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Greece and Turkey trade barbs as Erdogan visits Athens

Greece and Turkey trade barbs as Erdogan visits Athens
From Reuters - December 7, 2017

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece and Turkey squared up over old disputes on Thursday during a state visit to Athens by President Tayyip Erdogan that quickly descended into verbal sparring over a list of historical grievances.

Designed to boost relations between the two nations, the first visit of a Turkish president in 65 years quickly turned into a blunt grudge-fest between the NATO allies.

The two countries agreed to revive a consultation process for confidence-building measures, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said. By the end of the first day, both sides appeared to pull back from what threatened to be a massive diplomatic flop.

There is a lot more which unites us, from that which divides us, as long as there is will, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos told a state banquet in Erdogans honor.

We can live side by side, Erdogan said in a translation provided by Greek state TV. Our aim is to build the future differently, with unity, coexistence and solidarity, he said.

Earlier, he and Erdogan turned what was expected to be a staid welcoming ceremony into an unprecedented bout of diplomatic sparring over a host of differences.

The topics vented ranged from discrimination against Muslims in northern Greece to Turkeys military presence in ethnically-split Cyprus, and loose interpretations of an international treaty defining the borders of the two countries.

The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne covered a range of issues and defined the borders of modern-day Turkey, and by extension, Greece.

Erdogan told Greek media outlets before he even landed that the treaty needed a revision, putting Greeks in a defensive mode.

At the noon meeting, Pavlopoulos ruled out any change to the treaty while a stern-looking Erdogan, seated beside him, said there were details in the treaty which required clarity.

Though Erdogan focused on religious rights of the Turkish Muslim community in northern Greece, he said there were also problems on military topics.

The truth, is Im a little confused regarding if what he is putting on the table is to modernize, to update, to comply with the Lausanne Treaty, Tsipras said at a news conference as Erdogan stood at his side.

SHOW-STOPPER

The long exchange between Erdogan and the Greek president was the show-stopper, however.

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