Turkey sends firefighting plane to help Greece

24 August 2009

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 Turkey on Monday sent an amphibian plane to Greece to help fight massive wildfires raging near Athens, the foreign ministry said.

“We share the pain of our neighbour Greece and hope the fire will be taken under control in the shortest possible time,” a ministry statement said.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called his Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyannis on Sunday to say that Turkey “stands ready to help,” it said.

Two other firefighting aircraft are on stand-by in case Greece needs more help, the environment ministry said.

Firefighters were on Monday battling for a third day to save hundreds of homes in greater Athens from wildfires that destroyed over 12,000 hectares of forest and gutted scores of properties over the weekend.

Traditional rivals Turkey and Greece have stepped up cooperation in natural disasters in recent years as part of a significant thaw in bilateral ties since 1999 when major earthquakes struck both countries.

Other Mediterranean countries, including Cyprus, Italy, Spain, France and Austria, have also sent reinforcements to battle the fires.

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