In one of the most difficult phases of Greek-Turkish relations, in the autumn of 1999, in the aftermath of Ocalan’s arrest, the two countries went from a verge of conflict to an unexpected resurgence of plans with then-leaders George Papandreou and the late Isma.
The development was largely the result of the catastrophic earthquakes that shook the two countries, in August and September of that year. The immediate mobilization of one country to help the other, created a new positive climate.
Thus paved the way for the so-called “earthquake diplomacy” approach. In a very short time we went from the harsh and often depicting rhetoric, not only of politicians, but also of ordinary citizens, to a scene of sincere solidarity.
Both societies overflowed with humanity and thus facilitated politicians who sincerely wanted to dare to take some steps that otherwise could not be accepted.
More than two decades have passed since then. We are experiencing a tense relationship again. There is no need to delve into the conflicting rhetoric of Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish-Libyan pact, the crisis in Evros, the dangerous summer of the ’20s. These are known.
Simply, the arrival in Athens tomorrow of the mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, comes to remind us that despite Erdogan’s omnipotence and restriction of many freedoms, in the neighboring country there are institutional factors independent of the president, with a significant impact on society.
In this light, one has the right to provide the popular mayor of the historic metropolis of Turkey, to evaluate his institutional role and to succeed his officer, and with his rhetoric but also concrete actions, to contribute to the improvement of bilateral relations.
The special symbolism of Constantinople and Athens, the important cities of the two countries, creates the background for effective rapprochement initiatives.
Last March, Costas Bakoyannis went to Istanbul and was warmly received. Something similar is expected to happen to Mr. Imamoglou during his visit to Athens.
Municipalities will not replace governments. However, the positive attitude of a mayor is important, especially when he represents a significant part of the total population of the country as is the case with the two largest cities in Greece and Turkey.
As a result of the symbolism emitted by the cities they govern, Messrs. Imamoglou and Bakoyannis Recently – you could not do it – to look for ways and joint actions that create a more favorable context and a positive aura, at the level of cities and citizens, facilitating thus, to the extent appropriate, the improvement of bilateral plans.