Turkish, Greek Presidents Clash on Lausanne Treaty (Vid & Pics)

Greece's President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, left and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, centre, review the Presidential Guard during the welcome ceremony in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS (AP) — The leaders of Greece and Turkey publicly aired their grievances Thursday in a tense news conference as a two-day visit to Athens by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan got off to a rocky start.

The Greek government had expressed hopes the visit, the first to Greece by a Turkish president in 65 years, would help improve often frosty relations between the two neighbors. The NATO allies are divided by a series of decades-old issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea, and have come to the brink of war three times since the early 1970s.

But from the outset, discussions focused on disagreements.

On the eve of his visit, Erdogan rattled his Greek hosts by saying in an interview with Greece’s Skai television that the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne should be “updated.” The treaty delineated modern Turkey’s borders and set provisions for the status of the Muslim minority in Greece and the Greek minority in Turkey, among other issues.

In a visibly testy first meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the two engaged in a thinly-veiled verbal spat over the treaty and the Muslim minority, which Erdogan is to visit Friday.

“This happened in Lausanne, that happened in Lausanne. I get that, but let’s now quickly do what is necessary,” Erdogan told Pavlopoulos. “Many things have changed in 94 years. If we review these, I believe that all the sides will agree that so many things have to (change.)”

“But issues that concern reforms involving Greek citizens are not an issue of negotiation between countries,” he said.

Tsipras noted it was unclear exactly what Erdogan was seeking with his call for an update to the 1923 treaty.

“The truth is I am a little confused about what he is putting on the table,” he said.

Greeks have been aghast at Erdogan’s comments in the past over possibly revising the Lausanne treaty, considering the move could harbor territorial claims. His bringing up the issue on the eve of and during his visit to Athens was not a move welcomed by his hosts.

Erdogan and Tsipras also sparred over the issue of Cyprus, divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion into a Turkish-occupied north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south. Another round of internationally-brokered peace talks to reunify the island failed earlier this year.

“Who left the table? Southern Cyprus did… We want the issue to reach a fair and lasting solution but that is not southern Cyprus’ concern,” Erdogan said.

Tsipras retorted: “My dear friend, Mr. President, we must not forget that this issue remains unresolved because 43 years ago there was an illegal invasion and occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.”

Erdogan also raised the issue of Athens having no official mosque, to which Tsipras responded by saying Greece had restored several mosques around Greece, including a centuries-old mosque in central Athens.

The refugee crisis appeared to be the only issue the two sides did not disagree on, with both noting they had shared a significant burden of the migration flows into the European Union. More than a million people crossed from Turkey through Greece at the height of the crisis.
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ELENA BECATOROS, Associated Press

Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed.

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, stands as he listens to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, during a joint news conference at Maximos Mansion in Athens,Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Erdogan’s visit to Greece comes as his country finds itself increasingly isolated on the international stage, and his comments will be closely watched for signs he might try to improve some of Turkey’s international relations, particularly with the European Union. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, talks during a joint news conference with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, at Maximos Mansion in Athens,Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Erdogan’s visit to Greece comes as his country finds itself increasingly isolated on the international stage, and his comments will be closely watched for signs he might try to improve some of Turkey’s international relations, particularly with the European Union. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, drinks some water as he listens to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, during a joint news conference at Maximos Mansion in Athens,Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Erdogan’s visit to Greece comes as his country finds itself increasingly isolated on the international stage, and his comments will be closely watched for signs he might try to improve some of Turkey’s international relations, particularly with the European Union. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, left and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, centre, review the Presidential Guard during the welcome ceremony in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Erdogan arrived in Athens Thursday for a two-day official visit, the first official visit by a Turkish president in decades, with Greece hoping the trip will help improve often frosty ties with its neighbour. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, left and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, centre, review the Presidential Guard during the welcome ceremony in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Erdogan arrived in Athens Thursday for a two-day official visit, the first official visit by a Turkish president in decades, with Greece hoping the trip will help improve often frosty ties with its neighbour. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives in Athens for the first official visit to Greece by a Turkish president in decades, Dec. 7, 2017. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives in Athens for the first official visit to Greece by a Turkish president in decades, Dec. 7, 2017. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives in Athens for the first official visit to Greece by a Turkish president in decades, Dec. 7, 2017. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives in Athens for the first official visit to Greece by a Turkish president in decades, Dec. 7, 2017. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)
A Greek Presidential Guard officer inspects the evzones prior to the official welcome ceremony for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Erdogan is in Greece on atto-day official visit. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A Greek Presidential Guard officer inspects the evzones prior to the official welcome ceremony for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Erdogan is in Greece on atto-day official visit. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A worker cleans the red carpet as Greek Presidential Guards march to their positions for the official welcome ceremony for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Erdogan is in Greece on a two-day official visit. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

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