by ÜSTÜN ERGÜDER
My approach in my presentation reflected my attempts to analyse the rise of Islam in politics as political and sociological development and my biases as a staunch product of the laicist Atatürk revolution. Costa’s comments were an eye-opener for me. He is the one who introduced me to the role of religion and the Church in Greek politics. It dawned on me that we do not know much about a neighbour with strong historical ties and important cultural bonds. I am grateful to Costa for his well-informed and intelligent comments. If I remember correctly, this interesting and informative conversation on the topic continued during our flight back from Atlanta to New York.
In the year 2000, I was invited to join the Greek-Turkish Forum, and it was then that I got to know Costa better. First, I was impressed by his comments and his devotion to solving Greek-Turkish problems through second-track diplomacy. My first days in the Forum turned out to be an invaluable learning experience for me. Moreover, it turned out to be an opportunity to develop invaluable friendships. Costa figured very highly on that count. His attention to detail, meticulous efforts to keep records, and gather relevant information pertinent to our Forum meetings wherever we held them were just simply impressive. During those early days, we had meetings in places like Sofia, Rome, Ankara, and our current and most frequent venues of Athens, İstanbul, and Nicosia.
I got to know Costa even better after İlter Türkmen turned over the task of coordinator of Turkish Chapter of the Forum to me as Costa was the coordinator of our Greek friends. I must admit that Costa played a critical role in keeping the Forum alive. His drive and commitment to the cause of peace and understanding between our two countries inspired us as well. Regular meetings of our Greek friends were held under Costa’s leadership, and the initiative was an example of good practice for us. It was a valuable and cherished personal experience for me to serve with Costa as co-coordinators of the Greek-Turkish Forum. Over time it became apparent that the solution of the Cyprus crisis occupied a very special place in Costa’s heart.
I must admit that I did not see eye to eye with Costa on some issues. But what was important was to keep dialogue and discussion of our differences alive in an amicable and friendly environment. Costa made an invaluable contribution to constructing such a “GTF culture” and code of behaviour. I am sure that current members of the Forum will build on that culture that Costa had an undeniable role in building.
May he rest in peace—my heartfelt condolences to his family and all the members of the Greek-Turkish Forum.
İstanbul, March 01, 2022.