Greece’s foreign minister visited Turkey on Sunday in a show of support after the country was hit by a devastating earthquake last Monday, despite a longstanding rivalry between the two NATO countries, Agence France-Presse reported.
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was met with a warm embrace by his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, according to footage on state-run ERT TV, before they boarded helicopters to quake-hit regions.
His arrival marks the first visit by a European minister to Turkey since the earthquake.
“I would like to convey to the Turkish leadership and the Turkish people the warmest condolences of the Mitsotakis government and the entire Greek people for the losses after the two devastating earthquakes”, Dendias said during a press conference with Çavuşoğlu in Antakya, referring to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“This is showing the solidarity of Greek people with Turkey and the Turkish population. Greece was one of the first countries to call and propose help to Turkey after the earthquake,” Çavuşoğlu added.
Greece and Turkey have a history of rivalry going back centuries, but it has been exacerbated by territorial and energy disputes — and more recently by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s bombastic threats of invasion.
But the two neighbors, which lie on seismic fault lines, also have a tradition of helping each other in natural disasters.
Çavuşoğlu recalled mutual aid when quakes struck Turkey and Greece in 1999, when he said at the time that “We don’t have to wait for another earthquake for developing our relations”.
“I said this as a simple citizen back then, but I think the same today as Turkey’s foreign minister,” he said. “I hope we will make efforts for finding a solution to our disagreements with dialogue in a sincere way.”
Dendias also said that “We do not need to wait for natural disasters to improve our relations”, while adding that Greece’s effort to help Turkey would continue.
The Greek government has so far sent 80 tons of medical and first aid equipment as well as rescuers who along with other European rescuers have saved 205 people, Dendias said.
“Greece will do everything it can to support Turkey at this difficult time, either bilaterally or within the EU,” he said.
The Greek rescue mission will be departing from Turkey and returning to Greece on Sunday, the Athens News Agency reported, as the search-and-rescue operations enter the fifth and final stage, in which digging machines start to take over and rescuers gradually depart.
The Greek mission arrived in Turkey on February 7 and managed to find five people alive in the rubble, as well as recovering the bodies of another five people.