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Greece’s Baklava Bailout July 20, 2011

Posted by Yilan in Turkey, Yunanistan.
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Turkish Confectioner Gives Its Client, an Athens Sweet Shop, a Helping Hand


Europe’s multibillion-euro bailout of Greece has been making headlines on a daily basis. Less noticed was a Turkish bailout last week of an Athens institution: sweet seller Baklavas Epe.

[BAKLAVA]\Nadir Gullu, with baklava boxes decorated with Greek and Turkish flags.

Greeks and Turks have bickered for centuries over which nation makes the better baklava, a sticky-sweet dessert of layered pastry devoured in huge quantities across the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. But for the past 10 years, Turkey’s best-known producer, businessman Nadir Gullu, has been supplying Greece’s closely held Baklavas Epe, which operated five stores in Athens. He provided about two tons of baklava and other Turkish sweets per month.

Old rivalries aside, Athenians lapped them up—until, that is, they ran out of cash.

Baklavas Epe’s most profitable shop is on Athens’s landmark Syntagma Square. Before the crisis, tourists and locals queued up in droves to buy the pastries. But as the government embarked on a severe austerity program to reduce its debt burden and qualify for international support, demand sank.

Baklavas Epe closed three of its five stores in Athens as sales dropped. Meanwhile, it ratcheted up close to €160,000 (about $226,000) in debt for deliveries of sweets from across the Aegean Sea, according to the company. Plunging revenue made it impossible for Baklavas Epe to finance baklava purchases from Istanbul.

“Baklava has become a luxury. Think about it: Three kilos of minced beef costs the same as one kilo of baklava,” said a company spokesman. (A kilogram is about 2.2 pounds.)

In Turkish newspapers, Mr. Gullu, the owner of Karakoy Gulluoglu, a well-known baklava shop near the shores of the Bosporus in Istanbul, said the Greeks should pay their debts within a year and the business relationship was in jeopardy.

With elevated wage costs and sporadic vandalism amid protests over austerity measures adding to its woes, Baklavas Epe said it needed more time. Besides, it said, Mr. Gullu in public comments had exaggerated the amount of the debt. In short, it didn’t look good for business and friendship in the Greek-Turkish baklava trade.


But after the partners met last week to discuss a possible resolution, they reported a deal that would preserve and even expand their business ties. Under terms of the deal, Karakoy Gulluoglu will continue to supply Baklavas Epe and extend its loan financing for three more years. The firms will also embark on a new joint-venture coffee shop in Athens, which is scheduled to open in September.

The thinking is that if Athenians can’t afford to buy a kilo of baklava to take home anymore, maybe they can afford a few pieces to have with a coffee, the Baklavas Epe spokesman said.

Mr. Gullu says his own business, which has expanded dramatically in recent years to sell baklava and Turkish sweets in 85 countries, including the U.S., is in a position to extend the loans. “I told them, ‘it’s OK, keep paying slowly,’ ” Mr. Gullu said in an interview. “We are doing this for our friendship and for Turkish moral pride.”

The Baklavas Epe spokesman said both companies remained positive about their relationship and about the potential for the Greek economy to bounce back. “I don’t believe that Greece will stay like this because Greeks love life,” he said.

Mr. Gullu’s decision to extend his partner’s credit line is indicative of an improvement in relations between Greece and Turkey, particularly in the business community, since a pair of earthquakes drew them together in 1999. Turkish-Greek trade increased steadily until it reached around $3.6 billion in 2008, falling back to $3 billion last year amid the global economic slowdown, according to figures from the Turkish statistics agency Turkstat.

Mr. Gullu says Turks are no strangers to the pains of austerity, having negotiated their most recent International Monetary Fund bailout package in 2002 after a banking crisis the year before roiled the economy. Turkish businesses could use cash flow from their country’s booming economy to invest in Greece if it makes business sense, he added.

“We’ve suffered economic crises here in Turkey before so we understand the problems Greeks are going through….We will find a solution to this sticky situation,” he said.


Discover a hidden city April 27, 2011

Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses.
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Turkey is a vast country, a land of ever-surprising contrasts once you are outside the well-known Ottoman and Byzantine wonders of Istanbul, with dramatic landscapes that vary from the cool, green-wooded nut forests on the Black Sea, and the parched deserts of the east, to the early Syrian Christian settlements of central Cappadocia, and the over-subscribed tourist beaches of the Mediterranean coast.

