Greece sent immediate rescue team of 21 on Monday morning to help Turkey in the aftermath of the historically massive earthquake that has killed more than 45,000 people so far in Turkey and Syria. Leaving over 300,000 without a home in the winter. The earthquake hit in the southeast of Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted: “Deeply saddened by the devastating earthquake disaster in Türkiye and Syria. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families of the victims and our thoughts are with all the people affected. Greece is mobilizing its resources and will assist immediately.”
The Greek PM has instructed specialized teams be immediately sent to assist rescue efforts. At the airport in Elefsina, a group of 21 Greek firefighters, 2 search and rescue dogs, and a special rescue vehicle had already departed for Turkey. A Fire Brigade officer-engineer, 5 EKAB doctors, and Efthymios Lekkas, a professor and the head of the Greek organization for earthquake planning and protection, are all there with the team.
President Katerina Sakelloropoulou, who serves as the nation’s head of state, tweeted her sadness and support for both nations, saying that the Greek people “stand in solidarity” with them. She tweeted: “Overwhelmed by the images of destruction caused by earthquake in Turkey and Syria. On behalf of the Greek people and myself, I express my condolences to the families of the victims. We stand in solidarity, support the work of the rescue teams, and wish speedy recovery to the injured.”
Greece has extended assistance to Turkey in the wake of previous disastrous earthquakes. Following many earthquakes that struck both countries in the summer of 1999, the so-called Greek-Turkish earthquake diplomacy was launched, which improved Greek-Turkish relations. Large areas of Turkey were damaged by the earthquake on August 17 and 17,000 people died. Despite years of hostility, Greece moved to give a significant amount of aid, giving blood and reaching out a helping hand.
Greece was the first foreign nation to offer Turkey assistance and support. The Greek Foreign Minister made contact with his Turkish counterparts shortly after the earthquake and dispatched personal envoys to Turkey. Greece dispatched a rescue team consisting of twenty-four persons and two trained rescue dogs on August 17 and November 13, 1999. Additionally, fire-fighting planes were despatched.
A month later, Athens was hit by an earthquake that left 143 people dead. Likewise, Turkey responded and sent aid in the form of rescuers and other personnel. Turks repeatedly called the Greek consulates and embassy in Turkey to inquire about blood donation opportunities. One volunteer went so far as to get in touch with Ambassador Corantis and offer to give his kidney to a “Greek in need.”
At the time, earthquake diplomacy led to an outpouring of compassion and kind help from average Greeks and Turks in both incidents. Many visitors were surprised by these actions, which were promoted at the highest levels. They made the public ready for a breakthrough in the two countries’ strained relations after decades of animosity.
Greece and Turkey may have many differences, however, we are neighbours, and in times of crisis we are always there for one another.