In a further sign of a “thaw” in relations between Greece and Turkey, the two NATO allies have decided to cancel scheduled military exercises in the Aegean.
Turkish daily Hurriyet reports on Tuesday the Turkish Defense Ministry annulled the “Seawolf Exercise” in which thousands of personnel participate, with over 200 elements including ships, submarines and manned and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The large-scale exercise is carried out in the first week of June every year.
This was in response to the decision by Athens to cancel the “Kataigis Exercise”, which it carries out between May and June every year covering the entire Aegean Sea. Instead, small-scale training programs are carried out.
With the ongoing efforts to improve the positive atmosphere established between the two countries after the deadly Feb. 6 earthquakes in Turkey and the train accident in Greece, the two neighbors have taken steps mutually in the Aegean Sea.
Steps to reduce tension between Greece and Turkey
In his visit to the quake-hit city of Hatay in February, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos announced that the two states agreed to develop an agenda based on good neighborly relations.
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.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar last month reminded that there is a moratorium between the two countries to prevent conducting military exercises in the Aegean Sea during the tourism period, underlining that Turkey is ready to expand it.
“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.
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.