By Dimitris Bekiaris
Back in May 2013, Club de Madrid organized the first “South Caucasus Forum on Inclusion; Promoting Women’s Empowerment and Building Shared Societies in Azerbaijan”, which was attended by 200 prominent political figures, former heads of state and former ministers.
Among the attendees was the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Dora Bakoyannis, who had the opportunity to discuss with the President of Azerbaijan – described by some as a dictator – Ilham Aliyev about the strategy, policy and actions of Greece regarding the construction of the TAP pipeline, which transports Azeri gas to European markets.
That meeting was only part of the story. In other words, it was not just a simple meeting with no further developments. On the contrary, what followed next reveals how deeply rooted Azeri interests are in sections of the Greek political, business, and, even, media elite.
A year later, in June 2014, Aliyev visited Athens. On Sunday, June 15 of that year, Dora Bakoyannis and her husband Isidoros Kouvelos hosted a dinner in honor of the president – dictator according to others – of Azerbaijan at their home in Glyfada.
The dinner was attended not only by the hosts, Dora and Isidoros, and Ilham with his impressive wife Mehriban Aliyeva – allegedly called “Sophia Loren of the East”, but there was also a list of “distinguished guests”, including: the President of the IOC Thomas Bach, the former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, the Azeri Minister of Sports Azad Rahimov, the President of Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Kapralos and the members of the IOC Lampis Nikolaou, the former King Konstantinos II, Vardis and Marianna Vardinogiannis, Evangelos Marinakis, Angeliki Frangou, and Eftichis Vasilakis.
That is to say, the… crème de la crème. It should be noted that the dinner had preceded Aliyev’s meeting with then-Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and then-Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos. And this is of particular importance.
At the time, leaks coming from media that were “hardcore” supporters of Antonis Samaras spoke of an extra-institutional attempt by Dora Bakoyannis and the “Holy Family” to engage in diplomacy and, in fact, energy diplomacy. Besides, Dora Bakoyannis was nothing but a simple MP, whom Antonis Samaras had the “generosity” to include again in his party’s list of candidates, after her deletion and the founding of her breakaway party. At that time, experts claimed that Dora Bakoyannis had set her sights on the Ministry of Energy, most likely in order to promote the interests of Azerbaijan in Greece and Europe. Even today, the whispers of the diplomats asking who had organized that dinner and who had decided on the above composition of guests are still echoing in the corridors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Because, truth be told, Dora Bakoyannis had then run roughshod over the protocol and ignored not only the Prime Minister, but top-tier diplomats as well.
So, who has been ruling this place all these years? Take a look at the guests of that dinner again and then try to answer the following questions: Why does Greece keep equal distances on the issue of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan? Why do the Mega Channel, belonging to the shipowner and Bakoyannis’ “groomsman” Vangelis Marinakis, and its employee Nikos Evangelatos support the Azeri interests by presenting shameful reports against Armenia? What is the domestic “ministry of neo-Ottomanism” (after all, Erdogan openly supports Azerbaijan)? Why have so many Greek media outlets and Greek politicians (both right and left-wing) remained totally silent on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue?