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PM Yıldırım to visit Greece ahead of Cyprus talks

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
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Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım will make a working visit to Greece on June 19 at the invitation of Greek his counterpart Alexis Tsipras, ahead of Cyprus reunification talks in Switzerland. During his visit to Athens, Prime Minister Yıldırım will be received by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

Yıldırım's visit is taking place ahead of a new round of talks over the reunification of Cyprus that will take place in Switzerland's Crans-Montana on June 28; therefore, the Cyprus issue is expected to be the main item on the Turkish premier's agenda. On June 9, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced a new Cyprus conference following a meeting with Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders in New York and Turkey, Greece and the U.K. will also participate as guarantor powers alongside the EU in an observer capacity to the Crans-Montana summit.

Despite months of negotiations, the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides still could not reach an agreement on key issues including a security and guarantees system; thus, these issues will reportedly be discussed. The EU-Turkey migration deal, European-Turkish relations and Greek-Turkish relations are also expected to be discussed during the visit.

In recent months, the Greek supreme court denied Turkey's extradition request for the eight soldiers who fled to Greece following last year's failed coup attempt, perpetrated by members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), in a court decision that drew an angry rebuke from Ankara. As a result, the extradition requests of the FETÖ-linked soldiers are also among issues that will be discussed between the two prime ministers.

After completing his meetings in Athens, Yıldırım will make his way to the Western Thrace region, which has a Turkish minority, and have an iftar (fast-breaking) dinner with the Turkish people there. Western Thrace is located in northern Greece, close to the Turkish border; estimates for the number of Western Thrace Turks vary between 60,000 and 150,000. They are a remnant of the Ottoman Empire but are not recognized as ethnic Turks by the Greek government, which classifies them among other Greek Muslims.Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that for many years, the Greek government has been trying to reduce the number of ethnic Turks in Western Thrace. This has been done via techniques ranging from the deprivation of citizenship to "encouraging" emigration to Turkey, to efforts to assimilate the Turkish minority.

Last year, a mosque in the Western Thrace region was attacked by vandals. The Yeni Mosque in Komotini (Gümülcine), a town of 50,000 people, including many Muslims, was attacked and the doors to the building were daubed with the words "Turks out."

According to the Islamophobia Watch group, Greece has seen a rise in attacks on Muslims and Jews in recent years, coinciding with the rise of the far-right Golden Dawn party, which entered parliament in 2012.

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