new chapter "cannot be based on easy challenges, but on a laborious effort to build bridges on sturdy foundations," as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said. The premier said that if Turkey does not accept this proposal, its refusal will prove detrimental to the region and EU-Turkish relations.
Within this framework, the Greek prime minister said, in order for Greek-Turkish relations to begin a new chapter, the following are necessary:
1. The absolute respect of the Treaty of Lausanne: Tsipras rejected and deconstructed the Erdogan rhetoric on the possibility of revising the Treaty. The Turkish president's reference that in western Thrace we have a Muslim minority that could be of Turkish, Pomak or Roma origin is welcomed.
2. The respect of international law in the Aegean Sea: The premier has requested an end to the Turkish violations and its threat of war (casus belli). The fact the Turkish president stated that Turkey "does not covet the territorial integrity of any country and any neighbouring country" is welcomed.
3. The restart of talks for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue, under the (UN Secretary General Antonio) Guterres framework: Tsipras raised the issues of invasion and occupation, abolishment of guarantees, and withdrawal of military forces. The Turkish president's statement that Turkey wants to proceed to a just and viable solution is welcomed.
Tsipras also stated unequivocally that the perpetrators of the Turkish coup d'etat of July 2016 are not welcome in Greece, and that Greece is continuing its judiciary and police cooperation with Turkey. Greece, however, he said, is also a state of law, where justice is independent and its rulings must be respected.
According to the same government sources, during the Tsipras and Erdogan meeting, the following were agreed upon:
- The restart of the confidence and security-building measures, under the high supervision of both leaders (with the active participation of military leaders and the Foreign ministry staff), and the restart of exploratory talks for the continental shelf.
- New collaboration measures within the EU-Turkey agreement on migrants which will contribute to the decongestion of the islands.
- Holding the next High Level Council of Cooperation the soonest possible and the drawing up a Joint Economic Committee.
- It was noted that minorities in both countries should bring the two countries closer together, but also that all necessary reforms relating to Greek citizens are not an issue of inter-country negotiation. The statement by the Turkish president that the future of the minority in Thrace "is a domestic issue of Greece" is welcomed.
- In response to comments about religious freedom in Greece, all reconstructions of Muslim temples completed in Greece were stressed, and it was noted that in Greece "we (never) thought of holding religious services (there), as you have wrongly decided to do in Hagia Sophia on numerous occasions."
- It was also stressed that Greece supports Turkey's membership process in the EU as well as democracy in the neighboring country, along with a return to democratic reforms.