Beyond the visits

The size and makeup of Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s escort in his visit to Washington, along with the large number of meetings scheduled to take place during his stay, have raised concerns in Athens. One automatically makes comparisons between the particulars of Ecevit’s visit and that of Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis last week. But is it really proper to evaluate Simitis’s US visit by contrasting it to the Turkish premier’s? Whether or not Simitis’s Washington talks actually produced beneficial results is already being judged on the basis of the premier’s remarks in the United States; and, of course, some things will only be revealed further down the road, independent of what the country’s political elite may be saying on this issue today. If things did not go well, as some assert, that is not because Ecevit traveled to the US under the escort of numerous diplomats and businessmen. Turkey has not, all of a sudden, become a crucial strategic US ally in the international arena as Vice President Dick Cheney claimed, for reasons that need not be explained. On top of that, Turkey is in a dire economic condition and is doing everything it can to ensure large loans and attract investments with the greatest possible US support. Ecevit, then, had every reason not to travel to Washington accompanied by just six or seven aides. The size of his escort actually corresponds to the size of the problems facing his country, and to the returns he is willing to offer to his American interlocutors. If Simitis did a good job of discussing with the US administration the serious problems of Greece’s foreign policy, then he need not worry over the size of the Turkish delegation. And, of course, the defining parameters of the problems that bedevil Greek-Turkish relations are not going to change merely because the Turkish prime minister pays a visit to the USA. These parameters have been clearly unfavorable for Greece for a long time now, and only a dynamic and well-organized Greek foreign policy could transform or at least improve them.

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