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US urges Greece, Turkey to avoid election tensions

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday urged Greece and Turkey to avoid “charged rhetoric” ahead of elections expected in both countries in the spring, Agence France-Presse reported.

On a visit to Athens, Blinken called on the historic rivals “to resolve any differences diplomatically and of course, to avoid any threats or provocative rhetoric that will only raise tensions, and that can be more difficult in an election period.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to hold elections in April, but a follow-up ballot is likely to be required a month later for a stable government to be formed.

In Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had proposed holding elections on May 14.

That may now change following the earthquakes earlier this month that has killed at least 45,000 people across Turkey and Syria.

Greece and Turkey have a history of rivalry going back centuries, but relations have been exacerbated by territorial and energy disputes — and more recently by Erdoğan’s bombastic threats of invasion.

The quakes, however, have brought a thaw between the two NATO allies, who have long experience in such disasters.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was the first European minister to visit Turkey after the earthquake and was warmly greeted by his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

Greece sent experienced rescue teams and aid to the disaster zone, and Çavuşoğlu later acknowledged: “Greece was one of the first countries to call and propose help to Turkey after the earthquake.”

Çavuşoğlu recalled mutual aid when earthquakes struck Turkey and Greece in 1999, when he said at the time, “We don’t have to wait for another earthquake for developing our relations.”

“I hope we will make efforts to find a solution to our disagreements with sincere dialogue,” the Turkish foreign minister said earlier this month.

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