All Quiet on the Turkish Front: Tragedies, Elections Bring Greece Calm

ATHENS – A deadly earthquake in Turkey, a deadly train collision in Greece and both Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan facing tough re-election challenges in May elections has brought a caesura in tensions – for now.

Greece sent aid to Turkey after the earthquake and Turkey sent condolences after the train tragedy that killed 57 people, the catastrophes seeing the foreign ministers – Nikos Dendias and Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu – setting aside bitterness.

That came after Erdogan and Çavuşoğlu talking openly about the idea of invading Greece, planning to send energy research vessels and warships off Greek islands, demanding that Greece remove troops 0ff Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast and warning it would be a cause for war if Greece doubled maritime boundaries to 12 miles.

Now the waters are so calm that Erdogan and Çavuşoğlu sent best wishes to Greece for its Independence Day celebrations marking the defeat of the Turkish occupying Ottoman Empire 200 years earlier.

Erdogan earlier had cited Turkey’s defeat of Greece in 1922 as a history lesson to be remembered – and repeated – if Greece didn’t adhere to his warnings and provocations that put the countries near a conflict point a number of times.

Now, said Turkey’s pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah, which parrots Erdogan’s policies and is seen as a barometer of his often volatile and provocative moves, the focus is on a rapprochement of sorts.


Dendias noted the positive developments after the earthquake and train tragedy that struck at propitious time to ease anxieties and with both Erdogan and Mitsotakis trying to stay in power but facing stiff opposition.

That came after the fourth Meeting of the Positive Agenda in the Turkish capital Ankara on March 22 and his recent meeting with Çavuşoğlu in Brussels with Turkey’s bid to join the European Union stuck since 2005.

Dendias told the Greek daily Proto Tema, Dendias said Turkey’s new attitude toward Greece is working to ratchet down worries and while serious differences remain that, “We must respond to such Turkish behavior accordingly.”

Dendias said that, “It would be unforgivable on the Greek side not to attempt to utilize this change. Greece has an absolute duty to step through the door Türkiye has opened.”

Dendias was one of the first foreign ministers to visit Türkiye after the disaster and received a warm welcome when he met Çavuşoğlu, reiterating his country’s support for the earthquake relief, the Turkish newspaper noted.

Çavuşoğlu and Dendias met in Brussels and pledged mutual support. They agreed that Türkiye would support Greece’s campaign for a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council in 2025-2026 and Greece will back Turkey’s candidacy for Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Officials on both sides have been hailing “a positive atmosphere” taking over bilateral relations between the sides since the tragedy struck. While it’s unclear whether the breaking of ice could reach political levels, officials express it “should be considered for the normalization of ties,” The Daily Sabah said.


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