US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday urged Aegean Sea rivals Greece and Turkey to engage to resolve differences and avoid unilateral actions that could increase tension.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and neighbours are at odds over a host of issues from mineral rights in the Aegean to airspace, and over ethnically split Cyprus.
Tensions have flared recently, but Greece was one of the first countries to send rescue workers to help pull survivors from the rubble after a devastating earthquake hit Turkey this month, killing tens of thousands.
“It is in the interest of both Greece and Turkey to find ways to resolve longstanding differences, to do it through dialogue, through diplomacy – and in the meantime to not take any unilateral actions or use any charged rhetoric that would only make things more difficult and more challenging,” Blinken told a news conference in Athens.
Blinken had met Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara on Monday.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, alongside Blinken, said Athens was not expecting anything in exchange for the support it had sent Turkey, which included tents, beds and blankets to support the hundreds of thousands left homeless.
“It is our duty to help our fellow humans who are suffering and we will continue to do so,” Dendias said.
“If through the communication between both societies the climate of our relations improves, this of course has political consequences. But I repeat: Greece is not seeking trade-offs from the Turkish side via the aid it is providing the earthquake victims.”
Blinken praised Greece for its role as an energy hub in southeastern Europe and said there was an “enormous appetite among American companies to invest in Greece’s very significant move toward renewables.”
He said Athens and Washington were working together to strengthen energy security across the region and reduce reliance on Russian gas, and that Greece and Turkey could only benefit from resolving their differences.
“I do believe that there is an interest and an intent in both countries to find ways to resolve longstanding differences, to find ways to make this part of the world that that they share an area of cooperation not of conflict,” Blinken said.