Mitsotakis' Dilemma: Back Funding for Turkey, Oppose Drilling Off Cyprus


Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during an open discussion with New York Times op-ed columnist Roger Cohen. Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will have to walk a tight line at a meeting of European Union leaders where he will push additional funding for Turkey to keep that country from sending more refugees and and migrants to Greece, but condemning Turkish energy drilling off Cyprus.

Greece also is opposed to the Turkish invasion of northern Syria to go after Kurds who were abandoned by US President Donald Trump's pull-out of American forces to let Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have a free hand against his enemies.

The official agenda of the summit, scheduled for Oct. 17-18 is the scheduled Oct. 31 withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU and the bloc's budget but the taut relations with Turkey is also expected to dominate with the bloc's leaders mulling tougher sanctions over Turkish drilling.

which is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, is topped by Brexit and the European Union budget. Stepped-up Turkish provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean and the Syrian invasion are also dilemmas as Erdogan said he would flood Greek islands and the EU with 5.5 million refugees who went to his country fleeing war and strife in the Middle East and other countries if he's impeded or the Syrian action is called an occupation.

Greece wants the EU to live up to a 2016 swap deal in which refugees and migrants deemed ineligible for asylum in Greece are returned to Turkey where they had first gone. When the EU, reneging on promises, wouldn't take some of the overload and closed its borders to them the problem was dumped largely on Greece, now trying to handle more than 78,000.

That includes more than 28,000 in islands where human traffickers that Turkey lets operate during the essentially-suspended swap deal have sent them, including a summer wave after New Democracy took power in July 7 snap elections, ousting the Radical Left SYRIZA.

In his meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Athens last week, Mitsotakis stressed the need for the EU-Turkey deal to be kept alive. NATO has said nothing although Greece and Turkey are members of the defense alliance and Stoltenberg has steered clear of getting involved over Turkey repeatedly violating Greek airspace with fighter jets.

Cyprus wants tougher measures over the Turkish drilling in the island's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but President Nicos Anastasiades' pleas to the United Nations to intervene have repeatedly been ignored and the drilling continues.

That puts Mitsotakis on the spot as Greece and Cyprus are natural allies and he's backed the right of the legitimate government – Turkey has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion – to drill and demanded Turkey pull out from the waters.