But how many have gone a little deeper, a little off piste, and seen the hinterland of the old Lycian kingdom, which sits quietly between the tourist meccas of Dalaman, Kas and Antalya on the southeast coast.Where the regal cedar-clad mountains seem to fall into the sea as it changes from the cool emerald green of the Aegean into the deep cobalt of the Mediterranean — a corner occupied by settlers originally from Crete around the time of King Minos — a strand of the last maternalistic culture on earth, its fortress exterior a craggy coast and its sheer  interior mountains almost impenetrable.

Hidden on this coast you will find the real Olympus, or ‘Olympos’ as the millennia-old ruined port is known, hidden in a deep ravine and sacked by pirates centuries ago. Here lies the real home of the sacred fire of the Olympics, the Greeks claimed as their own, which erupts from small fissures in the mountain as a self-igniting natural gas near the coastal village of Cirali.

This has been a continually burning natural flame for millennia, the origin of the legend of Belerephon and his flying horse Pegasus, who defeated the fire breathing Chimera and pushed it back into the mountain. The Chimera, called Yanartas in modern Turkish, is still there, breathing fire and unable to escape.

Perhaps venture further to the ancient city of Phaselis, the great port and city where Alexander the Great stopped en route to the Indus with his Macedonian army after defeating the Persians occupiers, or search for the huge caves where his army supposedly camped en route.

Travelling inland finds an unexplored and tranquil rural beauty, which unfolds into alpine green forests of cedar and pine as the ascent into the Akdagi and Beydagi mountains continues. The centre of this ancient land of Lycia is under threat of earthquakes such as those which devastated much of the Lycian civilisation and destroyed its cities in 141 and 240 AD.

The way is broken with small towns of old Ottoman wooden houses, houses that have vanished in so much of Turkey now, ancient olive groves and wandering goats. Looking back, the coast is still visible as the road climbs higher into the scrubby rocks and the azure sky, until at last the small dirt track to the side of the road indicates the way to Arykanda, one of the Aegean’s best kept secrets and one of the most beautiful sites of antiquity ever conceived by man.

Arykanda is known to be over 4,000 years old and to be a rival to Delphi in Greece in ancient times because of its temple of Apollo, coupled with its unparalleled surrounding — the coast just visible from the edge of the huge stadium or from the largest amphitheatre.

It opens itself up to the visitor slowly, and without grand announcement, a precipitous gravel track cuts through a stony village, which seems to lead nowhere, until the entrance to the city comes into view. No metalled road guides the heavily laden tour buses to this jewel of antiquity, its wonders, charm and beauty, a hidden secret of the past.

Against the backdrop of a sheer mountain cliff thousands of feet high, the city is still being excavated and revealing perfect, untouched masterpieces such as mosaic flooring from Roman villas buried for 1,500 years, early Byzantine churches and enormous temples of Greek Gods.

Damaged by the earlier earthquakes and then abandoned totally at the end of the first millennium due to the drying up of its water source, so much of this metropolis still lies buried and unseen. The excavation of this unique and ethereal city has been the life’s work of  Professor Bayburtluoglu from Ankara University, who now resides, most of the time, in the nearby village and has spent four decades with his team sifting and excavating the rocky soil to slowly reveal the glory of this astonishing city.

Travelling further into the mountains from here and entering the edge of the plateau, the vista changes — huge lakes and salt marsh with flat, fertile land laid out like a pancake between the snow-capped mountains surrounding the plain.

The road snakes through towns of  small farms and old wooden houses, the women in headscarves and baggy-flowered salwar trousers, the men with tight-fitting skull caps, the yards in front of the houses scattered with carpets of red chillies drying in the sun, cobs of corn tied to the wooden balconies,   swirls of pumpkin vines drifting across the tin roofs, neatly stacked woodpiles  — it reminds me of  highland Kashmir in the 70s, a rural simplicity and tranquil haven of clean air, with warm, welcoming people and a simple but hard life.

Leaving this hidden world in the south of Turkey takes the visitor via a twisting, winding and ever climbing narrow road to the highest pass in these mountains. Snow bound in winter, the Gulubeli pass is around 2,000 metres above sea level. The northern side of the pass stretches the immensity of the Turkish landscape, seemingly disappearing into infinity. There I know lie more Turkish wonders of the past.

Deputy questions govt on Turkish schools in Greece April 27, 2011

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Deputy questions govt on Turkish schools in Greece
An opposition deputy has asked the government about reported plans by neighboring Greece to shut down 35 Turkish primary schools in Western Thrace as part of its austerity measures and reforms in education.

World Bulletin / News Desk

An opposition deputy has asked the government about reported plans by neighboring Greece to shut down 35 Turkish primary schools in Western Thrace as part of its austerity measures and reforms in education.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) Bursa deputy Onur Öymen submitted a question in Parliament to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, asking what measures the government is planning to take as Turkish schools face possible closure, news reports said on Wednesday.

