Erdoğan visits Greece07/12/17Government
Tukey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan begins a landmark visit to Greece today (Thursday 7 December), the first official trip a Turkish head of state has made in 65 years.
The visit follows the arrest in Athens of nine Turkish nationals charged with being members of DHKP-C, a militant Marxist group that has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Turkey.
Erdoğan, whose relations with Europe and the US have become strained amid growing condemnation of his crackdown on democratic institutions, has made few trips to the West since a foiled coup attempt against him last year and he has since become increasingly isolated.
Hostility between the two nations goes back to the subjugation of Greeks under Ottoman rule before a bloody war of independence saw the creation of the modern Greek state in 1821.
Most recently, tensions have resurfaced over Greece’s frontier role in the refugee crisis, failed talks to reunify Cyprus and, according to officials in Athens, Turkey’s repeated violations of Greek air and naval space over the Aegean Sea.
However, Greece is also aware that geography means they must co-exist with Turkey and stand to benefit most if Ankara maintains relations with Europe.
Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, hopes the visit will be politically substantial.
The visit will be closely watched by Western capitals. Diplomats will be keen to see if the Turkish leader uses Athens to issue yet another tirade against the West, or if he chooses to exploit the visit to mend fences by exhibiting a more conciliatory tone.