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Anthony Blinken to visit Athens today

Featured Anthony Blinken to visit Athens today

After the visit to Turkey, Anthony Blinken is heading to Athens this afternoon (20/02). Having seen the scale of the devastation, the head of American diplomacy announced on Sunday (19/02) that Washington will provide long-term aid to Turkey.

Today he is expected to meet with Tayyip Erdogan, while in the afternoon he will visit Greece. The focus of the US Secretary of State's visit will be cooperation in the field of defense and energy security, as well as the joint commitment of the US and Greece to the defense of democracy.

Helicopter ride over stricken areas

Blinken arrived at Incirlik Air Base on Sunday for an official visit and discussions on how Washington can help. From Incirlik, he took a helicopter ride with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to observe from above the devastation caused by the earthquake in the southern province of Hatay, one of the hardest hit.

Journalists on the tour saw extensive damage from the massive earthquake, with some buildings standing, but also collapsed roofs and broken windows. Other residential buildings leaned heavily to one side after the lower levels collapsed, and tents housed survivors amid the rubble.

“It's really hard to put into words. You see buildings still standing and then buildings collapsing, roofs destroyed and right next to it, something that's still standing,” Blinken told reporters at the base, which Washington has used as its de facto headquarters. conducts its relief effort.

"When you see the extent of the damage, the number of buildings, the number of apartments, the number of houses that have been destroyed, it will take a huge effort to rebuild, but we are committed to supporting Turkey in this effort. " he said.

The Biden plan for Turkey

The Secretary of State conveyed Joe Biden's intention to approve the transfer of $50 million from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) Fund to help with earthquake recovery work in Turkey.

With the additional $50 million delivered through the State Department and USAID, total U.S. humanitarian assistance to support the earthquake response in Turkey and Syria is $185 million.

Blinken's visit to Athens

The head of American diplomacy is scheduled to arrive in Athens on the afternoon of February 20, where he will meet with Kyriakos Mitsotakis at his office at the Maximos Mansion. On Tuesday (21/02) the Secretary of State will have a bilateral meeting with his counterpart, Nikos Dendias. The two ministers will inaugurate the Fourth US-Greece Strategic Dialogue and joint statements will follow. On Tuesday, Anthony Blinken will meet with former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

As far as the agenda is concerned, all current geopolitical developments are expected to be discussed during Mr. Blinken's contacts in Greece. "I can't tell you exactly what the secretary will discuss with his counterparts in Greece, but I could imagine that one of the topics could be the accession process of the Western Balkans. I think many of the issues on the wider agenda, such as Ukraine and Russia, will certainly be on the table, as will of course the earthquakes in neighboring Turkey and Syria last week. I think, therefore, that there are many issues that the secretary will discuss with our Greek allies", noted the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried.

"Greece is a valuable US ally in NATO"

Ms Donfried recognized the regional role played by Greece as a key member of NATO and the EU in promoting the Euro-Atlantic perspective of the Western Balkans. As she mentioned, "of course Greece is a valuable ally of ours in NATO. It is also a key member of the European Union. And we have seen Greece consistently play a role in supporting the enlargement of the European Union more broadly in the Balkans.

And in this case, Greece has certainly been a key supporter of North Macedonia and the other countries of the Western Balkans in terms of pursuing their Euro-Atlantic future and their accession to the European Union."

Why was Blinken late in visiting Turkey?

Blinken's first visit to Turkey as Secretary of State had been planned for some time, but takes place two years after assuming his duties. This is in stark contrast to some of his predecessors, including Hillary Clinton and Rex Tillerson, who visited in their first three months in office.

The delay, analysts say, shows the strained nature of the relationship between the two countries, which has worsened since 2019 when Ankara acquired Russian missile defense systems. While the United States has praised Turkey for some of its actions during Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it remains concerned about its close relationship with Moscow, experts say.