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Expert talks Turkish-Greek relations



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Dr. Leonidas Karakatsanis, assistant director at the British Institute at Ankara, explores the efforts of Turks and Greeks to overcome a symbolic wall of hatred. The talk was held in the Global and International Studies Building.  Xiaoan Guan Buy Photos

Relations between Turkey and Greece started as a treaty promoting friendship in the 1930s. Since then, it has been a cycle of friendship and enmity between the Turkish and Greek people, visiting author Leonidas Karakatsanis said.

The negative feelings can be traced in the continual recurrence of brink-of-war episodes, dogfights over the Aegean Sea, exclusive economic zones, air space, flight regions and various other topics, he said.  

Karakatsanis, an expert on Greek-Turkish relations, gave a lecture Tuesday evening in the Global and International Studies Building about the patterns of friendship between the two countries.

The pursuit of friendship between Turkey and Greece has had successes and failures, he said.

Following the treaty was two decades with no major conflicts.

In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied 40 percent of the country. This defeated the fragile relationship between Turkey and Greece.

Junior Christopher Herodotou, who attended the talk, grew up in Cyprus.

“I think I do have a slightly different perspective on some of the issues being from Cyprus and not from Greece,” Herodotou said.  “We have a much more recent grievance with the war in 1974. So, this idea of Greek-Turkish friendship is largely un-existent in Cyprus."

During the summer 1999, Greece and Turkey were hit by earthquakes, Karakatsanis said. There was an exchange of rescue teams for disaster-relief help. The two countries helped each other.

In Turkey, the negative impression of Greeks was so extreme that the idea of sending disaster relief was unimaginable. The arrival of the aid became headline news. It had the same effect when Turkey sent relief to Greece. 

Karakatsanis said there is a problem with talking about friendship. He said if you asked a Turkish or Greek citizen why they weren’t friends, they would say it is the politicians' fault.

While their relationship isn't as deep as leaders originally envisioned, it continues to develop today,  Karakatsanis said.   

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