LONDON – With tension rising between the countries over ownership of the seas between them, Greek Prime Minister said he talked “all the issues” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of NATO’s 70th anniversary meeting in London but got nowhere.
Mitsotakis, the New Democracy leader, had asked NATO chief, Jens Stoltenberg to intervene but the defense alliance wants no part of the dilemma, saying he wants no part of the feud and will stay out of it.
“I presented all the issues arising from the latest Turkish actions. The disagreements from both sides were noted. The two sides, however, agreed to continue discussions on the confidence-building measures of the ministry of defense,” Mitsotakis told journalists after the meeting.
That is diplomatic code to indicate nothing of substance happened but as Mitsotakis said he told Dendias to hold a foreign policy council with rival parties, as was requested by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which was unable to control Erdogan either.
“I want to assure the Greek people that there have been, are and will continue to have difficulties in our relations with Turkey. … as long as both sides show good will, these can eventually be overcome,” he added without explaining why he thinks talking nice to Erdogan will work.
Mitsotakis said he also broached with Erdogan that Turkey is letting human traffickers flood Greek islands with thousands more refugees and migrants who went to Turkey fleeing war and strife in the Middle East and other countries en route to Greece to seek asylum, with the European Union closing its borders to them.
Mitsotakis said Turkey is not cooperating with a suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU and that its Coast Guard is letting traffickers operate freely in the sea between Turkey and overwhelmed Greek islands.
Despite that, Mitsotakis said he supports the deal that isn’t working and as his government has technically violated the pact by moving thousands of refugees and migrants off the islands onto the mainland, speeding asylum reviews and planning to deport those ineligible with no word on how he expects to force Erdogan to take them back.
THE LIBYAN CONNECTION
Greece is angry over a deal Turkey signed with Libya setting new maritime zones between them, saying it likely violates an embargo that the United Nations Security Council has imposed on the supply of arms to Libya, although Turkey doesn’t recognize the UN’s Laws of the Sea.
Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos admitted there was no progress in the talks with Erdogan. “The Prime Minister raised all the issues, said what he wanted to say and criticized what he wanted to criticize in the behavior of the Turkish side. Erdogan presented a series of issues and, eventually, we politely agreed to disagree,” he told Greek broadcaster ANT1.
Panagiotopoulos said Erdogan did not provide any details on the memorandum of understanding his country signed with Libya, despite Mitsotakis’ request.
After largely placating Erdogan for 4 ½ years as he continued to send waves of fighter jets into Greek airspace and warships past Greek islands, SYRIZA said New Democracy was practicing appeasement toward him.
SYRIZA accused the government of “handling crucial issues of foreign policy, and in particular the escalating provocations of Turkey, without a compass, without a strategy,” without offering one of its own.
“From the policy of appeasement that Mr. Mitsotakis opted for in his meeting with President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan, during which he did not even broach the matter of violations in the Aegean, and the statements of the government spokesman about offsetting the refugee crisis against the Cyprus problem and Turkish violations, to the recent spasmodic reactions to Turkey’s schemes with Libya, there is not a trace of any coherent foreign policy,” the SYRIZA statement said.