A call from people of two nations
As the dust settles after last Monday’s 61st exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece, and diplomats and politicians retreat to prepare for the next round of talks in a few weeks, this is perhaps the right time to give the floor to the people who have been witnessing a rising tension for at least a year. So far, the people of both countries have no role other than following passively the policies and decisions of their political leaders who promise that they will do their best to defend their countries’ integrity and sovereign rights to the very end at any cost.
I do not want to sound pessimistic, but unless there is a genuine intention by both sides to give way, there is a real possibility that these renewed exploratory talks may again fail. When the format of “exploratory talks” was launched back in March 2002, under the solidarity spirit that terrible earthquakes in both countries brought Turks and Greeks together, there was hope that we would soon proceed with a specific agenda to gradually solve their outstanding issues.
Instead, the energy for rapprochement was spent on “low diplomacy” subjects, leaving the serious matters for another time. In spite of the strict confidentiality of the talks, diplomats on both sides reached close to an agreement on certain issues during 2010 talks, according to some diplomatic sources.
Yet, more than ten years later, we are still at the stage of exploring the possibility of whether we can agree on the agenda of possible talks where a lot more disputed issues have been added.
Perhaps this is the time to listen to opinions coming from outside the political and diplomatic world.
I was quite moved when I read a post on social media by an eminent professor of ophthalmology, Ioannis Pallikaris - a Cretan and a world pioneer in Lasik treatment - who for years was the leading scientific consultant to one of the biggest eye hospital groups in Turkey. He had the chance to have first-hand acquaintance with Turks both as patients and as friends. And he was also eager to find ways to bring the two peoples together.
I was not surprised to see that he wanted his voice to be heard at this particular moment when there is a small light at the end of the tunnel after the restart of some kind of informal yet formal talking.
I am quoting parts of his long piece:
“At a time of global instability and unpredictable change, we are two peoples who, although our history has a completely different starting point and our religion has a different basis, due to our coexistence in recent centuries and our coexistence in common spaces, the way we perceive the structure of society, our way of life, our linguistic approaches and in general our recent cultural affinity, give us much more in common between us than any other countries bordering the Eastern and Western worlds respectively.
We are the most European Orientals and the most Oriental Europeans. Both our countries are paying the price for global instability, with serious crises, one at the political level and the other at the economic level.
We, the citizens of these countries, better understand our experiential relationship, through our daily life, whenever we have been together, either in Turkey or in Greece.
Both peoples believe that when we exchange visits with each other, when we work together, our familiarity is greater than anywhere else.
We do not understand the political games of our governments, which systematically cultivate a tension between us on minor issues, compared to the global stakes; problems that can be solved in a good neighborly relationship.
Gentlemen, go overboard and show the political courage to win the bet of peace.
Prove that you listen to the will of your peoples and make it stronger than your macroeconomic and geopolitical interests.
Demarcate a broad peace zone that includes both countries, between the two worlds that oppose and poison human relations in today’s societies, regardless of religion or nationality.
Respect us and do not lead us where we do not want to go…”