Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Turkey and Greece
are working on a new ferry line between Thessaloniki and İzmir which is expected to set sail in early 2017, drawing the countries closer together in the process.
Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, who has been enthusiastic in encouraging Turks to visit his city, was in Ankara
for talks on the ferry line project that will carry both trucks and passengers.
In an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News, Boutaris underlined the potential of Turkish tourists visiting his city, noting that more than 5,000 Turks came and visited the house of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
last year on Nov. 10, the anniversary of the passing of the Turkish Republic’s founder.
Boutaris initially attracted criticism for seeking Turkish investment. “Thessaloniki was a conservative city. There are many explanations for that. We have the communist danger, we have the Turkish danger. All these are [misrepresented]. When you create an enemy, you provide a distraction from everyday problems,” he said.
perception of Turks and Atatürk
has changed over time in Thessaloniki, with more Turkish tourists now visiting the city, the mayor said. Greeks saw that Turks didn’t want to kill them
“Thessaloniki has the privilege of being the city where Kemal Atatürk
was born. For Greeks, we have created a story that Kemal Atatürk
was a killer. Now, what I say to my citizens is, I don’t care if Kemal Atatürk
was a killer or not. I don’t care if he was good or not. One thing I care is that as Greeks, we go Saint Sophia [Hagia Sophia] in Istanbul, we go to Smyrna [İzmir] we go to Samsun and Trabzon
and pay respect to our ancestors’ land. So, the Turks have the same feeling for Kemal Atatürk. He is the father of Turkey. They want to come and visit the birthplace of Kemal Atatürk. So, I’ll give you the chance to come and visit. And as soon as the Turks come here, the people of Thessaloniki will see that Turks don’t want to kill us and don’t want to have a war. They feel that they are very close each other, and things smoothen up,” he said.
Now there is a different atmosphere in Thessaloniki, Boutaris added.
“Turks and Greeks must understand each other. We must live together forever. We must live like neighbors, we must love each other,” he said.