ATHENS – Greece’s prime minister Monday said a massive earthquake in Turkey and deadly rail disaster in northern Greece have helped de-escalate tension between the two neighbors, driven by a popular feeling of solidarity.
The devastating Feb. 6 quake in southern Turkey killed some 50,000 people in the country and neighboring Syria. It was followed three weeks later by a head-on rail collision in Greece which left 57 dead and has halted train services so far this month.
“After a long period of unacceptable provocations, a long period of aggressive behavior, today we are experiencing … a de-escalation and a more positive attitude and behavior,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.
NATO members Greece and Turkey both face national elections before the summer, leading many allies to warn of a further escalation over long-standing disputes that include sea boundaries and drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
But an outpouring of sympathy in Greece for the victims of the earthquake and the response in Turkey has shifted the focus between the two neighbors, Mitsotakis said.
“The deadly earthquake brought our two peoples closer together on a human level,” he said.
Mitsotakis made the remarks after talks in Athens with Cyprus’ new President Nikos Christodoulides, who has sought to re-start talks in the war-divided island, split between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway north.
Turkey will hold parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14, while Greece will hold parliamentary elections before July.