Greek Prime Minister Makes Historic Visit to Turkey
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis makes the country’s first official visit to Turkey in 49 years. The move is a monumental step in mending the two nations' historically contentious relationship.
The government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave Karmanlis the “red-carpet treatment” upon his arrival on Jan. 23, according to Turkish daily paper Hürriyet.
The first visit of its kind in 49 years, Karamanlis’ three-day trip is testament to the warming diplomatic relations between Turkey and Greece.
In the past century these relations have been characterized by territorial squabbles over islands in the Aegean and debates over the rights of minority populations in both countries.
Their geographical conflict came to a head in the 1974 Cyprus War, during which the two nations fought over their respective claims to the island. As a result, Cyprus remains partitioned into Turkish and Greek sides.
However, there are a number of issues at stake in addition to Cyprus: Turkey’s adherence to the European Union’s requirements for accession, the re-opening of a Greek Orthodox seminary near Istanbul, and greater rights for Turkey’s ethnic Greek minority.
Turkey also plans to push Athens for wider recognition of the country’s Turkish Muslim minority.
In addition to the diplomatic implications, Karamanlis’ visit marks a shift in the countries’ cultural perceptions.
Until about a decade ago, the two countries spoke of one another with hushed derision. But now popular culture on both sides of the Aegean celebrates the nations’ similarities by making entertainment out of their dwindling mutual animosity.
A Turkish-Greek version of the reality television show “Survivor” was a ratings hit in both countries. The host of the Turkish-language version of the program, Acun Ilicali, told The Christian Science Monitor, “A show like this would have been more dangerous 10 years ago. From the Turkish point of view, Greeks are more sympathetic now.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan