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Turkey and Greece Expected to Pause Military Exercises in the Aegean

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Hellenic Navy vessels conducting a training exercise. Credit: Hellenic Navy

The Defense Minister of Turkey Hulusi Akar on Friday said he expects a moratorium with Greece in military and airforce exercises in the Aegean Sea between June 15 and Sept. 15, to accommodate tourism.

“In the upcoming period, we expect concrete positive developments on some issues such as the extension of the moratorium period, which foresees avoidance of exercises in the international waters and airspace of the Aegean Sea between June 15 and Sept. 15, when tourism is intense,” Akar was quoted as telling journalists in Ankara by state-run Anadolu Agency.

Referring to the recent visit of his Greek counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos to quake-hit southern Hatay province, Akar said the continuation of a “positive and constructive” atmosphere between the two countries that emerged after the earthquakes is important, Anadolu reported.

Turkey and Greece need to solve existing problems within the framework of good neighborly relations and international law, he added.

“It is our sincere wish that the Aegean and the Mediterranean will now truly become a sea of ​​friendship by establishing a permanent cooperation environment.”

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

Relations between Greece and Turkey improve after deadly earthquake

Panagiotopoulos had 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 behavior of Turkey toward Greece has changed radically since the deadly earthquakes and Athens has an obligation to respond in a positive way, Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias said.

Dendias noted that since his visit to south-eastern Turkey immediately after the earthquakes, “there are no violations in the Aegean, no overflights, no toxic language, no verbal aggression, no threat of violence.

“Greece has always said that it seeks dialogue under exactly these conditions. So we must, we have an obligation to, respond to such Turkish behavior,” the head of Greek diplomacy told Proto Thema.

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.

Greece responded to the earthquakes which shook parts of southern Turkey and northern Syria by quickly dispatching aid, most notably provided by EMAK, a specialist disaster relief unit that is part of the Hellenic Fire Service.

The natural disaster also prompted 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.

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