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U.S. Secretary of State calls for Turkey-Greece reset

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday called on Greece and Turkey to resolve their differences and avoid actions that could increase tension. His visit to Athens came a day after he held a meeting with Turkish foreign minister in Ankara.

The Turkey-Greece dispute has been going on for years and is wide-ranging. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and neighbours are at odds over a host of issues from mineral rights in the Aegean Sea to airspace, and over ethnically split Cyprus.

In Athens, Blinken met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, ministers of foreign affairs and defense, continuing with discussions to deepen bilateral military cooperation that has significantly expanded in recent years.

Despite flaring tensions, Greece was one of the first countries to send rescue workers to help pull survivors from the rubble after a devastating earthquake hit Turkey this month, killing tens of thousands.

“I think this horrible catastrophe has proven that there is a deep connection between our two societies. We may have big, significant political differences, but the bonds between our peoples are there.” Mitsotakis told Blinken.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged NATO allies Greece and Turkey to calm rhetoric as both countries head to national elections, in an effort to bolster unity in the trans-Atlantic alliance as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears its anniversary.

— AP Europe (@AP_Europe) February 21, 2023

U.S. Secretary of State expressed hope that this would improve the strained relations between the two countries.

“It is in the interest of both Greece and Turkey to find ways to resolve longstanding differences, to do it through dialogue, through diplomacy – and in the meantime to not take any unilateral actions or use any charged rhetoric that would only make things more difficult and more challenging,” Blinken told a news conference in Athens.

Blinken had met Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara on Monday.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, alongside Blinken, said Athens was not expecting anything in exchange for the support it had sent Turkey, which included tents, beds and blankets into support for the hundreds of thousands left homeless.

“It is our duty to help our fellow humans who are suffering and we will continue to do so,” Dendias said. “If through the communication the climate of our relations improves, this of course has political consequences. But I repeat: Greece is not seeking trade-offs from the Turkish side via the aid it is providing the earthquake victims,” the Greek Foreign Minister added.

Met Foreign Minister @NikosDendias and discussed our recent trips to Türkiye and the urgent assistance required to rebuild from the devastating earthquakes. An important @NATO Ally, I appreciate Greece’s steadfast support of Ukraine.

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 21, 2023

Blinken praised Greece for its role as an energy hub in southeastern Europe and said there was an “enormous appetite among American companies to invest in Greece’s very significant move toward renewables”. He also noted the role that Greece has played in support of Ukraine.

The U.S. Secretary of State visited military bases and port facilities in northern Greece where the United States has been granted access in recent years. A base near Larissa, in central Greece, used by the U.S. for MQ-9 Reaper drones, and the port of Alexandroupolis, near Greece’s border with Turkey, which has become an important hub for U.S. military assistance bound for Ukraine.

He said Athens and Washington were working together to strengthen energy security across the region and reduce reliance on Russian gas, and furthermore that Greece and Turkey could only benefit from resolving their differences.

“I do believe that there is an interest and an intent in both countries to find ways to resolve longstanding differences, to find ways to make this part of the world that that they share an area of cooperation not of conflict,” Blinken summed up.

Blinken called for Sweden and Finland to be admitted to NATO, which has been held up by Ankara’s concerns over security threats it has describeds as terrorism. He also fervently criticized Iran for providing Russia with attack drones and failing to engage in nuclear talks.

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