Earthquake Diplomacy? Turkish FM says “Greece is a true neighbour” after months of threats

Nikos Dendias Mevlu Cavusoglu turkish nordic monitor

After many months of threats and provocative rhetoric, it appears that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has taken a turn and now describes Greece as a "true neighbour". For his part, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias expressed his pride for the Greek rescue workers that "helped Turkish society."

Dendias offered the Turkish minister, the Turkish government and the Turkish people the deepest condolences of the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the Greek people for the thousands of human lives lost in the two devastating earthquakes that struck the region.

The Greek foreign minister also said that Greece's efforts to help the Turkish people and Turkish society overcome this major setback would not stop there.

"I have orders from Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to assure you that Greece will do everything it can to support Türkiye at this difficult time, either bilaterally or in the framework of its participation in the European Union," Dendias said.

He thanked Çavuşoğlu for his very warm words regarding the efforts of the Greek rescuers and the Greek presence in the area. Among others, the foreign minister fully endorsed Çavuşoğlu's statement that "we need not wait for natural disasters in order to improve our relations."

Dendias said he was very happy for the human lives that were saved by the Greek rescuers operating in Turkey, as well as the very many lives saved by European rescuers.

"We had the opportunity with Mr. Çavuşoğlu to also visit the Austrian, the Dutch and Icelandic rescuers. From what they told us, 205 [people] were saved by them, including the Greeks," he said.

Dendias additionally thanked his counterpart and the Turkish government for their very warm reception at a very difficult time for Türkiye.

Çavuşoğlu offers thanks to Greece for its support and solidarity

The Turkish minister, in his own statements, personally thanked Dendias, the Greek government and the Greek people for their solidarity and support, noting that good neighbour relations become apparent in such difficult days, and adding:

"We should not wait for yet another earthquake to improve our bilateral relations. I hope that we will make an effort to resolve our differences through dialogue."

Harking back to the earthquakes of 1999 in Turkey and Greece, after which the two countries had sped to help each other, and a letter he had then written to "Time" magazine, before becoming a politician, in which he said that the two countries should not wait for another earthquake to improve their relations, Çavuşoğlu said he repeated this now as the foreign minister of Turkey.

He noted that Dendias' presence in Turkey demonstrated the support and solidarity of the Greek people toward the Turks, highlighting the fact that Greece was one of the first countries to contact Turkish authorities after the earthquake to offer sympathy and declare its willingness to help, with rescue teams and aircraft carrying humanitarian aid sent out immediately to the quake-stricken areas.

Çavuşoğlu also spoke about the contribution and the superhuman efforts of the Greek aid mission and rescue team and the visit by Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides, who accompanied the first wave of humanitarian aid from Greece, carried in five planes.

"We saw and watched that after the rescue of each life, each person, it was not only the Greeks in the search-and-rescue teams that rejoiced, we saw that all Greeks rejoiced," he said.

The death toll from the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria climbed to more than 33,000 on Sunday, with the United Nations warning that the final number may double.

Officials and medics said 29,605 people had died in Turkey and 3,574 in Syria bringing the confirmed total to 33,179, Agence France-Presse reports.

Humanitarian groups working in southern Turkey and north-west Syria warn that Monday’s earthquake will have a “long tail” — a wide range of needs that will require donations for months, or even years, after the rescue and recovery missions end, the Associated Press reports.

Avril Benoît, executive director for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) USA said: “There’s a long tail to an emergency like this, both for the injured from the earthquake, but also for chronic disease management, making sure they have access to their medications.”

People will die without access to medications to control chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes, she said, adding that the earthquake will also take a mental toll.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said they had 5,200 volunteers mobilised on both sides of the border, with the Turkish operation being more robust and better-equipped because of its longstanding programme to support Syrian refugees.

The IFRC is already planning its recovery efforts over 12 months, with recurring assessments to define the scope.

Trauma response and sanitation issues are among the top priorities.

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