Samaras stuns Erdoğan


Imagine the following scene when Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras meets today with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, at his Dolmabahçe office in İstanbul. While 90 Greek businessmen and 10 ministers from Samaras’ cabinet are busy elsewhere in talks, Samaras leads the tête-à-tête:

“Esteemed prime minister, these are interesting times. We are both very busy, and deeply concerned with the pressing issues. I have to overcome our profound economic crisis and growing social unrest, which has given rise to neo-Nazi aspirations. You have, on your side, shouldered the enormous task of resolving the Kurdish issue. You stand face to face with the human tragedy in Syria and Iraq. I know that against all odds your government is determined in pursuing your EU membership goal. At the same time, the volume and intensity of many issues strain and add to our already strained relations.”

“We ought to find that in almost each and every one of them, we have deep mutual interest in finding a resolution. The stable and globalized Turkish economy is an asset for us. We are ready to put aside concerns and must cooperate much more; we have to do more to consolidate and institutionalize our economic relations. I, on the other hand, am fully aware of the benevolent leverage we have pertaining to Turkey’s EU membership process, and feel utterly relieved by the statements of Nikos Anastasiadis, the new president of Cyprus. This is the mood change we have been expecting and must take advantage of. In the midst of all sorts of turmoil, surrounding the Eastern Mediterranean plus Aegean, we seem to have the conditions ripening for building a better future. The issues we have to deal with together are far bigger than who will finance the building of the mosque in Athens or what sort of bureaucratic solution must be found for the opening the Halki Seminary in İstanbul. Future generations of our peoples will remember us with shame if we do not change the paradigm toward solution-oriented policies.”

“Given the geopolitics, economy, energy, security, we need to open the gates to a strategic partnership, and surprise the world. There is no enmity between our people, they only blame bad, populist politics for the problems between the people. The ground will mature, if we start with economic cooperation. Both Greek right and left will eventually understand the value of a holistic approach in our elaborate strategic thinking. Let us, instead of nit-picking, take all the issues which keep us apart, and work on package solutions, because much of what we face is interrelated, including the unification process on Cyprus. Let us start to make the Eastern Mediterranean a more stable, safe, predictable and prosperous region. To do that, we can set on with the issues that concern Greek-Turkish relations, without prejudice, and address all legitimate concerns. I do not see any obstacles for a new non-aggression pact, which can be extended once Cyprus talks advance to a point of no return, as to include a unified island. Why not? In the future, much of what will be needed in terms of trustworthy relations will be asked from Greece and Turkey. We owe it to our people. So, it is time, I believe, for a win-win game for us and also for all the Cypriots, the EU and the Middle East.”

Sound utopic, naive? Probably. What prompted me to fictionalize such an offer is the fact that crisis, any crisis, leads people to one of two directions: to resort to denial and defensiveness (think Bashar al-Assad), or to leap to a new level (think Nelson Mandela). Change and leaps forward demand leadership, far-sightedness and courage. Current Turkish-Greek relations are far from fine; they have been left adrift, open and vulnerable to all sorts of tactics, which can be interpreted as a strategy in itself.

Should we expect any surprises from today’s meeting, which actually is a great opportunity for candor? Not much. Some insufficient economic steps perhaps, but on major policy issues the parties will agree to agree, or simply disagree. At best, it will add a simple mediocrity to the quality of relations. It is a pity that two neighbors, geographically obliged to tolerate one another, are wasting so much time.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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