Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan caused displeasure in Athens on Thursday by indicating that Ankara “gave away” Aegean islands to Greece under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the pact that defined the borders of modern Turkey following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
In a speech to regional officials in Ankara, Erdogan appeared to express his regret for the border decisions imposed by the pact. “Some tried to deceive us by presenting Lausanne as victory,” he said.
“In Lausanne, we gave away the islands that you could shout across to,” he said, referring to Greek islands located in the Aegean Sea close to the Turkish coastline.
Reacting to Erdogan’s comments, a Greek Foreign Ministry source remarked that “everyone should respect the Treaty of Lausanne,” noting that it is “a reality in the civilized world which no one, including Ankara, can ignore.”
The same source indicated that the Turkish leader’s comments were likely geared for domestic consumption.
While making clear his displeasure with the Treaty of Lausanne, Erdogan indicated during his speech that those who attempted a coup against Turkey in July would have imposed a far worse state of affairs.
“If this coup had succeeded, they would have given us a treaty that would have made us long for Sevres,” he said, referring to the pact that preceded the Treaty of Lausanne in 1920, abolishing the Ottoman Empire.
“We are still struggling about what the continental shelf will be, and what will be in the air and the land. The reason for this is those who sat at the table for that treaty. Those who sat there did not do [us] justice, and we are reaping those troubles right now,” he said.
Erdogan’s comments come amid reports that Ankara is pushing for the abolition of NATO patrols in the Aegean that have been contributing to curbing illegal migration.
According to sources, Ankara made an official request for the termination of the patrols earlier this month at a session of the North Atlantic Council, noting that the migrant influx has slowed considerably in recent months.