ATHENS (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to arrive in Greece for a two-day official visit on Thursday, a trip designed to boost relations but expose the long historical grievances between the two old enemies.
Erdogan was scheduled to meet with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday. On Friday, he planned to travel to northern Greece and visit the Muslim community there.
But even before it landed, it irritated its hosts with suggestions for revisions to a treaty of 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne, which established the borders of Turkey and therefore of Greece.
"This is a treaty that covers the entire region and precisely because of that, I believe that over time, all treaties need a revision, and Lausanne in the face of recent developments needs a revision, a revision if it will be," he said. Erdogan to SKAI TV and the newspaper Kathimerini in an interview.
In a quick rebuttal, Greece said that the treaty was not negotiable, and the suggestions that it be reviewed were not conducive to attempts to build relationships.
"The Greek government and the prime minister expect their visit (to Erdogan) to build bridges, not walls," government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said in a statement.
The two NATO partners staggered to the brink of war in 1974, 1987 and 1996 for long-standing disputes over ethnically divided Cyprus, mining rights in the Aegean Sea and sovereignty over uninhabited islets in that sea.
Although relations have improved, many Greeks believe that Turkey has territorial aspirations against its country. Turkey also accused Greece of harboring people involved in the attempted coup d'état against Erdogan in July 2016.
Security was scarce for the visit and demonstrations in the center of Athens were banned.
"They (the Greeks) must be sure that the negative relations between Greece and Turkey are part of the story," Erdogan said.
Reports by Michele Kambas, Larry King edition