Turkish Ambassador to Greece hopes for better relations


Outgoing Turkish Ambassador to Greece Burak Özügergin spoke of Greek-Turkish relations by expressing the wish during a reception on Thursday "that we didn’t need fires, earthquakes or other calamities to remind us that we are neighbours."

At the event at the ambassadorial residence in Athens to celebrate the 99th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic, Özügergin also expressed the certainty that "we can and indeed we must define our bilateral relationship in more reasonable, sensible and conciliatory terms in the years to come."

As he noted, "I can guarantee you that we will never run out of disputes or disagreements between the two sides of the Aegean, but it seems to me that we just have to agree to handle our differences better. And we need to keep repeating to ourselves that not every dispute should create an enemy."

The Turkish ambassador opened his statements on the celebration, which began with the national anthems of Greece and Turkey, by noting that the anniversary celebrates Turkey's reinvention of itself. "That capacity, willingness and eagerness to always move forward, the seeds of which were planted nearly a century ago, is what today helps us to make a difference regionally and sometimes even globally," he noted.

During the founding of the republic, Turkish people had to "change at the core," the ambassador said. Founder Kemal Atatürk introduced changes in government, education, measurements of distances and time and the alphabet itself, while changes also included the introduction of last names, and actions that to women getting the vote.

Speaking of the conclusion of his four-year term in Greece for himself and his wife Jasmina, Özügergin, who will be replaced by fellow-diplomat Çağatay Erciyes as announced, said that Greek-Turkish relations may have been marked by tension, but also had their positive moments. "Looking back at these four years, I do see a lot of turbulence in the bilateral relationship, to be sure," he noted. "But I also see a few - frankly - elegant moments. Like all those times we helped each other by caring for and repatriating our citizens who were stuck not only in each other’s country but even in faraway lands during the worst days of the pandemic. Or the immediate outpouring of genuine sympathy and swift offers to lend a helping hand in times of emergencies."

Striking a note of optimism about bilateral relations, and particular between the two peoples, the Turkish diplomat said, "I am heartened by the polls that clearly indicate that a great chunk of Turkish society does not harbor hostile feelings towards the Greek people. And on the flip side, according to other polls, it is somewhat encouraging to see that despite all the talk and the noise, Turks are not at the top of the list of people disliked by the Greeks. I guess that's a good start! It goes to show that you really shouldn't believe everything you read in the papers!"

Τhe reception was attended by Deputy Foreign Minister Kostas Fragogiannis, SYRIZA MP Kostas Zachariadis, heads of dilomatic missions, and academics, among others.