Blinken welcomes ‘time out’ on Greece-Turkey tension - wraps up visit in Athens with tour of Agora, meeting of EMAK rescuers
Blinken met with officials in Athens after a stop in Turkey, where he also visited regions hardest hit by devastating recent earthquakes.
Greek and Turkish officials said they are willing to take a time out from longstanding disputes over sea boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean in the aftermath of the earthquakes that have killed about 45,000 people in Turkey and Syria.
Blinken said he hoped the pause would provide an opportunity to return to diplomacy.
“It’s profoundly in our interest and I believe in the interest of both Greece and Turkey to find ways to resolve longstanding differences,” he told reporters in Athens on Tuesday.
“And to do it through dialogue through diplomacy to do it peacefully and in the meantime to not take any unilateral actions or use any charged rhetoric that would only make things more difficult.”
Greece is expected to hold a parliamentary election in April, while Turkey will hold a general election in June.
“Both countries are heading to an election. That certainly creates, sometimes, incentives to engage in rhetoric that can create more problems,” Blinken said.
In Athens, he met with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as well as Greece’s ministers of foreign affairs and defense, continuing discussions to deepen bilateral military cooperation that has significantly expanded in recent years.
“We’re all heartbroken over the humanitarian catastrophe that has struck our neighbors,” Mitsotakis told Blinken late Monday.
“I think this horrible catastrophe has proven that there is a deep connection between our two peoples. We may have big, significant political differences, but the bonds between our peoples are there.”
Celeste Wallander, the U.S. assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, accompanied Blinken on his European trip and on Monday visited military bases and port facilities in northern Greece where the United States has been granted access in recent years. They include a base near Larissa, in central Greece, used by the U.S. for MQ-9 Reaper drones, and the port of Alexandroupolis, near Greece’s border with Turkey, which has become an important logistics hub for U.S. military assistance bound for Ukraine. During his trip, Blinken called for Sweden and Finland to be admitted to NATO, which has been held up by Ankara’s concerns over security threats it describes as terrorism. He also sharply criticized Iran for providing Russia with attack drones and failing to engage in internationally-sponsored nuclear talks.
Asked Tuesday if the United States would discourage Israel from taking military action aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, Blinken responded: “Countries will make sovereign decisions for their own security and of course that’s no different when it comes to Israel or any country. We can’t make those decisions for them.” (AP)
Moreover, a Greece-United States Action Plan for culture was signed on Tuesday by Culture Minister Lina Mendoni and visiting US State Department Secretary Antony Blinken, prior to the latter's departure from Athens.
The plan aims to protect archaeological and ethnological material of Greece, by imposing restrictions in specific categories. It was first signed in 2011 and renewed in 2016 and 2021, and the renewed plan was also signed by Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfield.
Blinken was in Greece on a two-day visit to meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and launch the 4th Greece-US Strategic Dialogue with Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias.
Also on Tuesday, Blinken met with main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras in the late morning. Later, he was given a tour of the Ancient Agora of Athens by Bonna Wescoat, director of the American School of Classical Studies and met - at the American embassy - with the Fire Brigade's emergency management EMAK and with emergency ambulance team EKAV, both of whom helped in the rescue efforts after Türkiye's deadly earthquakes.
The meeting at the embassy was also attende by Climate Change and Civil Defence Minister Christos Stylianidis and US Ambassador to Greece George Tsunis, and Blinken thanked the members of the teams for their work.