With Greece’s Muslims fuming that the government hasn’t built them an official mosque as tension has been ramping up against immigrants, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly told his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras that Turkey will bear the cost.
Samaras, who met with Erdogan in Qatar during the Greek leader’s visit to the country to lure investment, said the project has been approved by the Greek Parliament, the site onalert.gr reported.
“We told them it’s not necessary for you to build it if you give us the construction license, we can do it ourselves as long as there is a place for prayer for Muslims who go to Athens,” Erdogan said. The two leaders were staying at the same hotel and also discussed Samaras’ planned visit to Turkey in March.
The meeting lasted 40 minutes and besides the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu there was also the manager of the diplomatic office of the Greek Prime Minister Stavros Vassilopoulos present
“I told him that Turkey could cover the costs of a mosque in Athens if necessary permissions are granted. And Mr. Samaras showed a positive attitude and said the Greek parliament had approved such a plan. We have reached to a mutual agreement that these issues can be solved through good will,” Erdogan told reporters.
Muslims in Greece and Athens have to resort to makeshift mosques for prayers and there are an estimated 300,000 of them in the capital city. Asked whether the issue of the Halki (Heybeliada) Seminary in Istanbul could be handled the same way, Erdogan said, “Why not, that’s possible.”
Also discussed was Greece’s lagging privatization program which is under intense pressure from the country’s lenders to be accelerated, one of the reasons Samaras was in Qatar. Erdogan told Samaras, “I overcame the crisis with privatizations,” referring to his country’s economic difficulties.
Turkish TV media also said that Erdogan was going to raise to Samaras the issue of the Turkish minority in Thrace and a law about religious teachers and would ask for it to be withdrawn. The Turkish news agency Anadolu said that during their meeting, Erdogan gave advice to Samaras about freedom of worship, although Christianity has often been under assault in Turkey. Erdogan also talked about charitable institutions of Turks in western Thrace.