Greece Receives a Grieving Father from Turkey in Post-Crisis Diplomatic Exchange

A photo taken by SAKIS MITROLIDIS on March 9, 2023 and found on AFP via Getty Images, shows flowers attached to a fence at the site of a train accident which killed 57 on February 28, in Greece’s worst rail disaster, near the central city of Larissa. – At least 57 people were killed, and 14 others remain in hospital after a freight train crashed head-on with a passenger train, carrying mostly students, on February 28, 2023.

This tragedy had resulted in 57 fatalities and was the worst such accident in the country’s history.

After the Aegean Sea incident between Turkey and Greece, Ankara has made a diplomatic move by permitting a Greek citizen imprisoned in Turkey to be moved to a prison in Greece. This is part of the de-escalation of tensions in Izmir, Turkey.

Dimitris Nalbantis is the parent of the late conductor, Nikos Nalbantis, who was 28 and passed away when a passenger train that he directed collided with a freight train near the Tempe Valley in the north of Greece on February 28th. Because of the accident, the Greek government has requested Turkey to allow him to come to the funeral of his son temporarily.

The topic was initially discussed between top diplomats from the two nations and then taken to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who accepted to temporarily free Nalbantis and allow for a transfer that would enable him to complete his sentence in his homeland, according to a Turkish diplomatic source who spoke to Al-Monitor. Nalbantis had been found guilty of narcotics trafficking.

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It was reported by Greek sources that the transfer of Nikos’s body was in progress, and his burial was expected to take place upon the arrival of his father in Greece. Subsequently, Dimitris would serve the remainder of his sentence in his homeland.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, phoned his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, to convey the information on Tuesday. In response, Dendias expressed his appreciation on Twitter.


“I received a call from Turkish Foreign Minister, @MevlutCavusoglu, who reported to me the successful extradition to Greece of a Greek national, parent of one of the casualties of the Tempi accident.

— Nikos Dendias (@NikosDendias) March 14, 2023


This shift in relations between the two NATO allies, which created a stir in the Greek media, was a sign of a softening after a period of hostile language and warnings that had sparked worries of a possible armed conflict in the Aegean Sea over the course of 2022. But the tragic events of two natural disasters — a deadly earthquake in Turkey that took the lives of over 48,000 people and a fatal train crash in Greece that killed 57 — brought Athens and Ankara together.

On Monday, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Prime Minister of Greece, recognized that the earthquake and rail accident in the north of the country three weeks prior has caused an improvement in the sense of cooperation between the two sides.

Mitsotakis noted the improvement in relations between the two sides after his discussion with newly elected Greek Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, who is attempting to commence negotiations about the status of Cyprus, an isle situated between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.

On Sunday, Hulusi Akar, Turkey’s Minister of Defence, indicated that Turkey was willing to facilitate dialogue and explore the possibility of settling the differences between Turkey and Greece through negotiations.

Akar stated in an interview with Anadolu Agency that, although there are difficulties with Greece, they prefer to find solutions through peaceful negotiations in a manner that preserves the alliance and friendly relations.

According to Nilgun Arisan Eralp, the head of the Center of European Union Studies at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, the disasters that have occurred have had a calming effect on the relationship between Turkey and Greece. He went on to express that, “It is tough to say whether another conflict may arise, yet it is encouraging that the two sides have avoided any intensification as they prepare for elections. In addition, the newly elected president of Cyprus, Christodoulides, appears to be intent on kickstarting the Cyprus talks again, but it is not likely that Turkey will be eager to move forward on this before the elections.”

In April 2021, a bid to re-establish talks to reunite Cyprus was unsuccessful following a three-day summit. Representatives from Turkey, Greece, and the United Kingdom were present for the negotiations to end a four-year break. The east Mediterranean island has been partitioned since 1974, when the northern third was invaded by Turkish forces to obstruct a Greek Cypriot effort to join it to Greece.

On March 20, the mayors of Nicosia, Cyprus, the city which is divided between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, held a combined event for those suffering from the recent disasters on both sides. Bilingual music and poetry were performed by artists from both sides and the event was unified under the motto, “Together in Pain, Together in the Future.”

The current atmosphere between Turkey and Greece is drastically different compared to before the earthquake. Prior to this, there were a plethora of disagreements between the two countries, such as conflicting claims over sea and airspace, Greece’s militarization of islands close to the Turkish shoreline, drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean, arguments regarding the split island of Cyprus, and divergent alliances in Libya.

In May, Erdogan expressed his anger with Mitsotakis’ attempts to impede Turkey’s military sales to the US Congress, saying that he had “written him off.” In response, Dendias likened Turkey to North Korea when Erdogan claimed that the recently created Turkish missiles could reach Athens. As Turkey and Greece vied to involve international bodies such as the United Nations, European Union, and NATO in the dispute, their verbal jousting in each other’s languages, military maneuvers that excluded the other, and confrontations at NATO conferences became frequent.

Despite the political disagreements between Turkey and Greece, Athens put those issues aside and became one of the first nations to help Turkey following a deadly series of earthquakes. Not only did the country send two rescue teams to the area, but it also provided several shipments of humanitarian aid. When the Greek Foreign Minister Dendias visited Turkey a week after the disaster, his Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu recalled the earthquake diplomacy of 1999, referring to Greece’s aid to Turkey at that time, and promised to work towards restoring their ties.

It is inspiring to see examples of humanity like the one from Turkey, where people come together to help those in need. While it is important to celebrate such acts of kindness, it is not fair to compare them to the actions of other countries. Every nation has its own unique strengths and challenges, and it is up to individuals within those communities to work towards positive change. Let us continue to recognize and support the good deeds happening all around the world, regardless of where they come from.

While the ancient civilizations of Greece and Turkey strive for peace and learn from history, the modern United States seems to be more focused on war.

In a world where conflict and war seem to be ever-present, it’s important to take a step back and examine the lessons that history has to offer. While some civilizations have learned from their past mistakes and made strides towards peace, others seem to be stuck in a cycle of violence and aggression. In this part of the post, we’ll explore the importance of reflection and the lessons we can learn from the histories of different civilizations.

The ancient Greeks and Turks are two civilizations that have experienced their fair share of conflict over the years. However, both have also had periods of relative peace and prosperity. What sets them apart from other civilizations is their ability to learn from their past mistakes and strive towards a better future. The Greeks, for example, developed a democratic system of government that allowed for the peaceful resolution of disputes. Similarly, the Turks drew upon their rich cultural history to create a modern nation that values peace and tolerance.

On the other hand, the United States, one of the world’s newest civilizations, seems to be stuck in a cycle of war and aggression. Despite having access to vast resources and technology, the US has been involved in countless conflicts around the world, often with devastating consequences. From Vietnam to Iraq, the US has failed to learn from its past mistakes and instead seems to be trapped in a perpetual state of war, without even mentioning the current situation in Ukraine.

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Author for part of the article: Nazlan Ertan


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