James Ker-Lindsay analyzes an important puzzle in Greek-Turkish relations in this book. Over the course of a single year, relations between Greece and Turkey changed from hostility to harmony. At the beginning of 1999, the two countries were on the brink of conflict when, in February of that year, Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and the person responsible for many terrorist activities in Turkey, was captured as he left the Greek Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. It was greatly anticipated that this incident would lead to another major conflict between Greece and Turkey. Contrary to expectations, however, by the end of the year the two countries appeared closer than they had been since the 1950s. Relations were so good that, in December, Greece lifted its veto of Turkey’s European Union (EU) candidacy at the European Council Meeting in Helsinki.
In Crisis and Conciliation, Ker-Lindsay tries to explain this unforeseen rapprochement by providing a detailed account of the various developments of 1999. In his introduction, he raises important questions regarding factors that might have influenced the reconciliation and goes on to consider the roles of the Greek and Turkish foreign ministers, George Papandreou and İsmail Cem, respectively; the domestic political environment in both countries; the catalytic effect of the EU; and the earthquakes that shook both countries in the summer and fall of 1999. The book is organized chronologically and, as a result, these questions are not addressed specifically in the main chapters; however, after an empirical analysis, the author returns more explicitly to these issues in his conclusion.
Ker-Lindsay argues that even though Cem initiated the first contact with Papandreou, it was the Greek foreign minister who provided consistent impetus for the process. Prior to the rapprochement, there were already senior officials in the Greek Foreign Ministry who had worked on changing Greek policy toward Turkey. After Papandreou became the foreign minister, these plans were put into action, with the full support of Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Indeed, the Greek government reevaluated its policy on Turkish EU candidacy and recognized that EU accession talks “could in fact be a far better tool for policy change [in Turkey] than the lure of candidacy” (p. 116). Ker-Lindsay also shows that the rapprochement had started before the earthquakes, and therefore, contrary to commonly held views, it cannot be attributed directly to the disasters. Nevertheless, the earthquakes legitimized the process by demonstrating that there were people on both sides who manifested overwhelming sympathy for one another and wanted harmonious relations. This pressured and strengthened the governments to deepen reconciliation and deliver concrete results.
Ker-Lindsay’s arguments are sound and well-supported with evidence. The book is enjoyable to read and rich in details. Ker-Lindsay has first-hand experience in conflict analysis and resolution as the coordinator of the Greek-Turkish Forum, which brings together influential Greeks and Turks from politics, media, [End Page 502] academia, and business. He makes good use of his personal knowledge and provides a relatively balanced account of the process from the points of view of both sides. Although this rapprochement has been previously analyzed by a few scholars, important questions had been left uninvestigated. Crisis and Conciliation fills this gap in significant ways and, therefore, must be read by anyone interested in Greek foreign policy in general and Greek-Turkish relations in particular.
The book is also valuable for international relations since it presents an interesting case study of how two hostile countries can embark on a new course of reconciliation and friendship. It is with reference to this broader literature, however, that Crisis and Conciliation does not reach its full potential. Ker-Lindsay engages some theoretical debates when he analyzes disaster diplomacy arguments and the role of the EU, but for the most part, he does not stress other important lessons that can be drawn from his analysis. For example, the decision of both governments to focus on issues of low...