Turkey to allow Greece to build new Ankara embassy

Turkey and Greece have decided to find a formula to overcome the embassy problem

Turkey has made an important diplomatic gesture by lifting its four-decade-old veto on Greece’s demands to build an embassy on Ankara land granted to the country in the 1930s, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

The move came after Greece eased procedures for Turkey to buy a new embassy building in Athens. “Both parties have evaluated these developments as separate cases. This is not a reciprocal move,” a diplomatic source told the Daily News.

The two neighboring countries, which are in conflict over sovereignty rights in the Aegean Sea as well as the status of the Turkish minority in Western Thrace, having also been facing a lack of sufficient embassy facilities. Turkey has been rejecting Greece’s demands to build a new embassy on its own piece of land in the heart of Ankara while Greece has been refusing the Turkish request to enlarge its existing building, both due to bitter bilateral relations.

With the warming in relations in recent years, especially in terms of economic and political ties, Turkey and Greece have decided to find a formula to overcome the embassy problem. Though they agreed not to link the two cases, the parties have paved the way for meeting each other’s demands in separate cases.

The first move came from Turkey, which has bought a new embassy building in Athens as the old one was not sufficient for 40 personnel, and was impossible to expand as it is a historical structure, daily Hürriyet reported Sunday. Turkey bought a new building in a top Athens district for nearly $18 million from the family of the late Greek businessman Aristotle Onassis.

Simultaneously, the block before Greece’s long-held desire to build a new embassy in Ankara has been silently removed.

A piece of land on the corner of Atatürk Avenue and Chile Square in central Ankara was given to Greece by Turkey to build an embassy in the early 1930s, as a sign of goodwill from Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to Greek Prime Minister Elefterios Venizelos. But when Greece asked permission to erect a building on this plot in 1973, during the junta rule, its request was rejected by Turkey. Numerous efforts by Greece have been unanswered since then.

With the blockade removed, the Greek Embassy has started a competition to find the most suitable architectural structure for the new building. “The competition also includes some Turkish architects,” a Greek source said. The selection and execution of the project is being carried out by the Greek Foreign Ministry.

“Despite the economic crisis, the government has decided to construct the new premise,” the Greek diplomat said. The construction of the building and relocation of the embassy will take at least two years.

Serkan Demirtas, HDN