Greece, Turkey seek end to feud
By Andrew Borowiec, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
May 14 2004
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Greece and Turkey have embarked on what diplomats
describe as a period of “optimism and hope” with the ultimate goal
of ending their centuries-old feud.
A meeting in Athens last week between Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Greek counterpart, Costas Karamanlis,
sparked diplomatic dispatches and newspaper editorials forecasting
an unprecedented era of cooperation.
Above all, the prime ministers pledged not to let their long-standing
dispute over Cyprus stand in the path of a rapprochement.
“The European Union has accepted the whole of Cyprus — with a
special dispensation for its northern sector,” Mr. Karamanlis said.
“For us, the issue has been solved and has been dealt with.”
He also stressed Greek backing of Turkish efforts to join the European
Union and for planned Turkish political and economic reforms.
Mr. Erdogan said, “Greek-Turkish relations must not be affected by
the Cyprus issue. … The improvement of bilateral relations between
Greece and Turkey will be to the benefit not only of the two countries
but to stability, peace and cooperation in the whole region.”
The statements caused considerable concern in Greek-Cypriot political
circles, where it was understood that the new chapter in Greek-Turkish
relations was facilitated by the Greek-Cypriot rejection of a U.N. plan
to unite the island — and a Turkish-Cypriot vote of acceptance.
International sponsors of the plan quickly moved to reward the hitherto
ostracized and boycotted Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, putting
the legal Greek-Cypriot government on the defensive.
The fear now is of a loss of international interest in the island’s
Since the Ottoman massacre of Armenians and the post-Ottoman wars of
the 1920s, Greece and Turkey have rarely seen eye to eye. Although
both are partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, their
military preparations have been mostly aimed at each other.
Greece and Turkey nearly went to war three times in recent years —
in 1974 because of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in retaliation for
a Greek coup, in 1987 when Turkey sent an oil drilling ship into
the disputed areas of the Aegean Sea, and in 1996 over a disputed
uninhabited Aegean islet.
The Erdogan-Karamanlis meeting follows a steady search for better
relations, marked by 25 bilateral agreements in the past five years.
The conservative Athens daily Kathimerini, however, added a note
“Both men seek to hammer out relations based on sincerity and trust
which will allow them to resolve nagging hitches. But the EU will
never begin accession negotiations with a state in which political
life is under the shadow of the military.”
Turkish officials and diplomats insist that Turkey has made strides
toward major changes in its political outlook.
Hakan Altinay, of the Open Society Institute in Turkey, said, “A
transformation wrought by the soft power of the European Union has
gone unnoticed by Europe. … The death penalty was repealed, draconian
laws that restricted speech and the press for decades were abolished.
“The state of emergency that curtailed basic liberties in southeast
Turkey was lifted after 25 years. The extraordinary powers of the
National Security Council which subordinated civilian rule to military
authority were eliminated.”