Turkey does what it can for Greece.
There are few in Turkey who do not remember with deep emotion the response of Greece after the devastating earthquake of Aug. 17, 1999. Not awaiting an official call, thousands queued up at Athens blood banks just hours after the news. The ?psala border gate was jammed with volunteer ambulance squads seeking to get to Gölcük and Adapazar?. The Greek medical teams were the first to arrive, crowding Istanbul"s Atatürk Airport. And the thousands of small acts of heroism: the Istanbul-based taxi driver born in Thrace, who had deserted the Greek military in 1974 and fled to Turkey, showing up at the same airport to volunteer as a Greek-Turkish translator was just one.
These events, and many subsequent ones, are now seared into the consciousness on both sides of the Aegean. The spirit of solidarity born of those horrible days has guided Turkey and Greece again and again as the two nations continue to confront the many issues that divide them.
And we witnessed again the depth and complexity of our ties this week with the participation of more than 200 Turkish businessmen and women, led by Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Ça?layan, in the 9th Turkish Aegean Coast-Greek Aegean Islands Economic Summit in Athens.
The gathering focused on practical ways Turkey can aid Greece at this time of economic despair. As Yorgo Kirbaki, the Hürriyet bureau chief in Athens, reported for us this week, Greece is in deep trouble. A budget deficit that was thought to be less than 9 percent of GDP proved to be nearly twice that upon the scrutiny of a new government. The country faces public debts of 300 billion euros. This in a country whose entire population is less than that of Istanbul. Few in Greece will not feel the pain.
In recent years, Greek firms have invested more than $6 billion in Turkey. There are plenty of good reasons for Turkish firms to be reciprocating, even were Greece not in trouble. Capital cannot be emotional, but government policy and support can. And at this juncture, support and attention to economic collaboration must be a high priority.
Greece"s economy minister, Louka Katseli, called on Turkey and Greece to deepen cooperation and collaboration in tourism and maritime trade. She attached importance to the establishment of a joint index between the Istanbul and Athens bourses.
We would add agriculture, wind energy and other alternative power projects, education, health care and such cultural industries as film and music to the list of silver linings that can be seen in the economic clouds over Greece.
Zafer Ça?layan promised to redouble efforts to ease reciprocal visa rules between the countries, which he said would not only aid business but also aid political ties as well.
Said Katseli: ?Let"s turn the Aegean into a sea of peace and cooperation.?
We say: ?Why not??