- Turkish Forum
Costas CARRAS: Greek and Turkey do share
the same understanding
about the region and the world around us...
POYRAZ DOGAN (*)
Forum is a unique non-governmental organization
because it's the only one dealing with political
issues concerning Turkey and Greece. It had its
first meeting in the United States in Boston on
March 29-30 at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Thanos Veremis, Karamanlis Professor of History
at Fletcher and a member of the forum, organized
the meeting. The event was supported by the A.
Leventis Foundation, Professor Leila Fawaz, Director
of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean
Studies, Professor Andrew Hess, Director of Southwest
Asia and Turkish Studies, the Fletcher School
and Diplomacy, Tufts University and the Kokkalis
think it has been an extraordinarily good meeting for
variety of reasons. First of all, we were able to speak
publicly and it's much better that we did this in the
United States than we should do it in Turkey or in Greece.
Because in either Turkey or in Greece, the questions
would have come from a Turkish angle or a Greek angle.
Whereas here they came from an outsider's angle."
the importance of meeting in the United States, Costas
Carras explained. A writer and a businessman, Carras
was involved in the Greek-Turkish Forum from the start.
Businessman and Writer
YPD: How did you first get involved in the Greek-Turkish
There was a conference at Wilton Park. Some Greeks and
Turks were invited. We had a very good conference. That
was in 1997 in October. And after that some people said
"we must do something more permanent." It
was the idea of an Englishman. And we had some conversations.
A group was formed. I was in the initial group though
I was not originally the Greek coordinator. And when
the first Greek coordinator was not able to continue
because he became one of the justices of the European
Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, I became the coordinator
of the Greek team.
Were you the one to select people to get into the group?
I did not select them but I made a number of suggestions.
What were your considerations?
The ability to put up with disagreement. We knew
that there would be disagreements amongst us but one
has to be able to initiate dialogue, to accept there
would be disagreements and yet respect the other person
as a human being, to respect his views, to respect what
he or she stands for, and then to try and work with
him or her in order to see at what points there are
common perceptions and common interests which could
be used as a lever to change or to effect those areas
where there are disagreements. That's what we are trying
In one of the panels, Soli Ozel said that the composition
of the group was a little different at the beginning.
Later, it has become the way it is now. How did this
That's inevitable. Some people are very busy, they can't
take part. We had a reduction in the number of journalists
taking part on the Greek side but not on the Turkish
side. We have more diplomats on the Turkish side, ex-diplomats.
We have more professors on the Greek side. These differences
have their significance but they are less significant
than the fact that the group works together very well
as a whole.
What are the most important successes of the group so
The successes of the group are first that we were able
to go to the European Union in early 2000 to say here
is a joint Greek-Turkish group which can perceive certain
common interests in relation to the European Union.
And then, second success was that we were able to, in
the summer of 2000, produce a common statement on the
way to approach a settlement of the Aegean issue. And
the third success has been that we are able to bring
together a group, a substantial group of Greek Cypriots
and Turkish Cypriots to a common meeting in Beirut,
this meeting has been moved to Rome because of escalating
tensions in the Middle East. I think also the members
of the group, both the Turks and the Greeks, have an
important positive influence in their countries on the
way that each country sees the other. We are not the
only forces in our countries. There are other much stronger
forces but we have a positive influence.
There are so many groups. Formed earlier or they are
in the process of being formed. Turkish-Greek, Greek-Turkish,
whatever they are called. What makes your group different
than the others?
Very, very different. It is the only group, which is
chiefly political. That is to say its object is to discuss
political issues. It is track two but it is track two
political. It is not concerned with history books, like
the other work that I do for the Center for Democracy
and Reconciliation in South East Europe. It is not concerned
with bringing similar groups together, women's groups
or students' groups. These are all valuable things to
do but it's not what we are doing. We are discussing
the major political issues outstanding between Greece
and Turkey or affecting Greek and Turkish relations,
because in the case of Cyprus, it is not directly a
Greek-Turkish issue but it certainly effects Greek-Turkish
How does your position, your position of access to your
government in Greece, how does it help you to bring
in contributions to the group and to the communities?
I think it's the other way around. Access helps respective
governments to understand better public opinion in the
other country. And twice Mr. Papandreou has seen the
Turkish members of the Greek-Turkish Forum, and once
Mr. Cem has seen the Greek members of the Greek-Turkish
Forum. That is in itself a sure sign that they value
the existence of this group.
Do you think that they also value the works of this
Sure they do. Because the letters of Mr. Cem and Mr.
Papandreou in respect to the Aegean declaration were
both positive. But, of course, they are officials; they
are diplomats. They have to be very careful when they
express themselves. But I have no doubt from words they've
spoken, written and oral, and from their actions that
they want this method of contact, which is not a contact
between officials; which does not bind anybody but which
at the same gives valuable indications of what can be
done, what might be achieved, what are the ways forward
to a new future between the two peoples.
What is next in the agenda after Beirut meeting?
There is nothing on the agenda after Beirut but I am
confident that there will be more work on the Cyprus
problem. Quite clearly, we have a major job to do in
terms of reaching a settlement on the Cyprus problem
either in this year or if it is not this year, then
during next year. We will concentrate on the Cyprus
issue in the next few months. I may be wrong. It's not
just I, who makes the decisions. All the members of
the group have an equal voice. The coordinator simply
coordinates but that is my impression, it is not a decision.
What has happened during the discussions in Boston?
I think it has been an extraordinarily good meeting
for variety of reasons. First of all, we were able to
speak publicly and it's much better that we did this
in the United States than we should do it in Turkey
or in Greece. Because in either Turkey or in Greece,
the questions would have come from a Turkish angle or
a Greek angle. Whereas here they came from an outsiders
angle. I think that was something very valuable. The
second thing is that going into the discussion, we were
able to identify the need to move on the Cyprus issue
in such a way that we give ourselves if necessary --
we hope it is not necessary but if it is necessary --more
time. So these are the two things which I think are
very important. Then thirdly, we saw a great deal of
agreement in the analysis of the relationship with the
European Union. And that is very important. It is very
important that apart from the specific issues between
the two countries, we have, to some degree, a common
view of the world in the region around us. And that
I think was very evident. We still have our disagreements
about specific problems. But we do share a great of
the same understanding about the region and the world
around us, just in the same way as we share a musical
tradition, which is what we ended with this evening.
And there are no bad feelings?
You must ask the others but I have only good feelings.
Boston, March 29, 2002
read our interview with Carras'
counterpart Ilter Turkmen in this issue in this
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Yonca Poyraz Dogan
has been working as an international broadcaster
at the Voice of America since 1998. She recently covered
Greek-Turkish Forum's first meeting in the United States.
For Turkish sound files and reports from the meeting
visit: www.voanews.com/Turkish and click on "Türk-Yunan