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Lausanne debate highlights split between government and opposition

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A dispute over the interpretation of the Lausanne Treaty, which established the foundation of the Turkish Republic, as to whether it was a victory or a diplomatic defeat, resurfaced during the opening ceremony of the new legislative year in Parliament, with the prime minister slamming opposition leader.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım harshly criticized main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu over his attack against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who labeled the founding treaty a resounding defeat due to the loss of islands in the Aegean Sea.

Yıldırım accused Kılıçdaroğlu of trying to gain political points by taking on the controversial issue.

“For years they tried to sell this treaty as a victory,” Erdoğan had previously said, in an implicit reference to the secular founders of the republic, before adding that the Turkish party at the peace table was unable to negotiate a successful deal.

Erdoğan said with the Lausanne Treaty Turkey gave up territories called the Greek Islands, which are now part of Greece. “Those lands were ours, we still have mosques there,” Erdoğan added, expressing regret over the loss of territory which he called “within shouting distance of Turkey.”

On Friday the CHP leader struck back. “We defend Lausanne, they defend the Sèvres Treaty. Do you defend Sèvres? We defend Ankara, they defend İstanbul. We defend the republic, they defend the caliphate. We defend citizenship, they defend serfdom. Friend! Don’t forget that you sit in that chair thanks to the republic,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in response to President Erdoğan in the ensuing quarrel.

How to interpret the Lausanne Treaty, as a victory or a defeat, remains a contentious issue and sporadically appears in debates between politicians, revealing the lasting repercussions of history on today’s world.

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