Greece is launching the red carpet for a visit this week by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hoping to improve the often cold ties between the two neighbors and the NATO allies at a time when relations between Turkey are being tested with the European Union and the United States.
Security in Athens will be difficult for Erdogan's arrival on Thursday, when he will meet Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the largely ceremonial president of the country, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, before heading to northeast Greece the next day to speak with members of the Muslim minority in the country. The Greek authorities announced on Wednesday the banning of demonstrations in the center of Athens during the stay of Erdogan
"It is a visit of exceptional importance and importance," said Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, adding that the government expected "exceptionally constructive discussions". "It will be Erdogan's first visit to Greece as Turkish president, although he has visited twice before as prime minister."
The talks will focus on the refugee crisis, since the Greek islands have been the gateway to Europe for migrants crossing from the Turkish coast, as well as regional relations, energy and trade ties, and Turkey's stagnating commitment to join the European Union.Long-standing disputes with Greece, such as territorial claims on the Sea Egeo, will also be on the agenda, among other issues.
Erdogan's visit comes when his country is increasingly isolated on the international stage and could use his appearances in Athens to improve relations, some analysts say. 1
Turkey's ties with several European countries, Germany in particular, and the EU as a whole deteriorated significantly after the Erdogan crackdown in response to a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016. Tens of thousands of Turks were dismissed from their jobs, and tens of thousands more were imprisoned on charges of being linked, albeit tenuously, with Erdogan the man blamed for the coup attempt: Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who lives in the US and runs a network of schools, hospitals and businesses.
Since the failed coup, Greece is the second EU country, after Poland, which invited Erdogan to visit.
It has also au Recently, there has been tension between Ankara and Washington, particularly with regard to the New York trial of a Turkish banker for alleged transactions with Iran. Erdogan lashed out at the trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla on Tuesday, describing it as a US conspiracy to blackmail and sully his country.
"I think he will take the opportunity and try to show a more moderate face, at least in Turkey, relations with the EU," said Filis. "If he decides to attack the EU and the United States from a European capital, that is, Athens, then this will create a very serious problem for the Greek government, because the Greek government will have to respond."
But many sources of tension remain between Greece and Turkey, neighbors with historically fragile relations that have reached the brink of war three times since the 1970s. Decades of thorny issues include territorial disputes in the Aegean, the Muslim minority in the northeast of Greece and the continuous occupation of the Turkish troops of the north of Cyprus.
Some of these themes "will probably be hidden under the carpet," Phillis said. "I do not believe that Erdogan in the few hours he will spend in Athens has the luxury, nor Greece have the luxury, to discuss with Erdogan about the historical difficulties and the differences in the Aegean, for example."
In Ankara, Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told reporters on Wednesday that Turkey expected the visit to "develop and deepen" the relations between the two neighbors, noting that both countries "have assumed great responsibilities to resolve the problem "of migration.
The EU failed to meet its obligations in March 2016 and said it had yet to disburse funds for Syrian refugees in Turkey, allow Turkish citizens to travel without a visa or open new negotiation "chapters" to advance the membership of Turkey to the EU offer.
Kalin said, however, that Ankara is satisfied with Greece's support for Turkey's membership offer.
Tzanakopoulos, the Greek government spokesman, said that Athens expects the visit to produce "a substance Improving our relations with Turkey, since this, in a period of generalized destabilization in the region, will play a catalytic role both for economic development as for the improvement of special relations, both of Greece with Turkey, and between Turkey and the European Union. "
Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.