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Greek defense minister to visit Turkey’s earthquake zone as tensions ease

Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos (L) and Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar

In this file photo, Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos (L) and Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar shake hands as they pose for an official photo on the second day of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Defense Ministers' meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on June 16, 2022. Valeria Mongelli / AFP

Greece’s defense minister has announced that he will travel to neighboring Turkey next week to visit the country’s earthquake zone as tensions between the two countries have eased following major earthquakes that struck Turkey in February, The Associated Press reported.

Nikos Panagiotopoulos told reporters in Athens that he would visit areas devastated by the earthquakes in early February with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

An outpouring of support from Greece to help its neighbor last month has led to a de-escalation in disputes centered around boundaries and drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

“My counterpart suggested that I visit the earthquake-affected areas … The aim is to send a symbolic message,” Panagiotopoulos said in an interview with Greek private television station Mega.

“A de-escalation of tension in the bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey is now evident. It is our country’s wish for this de-escalation to acquire permanent characteristics.”

In the wake of the earthquakes, Greece and Turkey have resumed high-level meetings, including talks attended by senior diplomats on the so-called positive agenda initiative, aimed at boosting trade and other cooperation in areas unrelated to the disputes.

Two powerful earthquakes on Feb. 6 in southern Turkey killed more than 50,000 people in the country and neighboring Syria.

Panagiotopoulos will visit Turkey on Tuesday and travel to the southern Hatay province, one of the areas hardest hit by the earthquakes, Turkish officials said.

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