President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on April 16 that Turkey disapproves of the rhetoric expressed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and emphasized that Ankara instead wants a “harmonization period” with its neighbor.
“We do not find it right,” Erdoğan told reporters after Friday prayers in response to the attitude of the Greek minister who publicly voiced a series of longstanding complaints about Turkey during a visit to the capital Ankara on April 15.
“On the one hand, there shall be a process of harmony. On the other hand, we shall not let others, such as the European Union, intervene, as I told him,” the president stated.
He recalled that Turkey and Greece, as two neighbors, have “a history and a different approach, as well as warm relations.”
Erdoğan said nearly 150,000 Turks lived in Western Thrace and noted that Greece also has ties with Turkey, recalling that Dendias had visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Istanbul.
“You are not showing the necessary citizenship interest to our 150,000 cognates in Greece. You are still assigning the chief mufti there; you are not paying necessary attention to them as citizens. According to Lausanne [Treaty], you do not have the right to assign the chief mufti. We do not assign patriarchs,” Erdoğan stated.
Erdoğan said his meeting with Dendias was in a positive atmosphere.
“We had a meeting in a very warm atmosphere,” but this mood was changed in their press conference with Çavuşoğlu, Erdoğan said.
The Turkish minister had to rebuke his Greek counterpart for unacceptable accusations against Turkey, the president said.
“Çavuşoğlu put him in his place in the face of this attitude and his behavior. He [Çavuşoğlu] could not get softer. It would not suit us as a nation, as a country. He took the necessary approach,” Erdoğan stated.
The foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey on April 15 clashed on a wide range of issues during a heated news conference.
The news conference opened with conciliatory remarks from Çavuşoğlu in which he praised “the very positive dialogue” they just held in the Turkish capital.
But Dendias used his opening remarks to rattle off a series of longstanding complaints about Turkey – from its search for natural gas in contested waters to the sides’ ongoing dispute about migrants.
“Greece’s position is clear and this is not the first time you have heard it,” Dendias told Çavuşoğlu during a particularly heated moment in the 35-minute news conference.
“If you heavily accuse my country and people before the press, I have to be in a position to respond to that,” Çavuşoğlu replied.
“If you want to continue our tensions, we can,” Çavuşoğlu said. “If we go into mutual recriminations here, we have a lot to tell each other.”
“Turkey should not teach Greece any lessons,” Dendias said after accusing Turkey of not sticking by its 2016 agreement with Brussels to accept migrants seeking refuge in Europe.
“You always try to lecture us about democracy and law,” Çavuşoğlu said during an argument about Turkey’s treatment of its Greek Orthodox minority.
Dendias had said moments earlier that he relayed Greece’s profound displeasure with Turkey’s conversion last year of the Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque.
“You don’t allow the Turkish minority [in Greece] to call themselves Turkish. You call them Muslims,” Çavuşoğlu objected.
“If they call themselves Turkish, they are Turkish – you have to recognize this.”
The news conference wound down with both men trying to laugh off their spat and agreeing to continue their debate over a private dinner.
Dendias had earlier in the day met Erdoğan for what he described as “extraordinary” talks.
“Let’s move past this endless dialogue about our disputes because then we will destroy what we tried to create during the extraordinary meeting with President Erdoğan,” Dendias told Çavuşoğlu.
Erdoğan: Attack on Gaza is a clear attitude of Israel towards Muslims
Attack on Gaza is a clear indication of Israel’s “attitude towards Muslims,” Erdoğan said after Israeli warplanes carried out air raids on several locations after midnight on Friday.
On the latest attack on Gaza, Erdoğan said Israel’s attitude makes it impossible for Turkey-Israel relations to reach the desired level.
The Israeli military said early Friday it had carried out airstrikes on military targets in the Gaza Strip after a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave hit southern Israel.
Turkey to launch construction of Canal Istanbul bridges in June
Turkey will start works in June on one of the bridges to span Canal Istanbul, Erdoğan also said.
“We will take the step of the six bridges planned in the first place and one of the bridges that will pass over the first channel in June,” Erdoğan stated.
“There will be a very serious excavation. There are those from global capital who will enter into this business together with domestic capital,” he added.
Çavuşoğlu visits Turkish Cyprus
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu paid a visit to Turkish Cyprus on April 16 ahead of international talks on the long-divided island of Cyprus later this month.
The informal 5+1 meeting on the Cyprus issue, scheduled to be held in Geneva from April 27 to April 29, will be attended by the two parties of the island, the three guarantor countries of Turkey, Greece, and the U.K., as well as the U.N.
The dialogue will seek to determine whether a common ground exists for the parties to negotiate a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem.
Reminding that the Turkish side previously had said that they would not start a new round of negotiation for the federation, Çavuşoğlu underlined that they are still in the same position.
“If there is a common ground, negotiations begin with new parameters,” he said, stressing that the current parameters did not work so far.
“Decisions, parameters, and understandings can of course change,” Çavuşoğlu added.
Çavuşoğlu stated that they also evaluated what could be done to make the Turkish Cypriot mission abroad more active.
Turkish Cyprus has different statuses in some regional and international organizations, he said and noted that they evaluated the participation in the activities of some other organizations, especially the Turkic Council after the observer status criteria of the council are determined.
Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu, for his part, thanked Çavuşoğlu for his stance against the “aggressive” attitude of the Greek foreign minister.