ATHENS – Former premier and major opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras doesn’t like the way that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is dealing with provocations from Turkey but the defense chief under the Leftist leader does.
Evangelos Apostolakis, still and adviser to Tsipras, said that Mitsotakis’ building alliances, adding weapons and trying to create a stronger wall of security against Turkey was the right move.
Greece, which renewed a military cooperation agreement that could see more American bases in the country, also is buying fighter jets and warships from France – including a mutual defense pact – and reaching out to other countries.
Apostolakis said that bodes well in case there’s a conflict with Turkey, accidental or otherwise, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan keeps sending fighters into Greek airspace and said he would an energy research vessel and warships off Greek islands to look for oil and gas.
Turkey is also demanding that Greece remove troops from Greek islands near Turkey’s coast, citing the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that Erdogan doesn’t recognize, except clauses to his benefit.
“It makes sense to have alliances, to be supported, to create obligations toward them but to keep expectations low,” he said, reported Kathimerini.
“We have made two or three good agreements with the United States and France,” Apostolakis added, despite the fact that SYRIZA had voted against these agreements in the Greek Parliament.
While in power for 4 ½ years, Tsipras also renewed the military deal with the US and aided NATO – after saying he would pull Greece from the defense alliance – but has flip-flopped now as his party sinks in polls.
Apostolakis agreed with getting the French Belharra frigates and the upgrade of the entire Armed Forces despite some concern that Turkish drones make conventional arms less effective.
“The frigates are welcome, it is a well-worked program. In 2009 there was a decision to buy ships. Everything that is added to the armed forces is positive, it gives opportunities,” he said.
Not wanting to take any stand on the issue, Tsipras directed his lawmakers to vote present over the deal to get the French fighter jets and warships that he said weren’t necessary for Greece’s security.
In an interview with the Reuters news agency, noting the rising tensions with Turkey, Mitsotakis said that while he still wants to try diplomacy and dialogue with Erdogan – who refuses to talk to him – that Greece is ready for trouble.
That came as the Greek leader went to island of Astypalea for a green energy project, irking the volate and increasingly belligerent Turkish leader who said it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles.
Mitsotakis stated that “Greece will not tolerate aggressive attitude, revisionist rhetoric, and actions that amount to violations of Greek sovereign rights and Greek sovereignty,” that he said will be defended.
“I think it’s up to Turkey to change its attitude. We’ve never been the ones pushing the boundary in terms of aggressiveness, but we are very confident that we have the ability to defend ourselves should the need arise,” he said.
He noted that Greece has “allies who support us, such as the European Union and the United States,” although not all EU leaders – notably Germany – supported him over Erdogan breaking off contact.
“I see no reason why Turkey should complain every time we argue that we are right, when we make the case that our differences need to be resolved based on International Law and that we simply cannot accept preposterous allegations pertaining to the sovereignty of Greek islands,” Mitsotakis said.
He added that Turkey shouldn’t be caught off guard when allies – which he said includes NATO although the alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg applauded Turkey and refused to intervene over Turkish provocations.