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First published online June 16, 2010

Analysing Greek-Turkish disaster-related cooperation: A disaster diplomacy perspective


This article contributes to the disaster diplomacy literature in examining the conditions under which disasters can lead to long-term disaster-related collaboration (e.g. in disaster response, recovery or risk reduction) at both governmental and non-governmental level among states in conflict. In particular, the article focuses on the role of the 1999 earthquakes in enhancing such collaboration between Greece and Turkey over the past decade. While acknowledging the diversity and complexity of disaster diplomacy situations, the article suggests that disasters can lead to long-term disaster-related cooperation among states in conflict when: (1) one party providing disaster relief to another party is followed by a similar reciprocal gesture (i.e. tit-for-tat diplomacy); (2) there is a realization and acceptance that neighbours should come to each other’s assistance in times of disaster; and (3) there is an enabling broader context (e.g. a rapprochement process) conducive to sustaining the long-term cooperation.

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We thank both the reviewers and the editors for their constructive comments. We also thank many people in Greece and Turkey who assisted during preparation of the article, especially Daryal Batıbay, Mehmet Beyazıt, Aziz Saşa, Şafak Çekver and the leadership of AKUT.
1. Greece and Turkey are in considerable disagreement regarding Cyprus and the Aegean, especially with respect to delimitation of the Continental Shelf, territorial waters, air space, demilitarization of the islands and the so-called grey zones (e.g. Kardak/Imia island). Lesser known disputes include the minority rights of Muslim ethnic Turks in Greece’s Thrace region, and legal recognition of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s Ecumenical Patriarchate in İstanbul by Turkey. For a discussion on Greek—Turkish disputes in general, see Bahcheli (1990, 2003), Bölükbaşı (1992), Ker-Lindsay (2000, 2007), Kollias and Günlük-Şenesen (2003), Larrabee and Lesser (2002), Tsakonas and Dokos (2004) and Veremis (2003). For Aegean disputes specifically, see Acer (2003), Axt (2006), Aydın (1997), Aydın and Ifantis (2004), Bölükbaşi (2004), Gürel (1993), Athanasopulos (2001), Syrigos (1998) and Wilson (1979). For Cyprus-related disputes specifically, see Dodd (2001), Necatigil (2001) and Uslu (2003). For minority issues, see Özkırımlı and Sofos (2008).
2. EMAK teams are regional branches of the Greek Fire Services. They are staffed by professional firefighters and joined by a small number of volunteers.
3. Although they did not receive the Nobel Prize, they did get the 2000 Greek—Turkish Abdi İpekçi Peace and Friendship Award established under the auspices of the United Nations (Turkish Daily News, 1999b), along with a 2000 Peace Building Award from the East—West Institute based in New York.
4. Akçınaroğlu et al. (2008) and Keridis (2006) also looked at the 1999 Turkish—Greek earthquakes, while Kelman (2006) provided an analysis of the 1999—2002 Eritrea/Ethiopia droughts.
5. Although Akçınaroğlu et al. (2008) was conducted several years after the 1999 Greek—Turkish and 2005 Azad—Kashmir earthquakes, its focus was not on long-term cooperation.
6. Broader diplomatic cooperation is discussed in the article since it enables disaster-related collaboration.
7. While some have questioned whether or not this process is indeed convergence/rapprochement (as opposed to a détente) (e.g. Aksu, 2001; Heraclides, 2006), others have characterized it as a rapprochement process that is sustainable in the long run (e.g. Öniş and Yılmaz, 2008). The governments of Greece and Turkey also refer to this process as rapprochement (see their foreign ministry websites at Regions/South-Eastern+Europe/Turkey/Approach/Turkish+Accession+process/ and http://www.
8. Öcalan’s group (PKK) has fought the Turkish Army since the mid-1980s. The Öcalan crisis emerged in February 1999. After being a refugee in several Middle Eastern and European countries, Öcalan was reportedly flown to Greece and secretly sheltered at the Greek Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, where he was captured by the Turkish secret service in February 1999 (Eleftherotypia , 1999; Hellenic Ministry of Press and Mass Media, 1999; Lippman, 1999; Zaman, 1999; Varouhakis, 2009).
9. This number excludes agreements signed by both Greece and Turkey within the framework of EU, NATO or other multilateral agencies.


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Issue published: June 2010
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N. Emel Ganapati
Department of Public Administration at Florida International University, [email protected]
Ilan Kelman
Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO), [email protected]
Theodore Koukis
Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge, [email protected]

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