All issues with Greece can be resolved “on an equitable basis and in a peaceful way,” Turkey’s president said Tuesday.
“Our expectation from Greece is that it doesn’t become a safe haven where FETO, PKK, DHKP-C terrorists take refuge,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Ankara.
FETO, or the Fetullah Terrorist Organization, and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Erdogan once again reiterated Turkey’s expectations on the extradition of FETO coup plotters from Greece.
In 2018, Greece, along with Germany, were among the top European Union countries where suspected FETO members sought asylum after the defeated coup attempt, according to Turkish officials.
Stating that they had the chance to discuss bilateral relations as well as international and regional issues during the meeting, Erdogan added: “As Turkey, we desire to improve bilateral relations in every field with our neighbor Greece.”
He noted, however, that trade and economic relations between the two countries were not at a desired level.
“We hold our trade volume at a level of €3.5 billion today, but it isn’t the desired level between Turkey and Greece,” he said.
Erdogan said the pair discussed the completion of some bilateral projects, including passenger and goods ferries between Izmir and Thessaloniki, a high-speed rail link between Istanbul and Thessaloniki and the construction of a river bridge between Kipoi in Greece and Turkey’s Ipsala.
- 'Any issue can be resolved through dialogue'
“We have set it as an aim to realize the High-Level Cooperation Council’s fifth meeting as soon as possible,” Erdogan said, adding that the mentioned steps could increase the trade volume in a short period of time.
Noting that any issue could be resolved through dialogue between Turkey and friendly countries, Erdogan said: “Our cognates living in Greece and Greek-origin citizens living in Turkey are not a means for dissolution, but for cooperation.”
He added that Turkey has shown every effort to further improve the condition of Greek-origin citizens and expected the same gesture from Greece.
Erdogan stressed that the fight against irregular migration is another issue between Turkey and Greece and reminded that more than $35 billion has been spent to help nearly 4 million refugees living in container and tent cities in Turkey.
“We exert efforts to stop deaths on the Aegean Sea. Our security forces work day and night in any case to prevent sorrow and deaths,” he added.
- Turkey-EU relations
Touching on a refugee deal signed between Turkey and the EU in March 2016, Erdogan said the EU did not enforce visa liberalization and the immigrant agreement and urged the bloc to be loyal to its promises.
Erdogan said the deal played a deterrent role for new waves of migrants.
“We did and will fulfill obligations, including the readmission agreement. However, we see that the EU can’t apply the agreement properly,” he added.
The 2016 deal aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
It also allowed for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area.
- Sincere, special dialogue with Turkey
Greece’s Tsipras said their dialogue with Turkey is “sincere” and “special” and stressed that they managed to build a positive agenda in Turkish-Greek relations.
Tsipras stated that they decided to take further steps for the future together with Erdogan and said Greece “will not be doomed” to regional problems and tries to find solutions through dialogue with Turkey.
“We agreed with Turkey to boost cooperation on security issues,” he added.
Tsipras said Turkey and Greece agreed to decrease tensions in the Aegean Sea and to take confidence-building steps.
“I am glad to have open communication channels with President Erdogan. We can thus take more constructive steps.
“We don’t have an agreement to sign today. There may be agreements for our next visit.”
Erdogan pointed out that some agreements would be signed during the fifth high-level meeting that will be held in Thessaloniki, as it will be attended by entrepreneurs.
Speaking also on the extradition of FETO coup plotters from Greece, Tsipras said Greece as a state of law has to respect the decision taken by the judiciary.
Of course, Greece does not like to accept coup plotters. At this stage, Greece and Turkey need to strengthen their cooperation on security, Tsipras added.
Greeks condemned the coup attempt and supported democracy, he noted.