26 September 2006

1046) Why not to Borrow the Positive Experience (for Armenia)

Turkey and Greece, two neighbors that bicker about almost anything, are slowly coming to grips with the fact that no matter what is said and done, they can't change the fact that they are eternal neighbors.

The sometimes low-key and sometimes heated public arguments between the two concerning Cyprus, the Aegean Sea, Western Thrace and European Union negotiations dominate their relations. Despite all the commotion, though, according to the opinion of Turkish media, there has always been an ongoing process to bridge the differences and establish lasting peace. . .

Certain things provide a boost to efforts to live and let live. Among these is the conduct of Greece after the devastating Aug. 17, 1999 earthquake in Turkey.

Now there are efforts to work out a cooperation agreement between the two on health issues.

A treaty was signed recently on cooperative efforts to deal with infectious diseases, natural disasters and weather-related problems. As it was reported by the "Turkish Daily News" newspaper, this agreement is currently in Parliament awaiting ratification, and if approved, Turkey and Greece will initiate important health projects and combine their efforts in combating disease.

The agreement was signed on Sept. 28, 2005 in an Athens ceremony at which Health Minister Recep Akdag and his Greek counterpart, Nikitas Kaklamanis, were present.

The government sent the agreement for ratification to Parliament in December, and approval is expected when it leaves Parliament's foreign affairs and health commissions.

Joint effort against infectious diseases:

The agreement is based on mutual benefit, aiming to facilitate cooperation on health issues.

Particular emphasis is put on cooperation to combat infectious diseases, and it could also allow the two to jointly fight bird flu.

The agreement notes that infectious diseases have become one of the world's most important issues, adding that cooperation and education are critical factors in combating such ailments, necessitating global rather than national measures. In today's globalized world, a disease can spread almost anywhere and multinational cooperation is a service to humanity.

Natural disasters and weather:

According to the agreement, the two will formulate a strategic and social partnership concerning weather problems and natural disasters and encourage assisting each other.

If both parliaments approve the agreement, then information exchange, short-term bilateral training, exchange of experts and direct links between relevant institutions and organizations will be established.

The Turkey-Greece cooperation in the above-mentioned spheres is an encouraging example for other neighbors having similar problems, and especially for Armenia. In particular, it would be much easier to react prompter and undertake preventive measures against the bird flu epidemic broken out early in 2006 if Armenia and Turkey had mechanisms of cooperation in these most important spheres.

Undoubtedly, there is an important difference in the Greek-Turkish relations, that is, diplomatic relations are established between the two countries, and the Greek-Turkish cooperation, despite all psychological problems, is much deeper in many other spheres.

When diplomats keep silence

Shouldn’t we try to regulate non-political problems in non-political ways, before relations on all the levels are re-established and certain political problems are solved?

Among the issues of highest priority let's mention the necessity of bordering countries' coming to agreement on emergencies, infectious diseases and on other problems concerning human life.

We can endlessly talk about Turkey's refusal to establish diplomatic relations, about the closure of the border from one side etc. In any case, it is not out of place to remember that there is no one-sided and one-valued public attitude toward Armenia in Turkey at all, and we have to make use of that.

If the absence of diplomatic relations prevents state structures from establishing links with relevant structures of the neighboring country, this ban does not act in case of non-governmental organizations.

Most different non-governmental organizations in Turkey and in Armenia, and among them those dealing with public health, environment etc., could create relevant groups, involving their experts, specialists, in order to cooperate in case of emergencies.

The cooperation established, these structures can perform the following functions:

- to become consultative bodies for the two countries' state structures;
- to become mediators for transmitting information;
- to become mediators in organizing meetings between relevant specialists of bordering countries.

As a rule, the state has never interfered in the activities led by Armenian non-governmental organizations, and in this case non-governmental organizations can freely design projects, invite people, discuss ideas. In such conditions, the absence of diplomatic relations promotes public initiatives rather than hampers them.

by Lilit Bleyan


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