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Greek Defense Minister in First Visit to Turkey Since 2002

Greece will support Turkey as it faces the long-term consequences of this great humanitarian disaster, the Greek defense minister said. Credit: Twitter/Nikos Panagiotopoulos

In a further sign of the improvement of relations between Greece and Turkey, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos joined his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Tuesday in a rare visit to Turkey.

The last time a Greek defense minister visited Turkey was in 2002.

The two ministers shared warm messages as they spoke at a joint news conference in Hatay, which was struck by earthquakes on Feb. 6.

“I sincerely believe that Türkiye and Greece can resolve their issues in a peaceful way. We are two neighbors that have a multidimensional friendship like the multidimensional problems. We hope we can engage in dialogue without waiting for another disaster,” Akar said.

Greece was one of the first countries to provide relief and search and rescue support after the earthquakes.

Greek defense minister Turkey
The two defense ministers visited earthquake-stricken areas on Tuesday. Credit: Twitter/Nikos Panagiotopoulos

At Turkey’s Disaster & Crisis Coordination & Management Center in Antakya (Antioch), Akar briefed the Greek minister on the latest developments and the current situation.

The two ministers then flew over disaster areas in a helicopter and visited a hospital and temporary accommodations housing people who lost their homes in the Feb. 6 earthquakes.

“I observed the magnitude of the destruction, but I also observed the great effort to rebuild the area,” Panagiotopoulos said.

Greek defense minister calls for stability in relations with Turkey

He also reiterated “the statement of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who said that we will try to support Türkiye to the extent we can as it faces the long-term consequences of this great humanitarian disaster.”

Akar said they hoped that the Mediterranean and Aegean would be a “sea of friendship” between the two countries and thanked his counterpart for his visit.

For his part, Panagiotopoulos extended his condolences to the victims of the earthquake. He described Akar as his “dear friend” and said they would talk about fighting new challenges posed by disasters.

There are some “problems” between the two countries, Akar said, noting: “As two civilized countries, Türkiye and Greece can address these problems in line with a spirit of alliances, via a peaceful manner, mutual respect, and dialogue.”

“We believe that this would be mutually beneficial,” he said.

He said the problems and the friendship of the two countries, who are neighbors at each side of the Aegean, are “multidimensional.”

Turkey expects the continuation of the current attitude, and the positive and constructive atmosphere that came to the fore after the massive earthquakes, Akar said, also urging to keep the doors of dialogue open.

“It is our sincere desire that the Aegean and the Mediterranean will now truly become a sea of friendship, with the emergence of permanent cooperation. Thus, our keynote, desire, and wish is that the people living in Türkiye and Greece live in comfort, security, and prosperity,” he added.

Panagiotopoulos also voiced the will to establish stability in bilateral relations, and said tragedies such as earthquakes show “how small” the existing problems are between Greece and Turkey.

“When observed from another perspective, we see that these tragedies and disasters actually act as a catalyst in terms of reducing tensions,” he added.

The Greek minister also expressed Greece’s readiness to “do their best” to further the stability, solidarity, and cooperation between the two countries “within the means possible.”

“The world has been facing challenges in terms of security recently,” he also stressed, adding that the two countries must work together against such security challenges.

Related: Greece Must Respond Positively to Turkey, Dendias Says

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