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Cablegate: Greek Mfa Director of Thrace Affairs and Cg Instanbul Swap

VZCZCXRO5122
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHIK #0071/01 2881121
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141121Z OCT 08
FM AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0381
INFO RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS PRIORITY 0280
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 0017
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 0028
RUEHSF/AMEMBASSY SOFIA PRIORITY 0017
RUEHIK/AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI 0423

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 THESSALONIKI 000071

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GR TU
SUBJECT: GREEK MFA DIRECTOR OF THRACE AFFAIRS AND CG INSTANBUL SWAP
PLACES IN EFFORT TO "BUILD BRIDGES BETWEEN GREECE AND TURKEY"

REF: 07 THESSALONIKI 019

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Greek MFA's Director for Thrace Affairs
has switched positions with Greece's Consul General in Istanbul,
in what both men describe as a small but sincere effort to
improve Greek-Turkish relations. Both intend to continue the
work of the other, while bringing their different experiences
and a fresh perspective to bear on longstanding challenges in
the bilateral relationship. While neither has illusions about
their capacity to resolve issues related to the Turkophone
Muslim minority in Thrace or the Greek minority in Istanbul,
both seem genuinely committed and well-qualified to make a
difference. Post strongly recommends Bornovas as a cooperative
and knowledgeable interlocutor for ConGen Istanbul. END SUMMARY

NEW GREEK CG IN ISTANBUL IS EXPERT ON THRACE TURKISH MINORITY

2. (SBU) Vassilios BORNOVAS, the director of the MFA's office
in Thrace from September 2003 until early September 2008,
departed Greece in mid-September to become Consul General in
Istanbul. A career diplomat with the rank of Minister
Counselor, Bornovas worked actively to improve education and
living conditions for Thrace Muslims, including ethnic Turks and
Roma. He played a key role in the development of initiatives
aimed at addressing Muslim minority demands, announced by
Minister of Foreign Affairs Dora Bakoyannis in February 2007
(ref). Bornovas supported post public diplomacy efforts,
generously provided advice and information, recommended new
contacts and regularly consulted with us on a wide range of
issues.

3. (SBU) Bornovas is an expert on matters related to the
Turkophone Muslim minority in Thrace. He undertook a number of
initiatives to improve education and living conditions for the
Turkophone and Roma communities in Thrace. His activism earned
him admiration among local NGO's, academics and many Muslims,
while other Muslims rejected his efforts as too little, too
late. Bornovas was proud that the Greek country chapter in the
State Department's 2007 Human Rights Report referred to his
efforts on behalf of the Roma, even though the references raised
suspicions among some of his colleagues that he was too close to
the Americans. Bornovas said he hopes to build on the good
relations his predecessor developed with Turkish authorities and
business people. In addition to working on long-standing
bilateral issues related to the Greek Orthodox Church and Greek
minority, Bornovas hopes to use his background to develop a
constructive dialogue with Turks on the Turkish/Muslim minority
in Thrace. He also told us he plans to launch modest aid
initiatives for underprivileged Turks in his consular district.


4. (U) Prior to being MFA Director in Thrace, Bornovas served
at the Greek Embassy in Rome from 1999 to 2002 and before that
at the OSCE (1998-1999). Bornovas was also a Consul at the
Greek Consulate General in Argyrokastro, Albania from 1992 -
1996 and on the MFA Turkey desk (dealing with minority issues)
from 1989-1992. Mr. Bornovas holds a law degree from the
Democritus University in Thrace. He speaks excellent French,
Italian and English, and some Turkish. He was born in Athens in
1956.

NEW MFA DIRECTOR FOR THRACE TO TACKLE TURKISH MINORITY ISSUES

5. (SBU) Bornovas replaced Alexandros Alexandris, who served as
Consul General in Istanbul from 2003 until September 2008, and
who has replaced Bornovas in Thrace as MFA Director. In a
meeting with us soon after arriving in Thrace, Alexandris told
us he considered his new posting, coupled with Bornovas's
posting to Istanbul, as a "mission to build bridges between
Greece and Turkey." He intends to continue Bornovas's activist
approach, engaging moderate Turkophone Muslims and addressing
social and economic issues. He believes his fluent Turkish will
be a significant asset. He admits that he is still learning
about Thrace minority issues, but says the key areas that need
to be addressed are 1) the right to self-identification (e.g. as
"Turkish" vs. "Muslim"), 2) the selection process for muftis
(e.g. elections vs. government appointment), and 3) education
(e.g. special schools for Turkish speaking students vs.
mainstream schools that offer some instruction in Turkish).
Alexandris served as Consul General in Toronto from 1999-2003,
was in Athens from 1997-1999 and in Cyprus as an Embassy
Counselor from 1991-1997. Dr. Alexandris holds a Ph.D. from
King's College, London on "The Greeks of Turkey and
Greek-Turkish Relations".

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Bornovas and Alexandris both seem genuinely
interested in making progress on longstanding bilateral problems
with Turkey, though both are well aware of the limitations of
their roles. Post enjoyed excellent cooperation with Bornovas

THESSALONI 00000071 002 OF 002


and believes he could be a valuable contact for ConGen Istanbul
on Greece/Turkey issues. END COMMENT
KING

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