The Turkish media reported last week that Greek authorities have decided to close down 35 of 57 primary schools in the Western Thrace region, home to Greece’s Turkish minority. The Turkish community has expressed concern over the decision.

The Turkish Education Ministry released a statement saying the decision was a disappointment as Greek authorities did not consult with the Turkish community over the closure of the schools.

Öymen asked Davutoğlu what kind of initiatives the government has undertaken against the Greek decision which he said is “against the spirit and language of the Lausanne Treaty.”

The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, one of the founding treaties of the Turkish Republic, obligates Turkey and Greece to grant and respect a broad array of rights for the Greek minority of İstanbul and the Turkish minority of Western Thrace. Such rights include equality before the law, free exercise of religion, free use of its own language, including in primary schools, and control over their own religious affairs.

The CHP deputy asked what Turkish government is planning to do if Greece does not rescind its decision.

Turkish, Greek Cypriot leaders make opposing calls for talks September 28, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Cyprus, Kibris, Yunanistan.
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Disagreements on how to resolve the prickly Cyprus dispute have once more erupted between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, this time on whether Turkey should be a party in ongoing UN-led negotiations.

Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu and Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias have both been in New York to attend the UN General Assembly. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held bilateral meetings with Christofias on Tuesday and with Eroğlu on Saturday.

Both meetings focused on the status of the ongoing negotiations which began in 2008 — as the latest of many mediation efforts after the then-leaders of the two communities committed themselves to working towards a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, as defined by relevant Security Council resolutions.

Christofias, addressing the UN General Assembly on Friday, said he wanted to hold direct talks with Turkey on the future of peace talks on the ethnically split island, where a decades-old conflict threatens Ankara’s bid to join the European Union.

“From this podium, I repeat my call to the Turkish leadership to meet me, parallel to the negotiating process, so that I can share with them my vision for a solution to the Cyprus problem which would serve the interests of the Cypriots, of Turkey, of Greece, as well as of peace and security in the region,” Christofias told the assembly.

Eroğlu, however, speaking at a press conference following his meeting with Ban on Friday, firmly ruled out such a composition of negotiation when reminded of Christofias’ remarks. “The problem is between Turks and Greeks living in Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot will for holding negotiations with Turkey means escaping the negotiating table. Certainly, neither Turkey nor Greece would like to be the intervener in an agreement that is not embraced by both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. Moreover, Turkey is our motherland and, of course, we are having consultations [with Turkey]; but we are the parties who will resolve the Cyprus dispute,” Eroğlu said at the press conference held at the Türkevi, which hosts Turkey’s permanent representation to the UN and Turkey’s consulate general in New York.

Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain are guarantor powers of Cyprus’ independence agreement in 1960 — giving them the right to intervene militarily if the terms of that agreement are threatened. The four-decade-old Cyprus problem erupted after the eastern Mediterranean island was granted independence from Britain in 1960, soon followed by an outbreak of inter-communal clashes in 1963. The island was ethnically divided between a Greek south and a Turkish north when the Turkish military intervened in 1974 under the terms of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee after diplomacy failed to end unrest on the island. In addition to the Turkish Cypriot Peace Forces Command (KTBK), made up of 4,500 Turkish Cypriots, there are around 35,000 Turkish troops stationed on the island.

“The fact that he [Christofias] wants to escape the negotiating table and meet with Turkey shows that he doesn’t accept us as a counterpart — which is an extremely wrong idea. His counterpart is us,” Eroğlu said.

He, nonetheless, added that once the negotiations reached a certain level of mutual consensus, then the Turkish Cypriot side wishes to have a quadrilateral meeting among Cypriot leaders, Greece and Turkey.

Turkish Company invests in new hospital in FYR Macedonia July 2, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia, Turkey.
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“The high standard of health and the quality of life of citizens is one of the fundamental needs of every society, and a field where the opportunity for steady and continuous advancement and improvement of services offered to citizens exists”, announced Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski at the cornerstone laying ceremony for the construction of the Turkish private eye hospital “Europe” in Gjorce Petrov in Skopje.

The main function of the eye hospital “Europe”, stressed the Director, Faruk Semis, is to provide quality and precise service to citizens being treated for eye diseases in the Republic of FYR Macedonia.

The hospital will be outfitted with the most sophisticated equipment, certified and produced in 2010, and will have the capacity for 15 to 20 thousand monthly patient exams in FYR Macedonia and throughout Europe.

Prime Minister Gruevski indicated that according to the plan, the hospital is expected to be built within 8 months, and the total investment amounts to no less than $12 million. Initially, 85 people are expected to be employed as hospital staff. Source: Investment Agency