Mitsotakis: Turkey has violated the Treaty of Lausanne and questions our sovereign rights


“The observance of the Treaty is guaranteed and will be guaranteed by Greece, with the shield of diplomacy and its alliances, but also with the deterrent spear of the Armed Forces”, said the Prime Minister from the opening of the exhibition on the Asia Minor Disaster at the Benaki Museum

The prime minister sent a message to Turkey Kyriakos Mitsotakis during his greeting from the opening of the Exhibition on the Asia Minor Disaster, at the Benaki Museum. Mr. Mitsotakis referred to its violation Treaty of Lausanne from the neighboring country, with the uprooting of the Greek element from Istanbul and emphasized that Greece guarantees compliance with the Treaty and will do so in the future.

In more detail, the greeting of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the opening of the event “ASIA MINOR: Shine – Destruction – Uprooting – Creation” in Benaki Museum:

Madam President of the Republic,
Madam President of the Benaki Museum,
Mr. President of the Center for Asia Minor Studies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Such hours, a hundred years ago, on the shores of Asia Minor, the bloody final act of the “Vision of Ionia” was being written. Smyrna had already been given over to the flames and its Christian inhabitants were being massacred. Meanwhile, those who managed to escape the fury of the Turks, followed the Greek army towards the Erythraean peninsula, trying to cross to our islands and from there to salvation. Of their lives only. Because their fortunes were already gone…

A little later, in Lausanne, after the blood, the end of 25 centuries of presence of Hellenism in Ionia, Cappadocia, Pontus and Eastern Thrace would be written in ink. With the exchange of populations, one and a half million souls then took the path of the great Exodus. But also the decision to take root again, in new homes in the motherland.

They traveled, carrying few possessions and few precious heirlooms. Those that find, today, their place in the unique exhibition co-organized by two great arks of the memory of Ionic Hellenism: the Benaki Museum and the Center for Asia Minor Studies, with the brave contribution of 88 other institutions. Two institutions, which with effort and passion keep alive for decades the heritage of the Greeks of the lost homelands. And for that they deserve our gratitude.

Uprooting was the heavy price that had to be paid in order to ensure peace and open a new chapter of national life: “Through the signing of the Convention, the unfortunate refugees are provided with the means to start a new life. Under better conditions than anyone could have hoped for after the disaster in Asia Minor”, wrote Eleftherios Venizelos, after the signing of the Treaty. He thus gave the signal for the national upliftment that would follow.

And the refugees vindicated him much faster and much more than he himself imagined. Because if the Asia Minor Disaster is perhaps the greatest trauma of our recent past, the integration of refugees into the national body is probably the greatest peaceful achievement of the Greek state.

With a country devastated and in debt after 10 years of fighting, internally unstable and with few resources, to achieve a true miracle: to turn the lamentation of tragedy into a breath of creation. To detect her mistakes and her wrong choices. To get back on her feet and follow her historical trajectory that always transforms disasters into triumphs. Leveraged by the strength and stubbornness of the refugees, who contributed catalytically to the modernization of the place.

The great Asia Minor Ilias Venezis wrote, having experienced first-hand the atrocity, but also the re-creation: “The Hellenism of the East stood on its feet by working the bitter earth. Clearing wild mountains, draining swamps, penetrating into the core of the country’s life. In Industry, Shipping, Commerce, Arts, Letters. Everywhere, advancing to the first places. By changing the pace of work and production and moving it along. Putting a new, awake spirit into people’s transactions and relationships.”

Ladies and gentlemen,

All of the above, destruction and rebirth, are depicted in the adjacent halls and their exhibits. I would suggest that we visit them not only as an exercise in memory, but as a motivation for national self-awareness. Because certainly History does not repeat itself, nor does it teach by itself. But it helps in the search for our collective self. It defines, to a large extent, the environment in which we moderns move. And sometimes it guides wisely in an ever-changing world.

The Asia Minor Catastrophe and the integration of the Dodecanese in 1947 defined the final geographical outline of the country. While the Treaty of Lausanne governs, since then, our coexistence with our neighbors. And this, despite the fact that Turkey has violated it by uprooting the Greek element of Constantinople, Imbros and Tenedos. But it still undermines its clear regulations, questioning our sovereign rights.

The other side of the Aegean should realize, however, that in the almost century of validity of this Treaty, it will be succeeded by many more. This is what History and Geography, legitimacy and international stability demand. That is why Greece guarantees and will guarantee its observance, with the shield of its diplomacy and alliances, but also with the deterrent spear of its Armed Forces. Mainly, however, with its continuous march towards progress.

Because the real confrontation of a country is with its past and its future. Hellenism may have lost one of its most creative foci in September ’22. Soon after, however, the country learned to win the battle of its prosperity: it strengthened its national homogeneity, avoiding the “ghosts” of other Balkan countries. He fought back. But with the winning side of History. It flourished with the post-war development. And it made the lives of the Greeks better.

To be, today, one of the oldest members of the European family, starring among them. In a journey not without mistakes, as the National Division, which preceded the Asia Minor adventure, recurred in other forms. Thus, we experienced a Civil War and a seven-year Dictatorship. While we saw him revive just a few years ago in the form of demagoguery, again in the face of an economic crisis that required a national rally.

All this, however, belongs to the past. The choices of the Greeks show that the traces of experience become for them guides to a better path. How every great setback can be followed by a greater national success. And that, today, the “Big Idea” is not connected to geographical possessions. But with Great Greece. The strong and self-sufficient homeland of our future. The one who doesn’t forget because, precisely, she wants to move on!

I close as Ilias Venezis also modestly closes his text on the Asia Minor drama: “After so much passion that we have lived, we keep as our roof and supporter a vision of man, purely Greek: a sense of dignity and freedom, which is identical with the virtue”. Allow me, in fact, to borrow the title of the book where it was published, as it fits perfectly with tonight’s exposition: “Little One, Rejoice.”

Thank you.

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