Turkey goes on offensive

Turkey is unhappy about a new monument in Thessaloniki marking the genocide of Pontic Greeks, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Greek Premier Costas Karamanlis during a meeting in Vienna yesterday as Ankara steps up pressure in its disputes with Athens. The two men met at the sidelines of a summit of European and Latin American leaders. The meeting had been requested by Erdogan and he used it to raise a number of points which seem to be aggravating Ankara. The most significant of these was the unveiling last Saturday of the monument commemorating the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Pontic Greeks during World War I and in the Asia Minor catastrophe of 1922 at the hands of Turkish forces. Erdogan told Karamanlis there was a lot of sensitivity to this sort of issue in Turkey, sources said. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said the erection of the monument «cast a shadow over friendly relations between the two countries.» Erdogan also broached the subject of the treatment of the Muslim minority in Thrace, northeastern Greece. Ankara’s objections are the latest in a series of complaints which Athens believes are actually efforts by Turkey to divert attention from European Union pressure on the EU candidate to meet the bloc’s membership obligations. «History has been written and cannot be rewritten,» said Evangelos Antonaros, the alternate government spokesman. «The objective in Greek-Turkish relations is to make use of the opportunities offered by Turkey’s European outlook to build a future that will benefit both people and the region,» he said. Publicly, Karamanlis insisted that no new issues were raised during the 45-minute meeting, saying it focused mainly on economic issues, such as tourism. Meanwhile, it was revealed that Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will attend a journalism conference on June 10 in Istanbul, where she will meet with Gul.