Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Athens, aimed at smoothing long-strained relations with Greece, was marked by heightened security measures and protests on Thursday as Greek police arrested 10 Kurdish activists protesting against Erdoğan, the Cyprus Mail reported.
Despite its reputation for freedom of assembly and dissent, the Greek authorities imposed a day-long ban on protests during the Turkish president’s first visit to the country in six years, in anticipation of potentially disruptive anti-Erdoğan protests.
Accompanied by a large security detail and with 3,500 Greek police officers deployed, Erdoğan’s visit to Athens was marked by strict security measures. The city was cordoned off, drones were used to monitor the visit and several roads were closed to traffic.
In addition to the Kurdish activists, a group of far-right Cypriot students were reportedly detained during a demonstration in front of the Turkish embassy in Athens.
Later in the day, Kurds living in Athens and their supporters gathered in Academia Square to protest against Erdoğan and Turkey’s military attacks on Kurds in Iraq and Syria. The Rise Up for Rojava initiative and other allied groups joined the protest.
From threats to handshake: Erdoğan, Mitsotakis find common ground in joint declaration
On the occasion of the visit, Erdoğan and Mitsotakis signed a joint declaration on ‘good neighbourly relations’.
The declaration comes amid long-running tensions between the two countries. Erdoğan had previously accused Greece of “occupying” islands in the Aegean. He threatened: “When the time comes, we will do what is necessary. As we say, we may come one night without warning”. He then added, “Don’t forget Izmir”, in a reference to the defeat and withdrawal of the Greek army from the western Turkish province during Turkey’s War of Independence in 1922. After Mitsotakis replied: “We are waiting for you in broad daylight”, Erdoğan retorted: “Mitsotakis doesn’t exist for me anymore”. Mitsotakis, in turn, warned a joint session of the United States Congress against support for the proposed sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, saying such a move could cause additional instability in the region.
Speaking to a Greek newspaper before his visit on Thursday, Erdoğan claimed that the “one night without warning” statement was not aimed at Greece but at “terrorist elements”, and he went on to praise Mitsotakis.