Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu extended a letter of congratulation to his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias on March 25, the anniversary of Greek Independence Day.
The letter of congratulation emphasized “good neighborly ties” between Greece and Turkey in what may turn out to be a period of rapprochement between Athens and Ankara. The Turkish foreign minister thanked Dendias for Greek support during the devastating earthquakes which leveled entire cities in parts of the country last month.
Many officials in both countries are hoping that the revival of so-called “earthquake diplomacy” will lead to a sustained improvement in bilateral relations between the two countries, which have experienced a period of prolonged tension in recent years.
Turkish foreign minister extends congratulations on Greek National Day
“I am confident that the good neighborly ties between our two countries will prevail in the period ahead,” the letter continued. “We are resolved in making further contributions to the current positive trend in our relations.”
“Availing this opportunity, I would like to thank once again for the assistance and solidarity provided by your Government and the people of Greece after the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye,” said Çavuşoğlu.
“Please accept, Excellency, my best wishes for your personal health and happiness as well as for the well-being and prosperity of the friendly people of Greece,” concluded the letter.
The recent correspondence between the Greek and Turkish foreign ministers is emblematic of a present trend towards friendlier bilateral relations between Athens and Ankara after an extended period of tensions, particularly in the Aegean.
The natural disaster which shook Turkey in February prompted Greece to quickly dispatch aid, most notably provided by EMAK, a specialist disaster relief unit that is part of the Hellenic Fire Service.
The earthquakes also led Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to engage in a direct conversation for the first time since March last year.
This is not the first time that a natural disaster has opened a window of opportunity for Athens and Ankara to de-escalate rising tensions. In 1999, both countries were hit by earthquakes in relatively quick succession. Despite a prolonged period of hostility between Greece and Turkey, the governments of both countries responded by swiftly dispatching humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Just three years before Greece and Turkey were struck by the earthquakes, the two countries had nearly gone to war over a pair of uninhabited islets known as Imia in Greek and Kardak in Turkish. A serious military confrontation was averted at the eleventh hour largely thanks to a timely US diplomatic intervention.
However, tensions remained high between Athens and Ankara until 1999 when Greece and Turkey came to each other’s aid. The phrase, “earthquake diplomacy” was coined to describe the improvement in bilateral relations that subsequently ensued.