The conversation between Presidents Pavolopoulos and Erdogan at the presidential palace, that took place on camera, shortly after the arrival of the Turkish president in Athens, spiralled out of control.
Tayyip Erdogan arrived at the Presidential Palace at 11:45, where he was received by the President of the Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos. THE turkish president walked on the red carpet and inspected the Presidential Guard, followed by the introductions of the two delegations.
Soon after, the programmed statements by the two presidents in front of the cameras took an unexpected turn. In essence, the whole conversation (which lasted 45 minutes!) devolved into a verbal scuffle between Pavlopoulos and Erdogan, tabling critical national issues. Replies between the two presidents were out of protocol, the climate was heavy, they did not look at each other during the meeting, and they didn't shake hands at the end.
Pavlopoulos: No update for the Treaty of Lausanne
The President of the Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, outside protocol, first took a comprehensive stance on national issues and responded to President Erdogan's hostile statements on the Treaty of Lausanne and the Muslim minority of Thrace. Erdogan seemed to not have expected such a stance and watched the Greek president silently, listening carefully.
"I welcome you to Athens, the first visit of a Turkish President after 65 years, which must remain historic for the relations of our two peoples and of course for peace and security in the region and the European course of Turkey, which we favor because we believe it is in the interest of the Turkish people. So we are here to shake hands, to build bridges of friendship and not to divide, and we are ready to become Turkey's window to the EU. This requires full respect for international law as well as respect for the European acquis, obvious for each member and for each candidate member," Prokopis Pavlopoulos said initially.
And he continued: "The Treaty of Lausanne need not be revised. It leaves no room for gray zones and regulates issues for minorities, saying that there is a Muslim minority in Greece. Because I know your interest in the European future of the Balkan countries, the same applies to them.
Names that promote irresponsibility are not acceptable. Human rights must be respected. Likewise, EU countries must respect human rights. And to come to a subject that is not bilateral, you know how much we Greeks want the Cyprus issue to be solved.
The solution must respect the sovereignty of an EU member state, something which is known. "
It was then the turn of the Turkish president. "This is a historic day. It is a great pleasure for me to undertake this visit. I want this visit to be a new turning point for the two states' relations. Of course, you have said some truths clearly, I will do the same," Mr Erdogan said initially.
And he went on: "For the Lausanne Treaty there are pending issues that are not properly understood. This is an agreement signed 94 years ago and not just about Greece, there were 11 countries involved. The treaty was even signed by Japan! We are talking about an agreement with all these countries. Within the time of 94 years, the planet is being reshaped. Many things have changed a lot and new issues have emerged between Greece and Turkey in this period. For example, the treaty describes the minority in Greece as Muslim. It is right, but the European Court of Justice has a reference to the word Turkish minority.
Can we answer the question of whether the Muslims in Thrace can live their religion under the Treaty of Lausanne? There are efforts to appoint the Muftis among persons appointed by the State. In Turkey, the Patriarch is not appointed. The Patriarch is elected by the Holy Synod. Under the Treaty of Lausanne, members must have Turkish nationality, as are the 17 people who elected the Patriarch, however, in the Thrace region, the Imams still can not elect their Chief Justice. So how is the Treaty of Lausanne in force? So, you do not apply the Treaty of Lausanne. In Turkey, there is no discrimination in the places of prayer, but in Western Thrace they can not even say the word Turkish. They can not write a Turkish word on the school blackboard. We must overcome these issues.
That is what I mean by updating the Treaty of Lausanne. There are also some problems in military matters. When you left NATO, we supported you and you re-joined. If we did not support you, you would not have. We have looked on you as neighbors - we do the same today.
The same applies to the Cyprus issue. As Greece is a guarantor power, so is Turkey. The European Union has not kept its promises.
We are committed to all these issues. Our aim is to find a viable solution in Cyprus, as is the case in the Aegean. There are various issues that exist in the Treaty of Lausanne, so many things have changed so many years have passed. If we look at all of these issues, we will see that some things have to be changed. And the issue of protecting the rights of our people in Thrace is a top priority. "
Commenting on President Erdogan's statement, Mr. Pavlopoulos said that "the answer will be given by the government, our relationship to support it in friendship. One point: As a professor, because you are talking about an update, Treaties do not need reviews and updates. This is called interpretation, methods of interpretation exist, if some terms do not fit, some misunderstandings would have already expired. "
Erdogan answers back
The Turkish president did not leave this comment by Mr. Pavlopoulos fall down. "You said it well, but I would disrespect myself if I did not answer. I'm not a law professor but I know political law very well. In the law of politics there is a term that refers to an update and we do it, provided there is an agreement between the two sides," he said.
And he went on: "I referred to these matters because you mentioned it today. If you did not say so, I would still discuss these issues at the meeting with Mr Tsipras. Whatever happens, we have discussed these issues, you on behalf of Greece and I on behalf of Turkey. I also want to thank you for your time. There were a number of problems in Turkey, so we are going to change the system of government in the next elections in 2019. "
The government backs Pavolopoulos: He reiterated the positions of the Greek side
Government official comment on Erdogan-Pavlopoulos, the Treaty of Lausanne and the minority of West Thrace, was fully supporting of the President of the Hellenic Republic.
"Mr. Pavlopoulos reiterated the positions of the Greek side and we did not expect Turkey to change its positions.
The government is obliged to take bold initiatives to upgrade the relations between the two countries, it remains to be seen if Turkey will use these. It takes two to tango."