ATHENS – Major opposition Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said he wouldn’t give blind support to Prime Minister and New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis with Greece’s dealings with an increasingly-aggressive Turkey, calling for a “national line” of political parties.
“I will not follow him down the slippery path of populist opposition and flag-waving. Where consensus is needed we will give it. Where criticism is needed, it will be constructive,” Tsipras said as Mitsotakis tries to rein in Turkey, which violates Greek airspace and waters.
Speaking to the newspaper To Vima, Tsipras – ousted in July 7, 2019 snap elections after reneging on anti-austerity promises for 4 ½ years – took a shop at Mitsotakis even during the tense time with Turkey, saying that the Leftists “will not do what (Mitsotakis) did to me, on national issues.”
That was in reference to New Democracy criticisms of SYRIZA’s foreign policy when Tsipras was in power although the Leftist leader immediately did the same to his rivals after saying that he wouldn’t offer blanket condemnation.
Tsipras said he was anxious over Turkey and said the Greek consensus should be to hold the line as Mitsotakis said he wants to keep using diplomacy that hasn’t worked with a bellicose Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Our country will not tolerate any attempt to dispute our sovereign rights. In this framework, I consider the support of the Armed Forces a part of our common national strategy. Hence, SYRIZA voted in favor of the defence budget and the article for the moderniization of Mirage and F-16 aircraft – a discussion that had been going on for many years and was finally concluded in my meeting with President Trump in 2017,” Tsipras said.
He also took the chance to snipe at Mitsotakis who must nominate a symbolic Greek President with the term of New Democracy’s Prokopis Pavlopoulos – the choice of SYRIZA in a traditional move giving that role to a rival – expiring in February.
Tsipras said he would go along with Pavlopoulos staying as President but Mitsotakis is said to be mulling other candidates, possibly a woman, which Tsipras mocked as “Presidential beauty pageants” during a time of tense relations with Turkey.
Election of the President is done by Parliament with a super-majority which means Mitsotakis would need support from some rivals as New Democracy has 158 of the body’s 300 members.
Tsipras accused Mitsotakis of “unbearable light-heartedness bordering on irresponsibility,” and said that, “He should speed up the re-election of Pavlopoulos with a large majority and immediately afterward ask for the Political Leaders’ Council to convene under the re-elected President, so that we can decide on the fundamental lines of the national strategy toward Turkey.”
On Mitsotakis’ visit to the White House where the Greek Premier was to meet President Donald Trump on Jan. 7, he said the Greek leader must get the US to stand firmly with Greece – the two countries renewed a military cooperation deal – as Trump supports Erdogan, his “friend.”
After taking a beating in last year’s elections, Tsipras has moved his party more toward the center-left after falling out of favor with voters, his hopes for a leftist revolution having failed. He said SYRIZA would become a “large, colorful, modern, leftist party in the age of right-wing monsters” and seek alliances to counter New Democracy’s time in office.