ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s defense minister announced Thursday that he will travel to neighboring Turkey next week as part of an effort to ease tension between the two NATO members, which have long-standing and often volatile disputes.
Nikos Panagiotopoulos told reporters in Athens that he would visit areas devastated by earthquakes in early February with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
An outpouring of support from Greece to help its neighbor last month has led to a de-escalation in disputes centered around boundaries and drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
“My counterpart suggested that I visit the earthquake-affected areas … The aim is to send a symbolic message,” Panagiotopoulos said in an interview with Greek private television station Mega.
“A de-escalation of tension in the bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey is now evident. It is our country’s wish for this de-escalation to acquire permanent characteristics.”
In the wake of the earthquakes, Greece and Turkey have resumed high-level meetings, including talks attended by senior diplomats on the so-called positive agenda initiative, aimed at boosting trade and other cooperation in areas unrelated to the disputes.
The devastating Feb. 6 quake in southern Turkey killed around 50,000 people in the country and neighboring Syria.
Panagiotopoulos will visit Turkey on Tuesday and travel to the southern Hatay province, one of the hardest areas hit by the earthquakes, Turkish officials said.