Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reportedly called for the return of Greeks to Constantinople during an official dinner with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
The Turkish ‘Sabah’ newspaper reported on its front page the discussions between President Erdoğan and Patriarch Bartholomew, which were held during a Ramadan Iftar feast.
The Sabah, along with other Turkish newspapers, said the meeting was “constructive” and held in a “good atmosphere.”
With the leaders of religious minorities in Turkey also present at the dinner, they claimed that the Turkish leader “embraced” the minorities. However, an independent United States’ commission on International Religious Freedom conducted last month found the Turkish government made “little to no effort to address many longstanding religious freedom issues”, referring to the governments decision to deny requests for elections to be held by religious minority communities.
“Although officials made a point to meet with some religious minority community leaders, the government appeared to take no subsequent action following that meeting to address those communities’ concerns,” the report said.
Despite this, the Turkish President told the Patriarch Bartholomew of his wish for the Greeks to return to their ancestral city.
Hundreds of thousands of Greeks were estimated to be living in Constantinople following WWI. In 1955, Greeks were driven out of Istanbul and Turkey when the Prime Minister decided to blame Greeks for their economic problems.
On September 6 and 7, 1955, a crowd of 50,000 Turkish people turned as one against the Greek properties in the Pera district.
There are now estimated to be up to 2,000 Greeks that remain in Constantinople.