Ankara upping the ante

Ankara is persisting with scenarios regarding the existence of training camps for Kurdish terrorists in Greece, Kathimerini understands, with Turkish press reports suggesting that Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to give his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras a confidential file with information about camps during a scheduled visit to Ankara on March 4 and 5.

According to the Turkish newspaper Aksam, Erdogan is planning to give Samaras a file compiled by the Turkish intelligence service, MIT, containing details of all Kurdish terrorists that it deems are currently in Greece.

The file reportedly resurrects references to the purported existence of training camps in Attica – in Lavrio, Kinetta, Oropos and Dilesi – which Ankara has made several times in the past and have been dismissed by Athens as attempts to apply political pressure. According to the report in Aksam, Erdogan will ask Athens to be more decisive in responding to requests for the extradition of suspected Kurdish terrorists from Greece to Turkey.

Claims by Erdogan that he and Samaras had discussed the issue of training camps for members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) during talks in Qatar last month were quickly dismissed by Athens at the time. Responding to the new press reports on Monday, Greek diplomatic sources said Athens has already expressed its irritation with the way Ankara has pursued the matter. The same sources noted that Greece has been categorical in its condemnation of terrorism and claimed that Erdogan’s stance is that all European countries tolerate terrorism.

The Turkish leader is expected to broach other thorny issues with Samaras, including the rights of the Muslim minority in Thrace, northern Greece, and the absence of an official mosque for Muslim worshippers in Athens. Samaras has refused Turkey’s offer to provide funding for the construction of a state mosque in the Greek capital with Deputy Foreign Minister Costas Tsiaras telling Parliament recently that Athens would accept no Turkish involvement in such a project. Nevertheless, according to sources, Erdogan is planning to bring the matter up again and his office is preparing a competition for architects interested in designing an Athens mosque.

In a related development, Turkish authorities are said to be moving forward with plans for the creation of a Religious Academy, overseeing all religious training schools, which could provide a framework for the reopening of the Greek Orthodox seminary on Halki island off Istanbul.

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