Athens gifted to Cyprus the Embraer aircraft it has, for the transport of members of the Cypriot government, as it became known during the meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the President of Cyprus Nikos Anastasiadis in Nicosia.
“I would like to thank you, of course, for the generous donation of something that was missing from the Republic of Cyprus and contributes to the travel of the President and the Ministers: the concession, for free, of a civil aircraft of the Hellenic Republic,” Anastasiadis told the Prime Minister.
“I am also happy because it happens at a time when I am at the end of my term, so that no one gives me or you – with a donation to the Republic of Cyprus – other incentives,” added the President of Cyprus.
On his part, Mitsotakis stated: “I want to emphasise on the issue of the donation made by our country, that it is a small return to the large donation you made to close the wounds of the catastrophic fire in Mati.
“We managed with great difficulty to issue the Presidential Decree for the location in Mati.
“A mission that normally takes decades for the Greek public administration, to come to intervene in a very large area that carries great sins from the past, is not an easy task.”
The aircraft, type Embraer-135LR , is the first government aircraft taken by Greece and belongs to the Air Force fleet.
It has a carrying capacity of 32 people, a crew of four people (pilot, co-pilot, engineer, flying attendant) and can fly at a maximum speed: 0.78 Mach up to a height of 37,000 feet.
Elsewhere, The leaders of Greece and Cyprus sought Friday to tamp down tensions with neighboring Turkey amid increasingly belligerent rhetoric from the Turkish president, insisting that the best way to counter such talk is through “calm and composed determination.”
Mitsotakis called the approach the most appropriate to de-escalate tensions while keeping communication channels with Turkey open.
“The defense of Greece and Cyprus against whichever revisionist tendencies is international law, our strong alliances and our membership in the European family, and with calm determination and composure we will always counter whichever rhetoric exceeds proper diplomatic” boundaries,” Mitsotakis said during a meeting with Anastasiadis.
“I surmise that this approach is in the end the correct one and that we will soon return to calmer waters, always keeping open channels of communication that in my view should never close, even under the most difficult circumstances.”
Turkey and Greece have a long history of disputes over a range of issues, including mineral exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and and rival claims in the Aegean Sea.
The two countries have also been at odds over ethnically divided Cyprus which Turkey doesn’t recognise as a state. It claims much of the island nation’s offshore economic zone where natural gas deposits have been discovered.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aiming at union with Greece. Only Turkey recognises a so-called Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the island’s northern third.
Greek-Turkish tensions surged last week when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Greece to demilitarise its islands in the Aegean, saying he was “not joking.” He spoke during Turkish military exercises near the islands, including an amphibious landing scenario.
The government in Ankara says Athens has built a military presence on the Aegean islands in violation of 20th century treaties that ceded the islands to Greece after a long period of occupation by Turks — or in the case of Rhodes and Kos, by Italy.
Greece counters that the islands need defenses given threats of war from Turkey, which has NATO’s second-biggest military and maintains a large landing fleet on its Aegean coast.
State Department Spokesman Ned Price on Thursday urged the NATO allies to resolve differences diplomatically and to “avoid any rhetoric that could further raise tensions.”
The Greek and Turkish defence ministers met on the sidelines of a NATO meeting Thursday in an effort to talk things out.