- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos took a moment last week during his visit to the United States to pay what was billed as a "courtesy call" on his Washington counterpart, Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
Instead the mayors plunged into substantive discussions on the problems and opportunities currently faced by cities.
"How about a respective hosting by our two cities of global mayoral conferences in which we can talk about the problems cities face in an age of globalization" suggested Mr. Avramopoulos.
"The idea is intriguing, and I welcome it," Mr. Williams said.
It was not the first time the Athenian mayor has engaged in such impromptu diplomacy.
After an earthquake close to the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul in August 1999, Mr. Avramopoulos called his counterpart, Ali Mufit Gurtuna, to extend his sympathies and "offer any help that might be needed." The mayor then traveled to the Turkish city, once the capital of the Greek Byzantine Empire, with an Athenian rescue team.
Just a month later Athens itself was jolted by a quake, and Mayor Gurtuna reciprocated.
"It was pure people-to-people outreach," the mayor said.
In short order, the personal diplomacy of the two mayors bore fruit on the national level.
The Greek government decided to drop its objections to Turkey's entry into the European Union.
"Cities can play a role in situations where governments encumbered by precedent cannot," the Greek mayor said.
Mr. Avramopoulos, whose term ends in two years, is engaged in preparations for the 2004 Olympic Games, which Athens is going to host. But he has begun contemplating his next step.
"One has to know when to leave the stage and turn the spotlight over to others," the Greek mayor said during an interview Thursday after his discussions with Mr. Williams.
Diplomacy and national politics preceded the mayor's two-term service as mayor of Athens.
He held various posts in the diplomatic service from 1980 to 1993 and ran for mayor of Athens in 1994. The former member of New Democracy ran for mayor as an independent. He was elected to a second four-year term in 1998.
"The two main political parties of Greece, the Pan Hellenic Socialist Union [PASOK] and the New Democracy, have essentially completed their mission," Mr. Avramopoulos said.
"It was the task of PASOK to stand against military dictatorship and that of New Democracy to battle against the radicalization of Greek politics," he said.
"Now they both have edged toward more conventional politics but carry the burden of past."

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