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BACKGROUND Erdogan and Tsipras: What's on the agenda By Shabtai Gold, dpa

Europe
07.12.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Istanbul (dpa) - Turkey and Greece share a border and have a long history, including a brutal war fought after World War I during the partition of the Ottoman Empire. At the end, Turkey emerged the victor and declared itself a republic. Massive population transfers are a dark legacy of that period.

There remain some territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea between the nations which have threatened conflict three times, most recently in 1996, and more often incite harsh rhetoric. 

From time to time, other tensions have flared, including the Istanbul riots of 1955 targeting the Greek minority.

Despite these reasons to disagree, the two NATO allies have been working to strengthen relations in recent years. In 2010, the two governments held a joint cabinet session for the first time, when then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Athens.

As Erdogan, now president, plans a fresh trip to the Greek capital - which follows a visit two years ago by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Turkey - these are some of the main issues on the agenda.

1) Refugees. In 2016, Turkey began to crack down on smuggling operations which enable irregular migration by sea to Greece, following the largest wave of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants to hit European lands since World War II. The number of new arrivals in Greece has since declined sharply. The continuation of the current system is important not only for Athens but also for a number of European nations.

2) Cyprus. The island remains divided between the Turkish north, which is a largely unrecognized state, and the Greek south, which is part of the European Union. In 1974, Ankara and Athens nearly went to war over the territory. Turkish soldiers remain in Cyprus. Recent efforts aided by the United Nations aimed at resolving the crisis failed.

3) Turkish asylum seekers. Turkey is seeking the extradition of eight soldiers who fled to Greece by helicopter following the failed military coup last year. The Greek judiciary has declined to send them back, saying they may not get a fair trial. The soldiers deny the charges against them.

 

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