Erdogan's talk of ‘kinsmen’ in Thrace raises concerns in Greece

TAGS: Diplomacy

The Greek Foreign Ministry on Monday urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to respect international agreements, expressing concern that his statement on Saturday, that Ankara “cannot ignore” its kinsmen in Western Thrace, Cyprus and Crimea, could undermine regional stability.

Speaking at the Recep Tayyip Erdogan University (RTEU) in the province of Rize about the campaign to recapture Mosul in northern Iraq, Erdogan said, “We cannot draw boundaries to our heart, nor do we allow it,” and that “Turkey cannot disregard its kinsmen in Western Thrace, Cyprus Crimea and anywhere else.”

His remarks were seen in Greece as an effort – informed by a neo-Ottoman narrative and romantic irredentism – to dispute past agreements that settled the borders between the two countries.

Public statements, the Foreign Ministry said, that pertain to historic events and border issues settled by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 are “provocative and undermine regional stability.”

“Thrace is Greek, democratic and European. Any other thought is unthinkable and dangerous,” the ministry said, adding that it is imperative for statements to be articulated “responsibly and removed from outdated revisionism” as is stipulated in international law and treaties.

Erdogan’s remarks also drew vehement responses from Greek political parties, with conservative lawmaker Dora Bakoyannis warning that if Turkey continues to “misinterpret international agreements, then it will soon find itself isolated from the European area to which it aspires to belong.”

Democratic Alignment MP Andreas Loverdos described the Turkish leader’s comments as a “nationalistic delirium” while To Potami said it was “time for Europe, and not just Greece, to call Erdogan to order.”

Diplomatic sources said Athens is viewing Erdogan’s comments within the wider context of the campaign to retake Mosul from the so-called Islamic State and Ankara’s jockeying for influence in both Iraq and Syria.

Last month, Erdogan had bemoaned the Treaty of Lausanne peace treaty as unfair on Turkey, sparking outrage in Greece that he was disputing the treaty.

Earlier on Monday, the Athens-Macedonian News Agency announced it had sacked its correspondent in Turkey after he erroneously reported Erdogan had also called for a referendum to be held by Thrace’s Muslim minority.